In this edition of the #AlumoftheWeek, Eddymurphy U. Akwiwu of AIMS Tanzania 2017 shares how the AIMS program launched him into his career path and his general impression of the program.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your journey to AIMS.
Eddymurphy: I have always loved and excelled in mathematics and problem-solving. Part of which made me obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Mathematics from Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria. There, I was fortunate to be mentored by Dr Maurice N. Annorzie. After my mandatory National Youth Service, I worked briefly as a Graduate Assistant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Nigeria, under the supervision of Dr Louis Omenyi, before the opportunity for AIMS came.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Eddymurphy: My time at AIMS was a beautiful one because I met a lot of like minds from different academic and cultural backgrounds who aspire heights and worked hard to reach their goals and meet deadlines. AIMS taught me many life lessons that have been very helpful in my current career path. I had brilliant tutors who were knowledgeable in their fields, kind, attentive, and always available to help. My classmates brought out the best in me anytime we communicated or collaborated, particularly during assignments or mini-projects and during the end-of-the-block parties.
I was first introduced to programming languages like Python and R during my studies at AIMS and MATLAB during my final project. For me, this was a whole new experience. My stay at AIMS was the start of something new and big, and I would want to describe AIMS as a place of multiple opportunities with the best scholarship that provides everything a student will need.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you?
Eddymurphy: The most turning point of my career happened at AIMS when I picked interest in Infectious Disease Modeling during my epidemiology class. Thanks to Dr Isambi Sailon Mbalawata, who was kind enough to introduce me to the field of Bayesian methods applied to epidemiological models as my final project topic. It made me see Mathematics and Statistics from a different point of view which was and still is mind-blowing. My advanced programming skills, which is crucial in my current research, reflect what I learned while at AIMS and during my double degree master’s programme at LUT University, Finland.
AIMS made me believe that my dreams are valid and that I could aspire more. Giving up wasn’t an option, even though there were days I felt like quitting. I found some assignments challenging, but some of my colleagues did these with excitement and ease, making me question my inner man. However, I made their energies serve as a motivating factor, bearing in mind that AIMS is supposed to start something new and significant in my life. Now, I am hardworking and optimistic towards anything worth fighting for because AIMS taught me not to let opportunities slip through my fingers.
I now accept criticism as long as they are constructive. This is due to the feedback I had from lecturers, tutors, and colleagues back at AIMS. I have never taken those experiences for granted because they shaped me. I can boldly say that AIMS made me a better person.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Eddymurphy: After AIMS, I had the opportunity to do a second master’s programme at LUT University, Finland. That programme would not have been possible without the partnership between AIMS and LUT University, Finland, facilitated by Dr Isambi Sailon Mbalawata (an alumnus of LUT University and the then AIMS Academic Manager). My masters’ thesis at LUT University, under Prof. Heikki Haario, was a continuation of my final project at AIMS and involved epidemiological models in infectious diseases.
I am currently in a Ph.D. programme at Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It has been a challenging yet exciting and fulfilling experience for me. Due to the intensive nature of the AIMS programme, I was privileged to learn some skills essential in conducting Ph.D. research. Organization, time management, meeting deadlines, presentation, multi-tasking, programming, and most importantly, perseverance are things I learned while I was at AIMS.
AIMS was the foundation I needed to go through these phases of my life. I must say that I am fulfilling destiny, and I am grateful for the process. In the future, I would want to continue with research in cancer screening and possibly infectious diseases after my doctorate programme.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Eddymurphy: The sustainable development goal next to my heart is goal number three, Good Health and Wellbeing. As a researcher in the field of cancer screening models, particularly cervical and colorectal cancers, I am a strong advocate of early detection of cancer because it could be terminal if detected late or not detected at all. I had several offers for my doctorate but chose this because I had always wanted to work in the medical field, contributing my quota to achieving this goal. I do not want to be just a doctorate holder but would look back and be fulfilled to take that leap. Health is wealth; therefore, a sick person may not have the leverage of enjoying food no matter how balanced or delicious it is, go on road trips/vacations no matter how fun they are, or engage in business due to fatigue. The cancer screening models I develop help inform screening guidelines with the ultimate goal of reducing colorectal cancer death through early detection of both adenomatous polyps and early-stage cancer.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Eddymurphy: You should not see AIMS as a place where you compete with your classmates, but see it as a place where you can improve yourself because there is enough room for everyone. AIMS is a journey of self-discovery and a starting point for other significant ventures.