On this week’s #AlumoftheWeek, we highlight the success story of an AIMS AMMI alumni who had his training at the AIMS Rwanda Centre in the inaugural class. As applications for the next cohort of AMMI closes in the coming week, Emmanuel Chinyere Echeonwu shares his experience at AIMS and after that with us. Emmanuel is a PhD student at the Computer Science Department of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Nigeria.
Q: Tell us about your academic journey prior to AIMS
Emmanuel: Before arriving at AIMS Rwanda, I had my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Uyo, Nigeria. The Rivers State Government then awarded me the Special Governor’s Scholarship for a Master’s degree at the University of Glasgow, UK, where I obtained an M.Sc in Geospatial and Mapping Sciences. My training practically exposed me to Geospatial Big Data acquisition and management. However, the desire to make practical meaning out of it kicked in. This desire led me to AIMS, where I discovered the AMMI programme. I was excited about it and learning Artificial Intelligence on African soil, something considered too far from us. As the premier institution and most detailed programme about Machine Learning in Africa, and with a strong emphasis on Mathematics, I was keen to learn more about it, understanding that the application of mathematics can help us as Africans provide solutions to most of our developmental problems.
Q: How would you compare your experience at AIMS with others you have previously previewed?
Emmanuel: My experience at AIMS Rwanda was exciting, fun, and active learning. The opportunity of meeting other Africans was quite exciting and fulfilling. AIMS Rwanda provided me with the needed platform to learn new things that are very useful in my present position and career. Many other opportunities opened up to me at AIMS. AIMS was unique in many ways, especially in teaching and learning. This relaxed and exciting experience helped me understand every aspect of the training because it made it reasonably practical yet intense. AIMS helped me develop my skills in basic and advanced Machine Learning, Mathematics, and Computing principles.
Q: What will you describe as your success story after AIMS?
Emmanuel: Studying at AIMS kick-started my research career. After AIMS, I became even more confident in applying for research and PhD positions in Machine Learning. I was awarded Google’s PhD Fellowship in Machine Learning in 2021 for my PhD studies. My exposure at AIMS has helped me build networks and collaborations with other international parties and platforms where I participate and volunteer. I have also been nominated as one of the Africa Ambassadors for Applied Machine Learning Days (AMLD) Africa, whose mission is to democratise machine learning in Africa.
Q: As a person in STEM, what are some of the challenges you encounter, and how do you overcome them?
Emmanuel: One of my most significant challenges as a STEM person is the amount of technical information to consume, which in most cases is multidisciplinary; and requires much hands-on activity. I can overcome this by building on the basics, becoming strategic by prioritising what comes first, and always reaching out through collaboration and networking where necessary.
Q: What will be your final words to potential students of AIMS and other young Africans aspiring to walk your path?
Emmanuel: Your attitude will always determine how far you can go. Always keep an open mind to learning and opportunities, and consider failure a stepping stone for more remarkable achievements.