When the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) came into existence in 2003, the institute’s vision was hinged on driving Africa’s development by investing in the continent’s youth. Worded “to lead the transformation of Africa through innovative scientific training, technical advances and breakthrough discoveries which benefit the whole of society,” the AIMS vision is relevant to the realities and challenges of today’s world; a world where 77% of Africa’s population is below the age of 35 where, by 2050, two in every five children will be born in Africa. Africa’s youth are at the heart of the AIMS innovation and transformation ecosystem, with an alumni community now totalling over 2000, who venture into ambitious career paths after receiving a unique post-graduate experience at AIMS.
For this maiden edition of our “Alumni of the Week” series, we spoke to Fadekemi Janet Osaye from Nigeria.
Q: Tell us about your journey at AIMS.
Janet: AIMS was an experience of a lifetime that changed the course of my destiny forever. I came to AIMS at a time when there was no hope of furthering my education; at a time when I was about to give up on studies.
In 2008, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Mathematics from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria with a second-class upper division. Afterwards, I worked as a Further Mathematics teacher in Lagos, Nigeria; it was during this period that I learned about the AIMS scholarship and subsequently gained admission to study at AIMS Ghana from August 2012 to June 2013.
Studying at AIMS gave me the opportunity of meeting people that have now become friends and research colleagues. My most treasured experience at AIMS was meeting highly rated scientists and professors who inspired and motivated me to be a better person.
One favourite memory that brought about my passion for community work was teaching mathematics to primary school pupils in Biriwa, Ghana. This experience motivated the start of my NGO, Girlsmatics Foundation, whose aim is to mentor and encourage young girls to take up career options in fields such as mathematics, statistics, data science, artificial intelligence and other STEM fields.
Q: What did you do after AIMS?
Janet: Supported by AIMS postgraduate funding, in 2015, I completed a Master’s by research with distinction from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in Applied Mathematics with a Spectral Graph Theory specialisation. My research earned me the South African Association for the Advancement of Science Bronze Medal (S2A3) for the best Master’s dissertation in a scientific domain.
I proceeded to study for a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Johannesburg, graduating in 2019 as the first black female to do so. Presently, I work as a visiting Assistant Professor at Auburn University, USA. A recent publication I have worked on is titled “On edge-weighted mean eccentricity of graphs”.
Q. What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Janet: I believe that nothing is difficult to achieve, even in the most bizarre circumstances. As a single mother of three, being a mother, student, teacher, researcher and mentor to young ones has been quite challenging, but with a specified vision, determination and perseverance, anything is possible.
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