#AlumOfTheWeek – Dr Justine Nasijje, AIMS South Africa Alumnus

Welcome to March. A month devoted to celebrating the success and struggles of women across the world. At AIMS, we recognise the effort our female students put into their studies, which motivates us to strictly secure a 30% quota of our admission to them. The #AlumoftheWeek series is dedicated to some female alumni doing exploits either in industry or academia. We start with Dr Justine Nasijje.

Originally from Uganda, Dr Nasijje is a lecturer at the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, with a research interest in the SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. She has substantial research results on the drivers of Under-Five mortality rates in Africa and has also addressed some of the challenges researchers face when analysing such a database. She does this by leveraging available statistical and improved machine learning methods to draw meaningful conclusions when analysing public health datasets.

Before joining AIMS South Africa in 2011 for her Postgraduate Diploma in Mathematics, Justine completed a Bachelor of Science in Education, majoring in Mathematics at the Makerere University, Uganda. The government of Uganda funded her education at Makerere through its bursary programme that used to select students on merit across the country based on their ‘A’ level performance. 

The statement, “you have covered only a tiny fraction of mathematics in this world,” made by her lecturer while at Makerere fascinated and at the same time motivated her to major in Mathematics from the second year of her university education to the final year. She applied to AIMS after a lecturer had recommended it to her after her final examinations. AIMS contributed to a higher fraction of  Mathematics she knows and exposed her to many other experiences challenging to come by in a traditional university. In her words she says,

 AIMS allowed me to dream; I remember going to sleep in the early morning of the next day in the quest to solve the problems we had received from our lecturers. The fact that we had access to our computer labs for 24 hours a day enabled informal learning and instilled in me the culture of hard work. Sharing a residence with our tutors and lecturers made AIMS an extraordinary academic institution.  This environment gave us enough time to consult with our tutors and lecturers.

AIMS exposed me to various fields where mathematicians can render their skills. This exposition motivated me to choose an academic career in Biostatistics. I understood that my mathematical skills are the keys to answering existing public health questions or problems in Africa and the world. AIMS blended learning allowed us to transform our rather theoretical concepts into computer codes and using very skilled researchers as our lecturers helped start my career.

She describes her experience at AIMS as the foundation of her current professional career. After AIMS, Justine completed her Master’s and PhD in record time. While at it, she presented her research work at both local and international conferences and managed to publish the results in international peer-review journals. She envisages herself as part of a team in Sub-Saharan Africa motivated towards driving Africa’s future-forward through well-researched public health policies.

By way of advice to youth in Africa and current AIMS students, she says

I consider AIMS a place where young and enthusiastic talented African scientists go to collect tools to grow the continent’s contribution to scientific research and improve their livelihoods through well-researched policies. Please gather as many tools as possible; the future is today.