Would you rather have an education full of theoretical knowledge or one which is practical and solves real-life problems? The general educational system in Africa is more theoretical, which impedes the continent’s progress. The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences is on a mission to change this narrative. With its Cooperative (Coop) Master’s program, students receive tailored courses in data science and other applied mathematics that make them job-ready. In this week’s edition of #AlumoftheWeek, we bring you the story of an alumna from this program.
She is a Mastercard Foundation scholar and a member of the Mathematical Science for Climate Change Resilience (MS4CR) program. Currently working as a Scientific Officer at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), our #AlumoftheWeek is Glorie Metsa Wowo of AIMS Cameroon 2020.
Q: Tell us about your academic journey before AIMS.
Glorie: After high school, I was selected to be part of the Mathematics and Computer Science department (usually called an impossible task because very few people dared to enrol in this faculty where only mathematics and computer science were masters). After three years of hard work, I got a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and Computer Science then mastered Network and Distributed Service.
My father, a devoted scientist, strongly influenced my choice of a major in mathematics and physics. Indeed, my father was a physics, chemistry, and technology teacher. My interest in science and mathematics was almost obvious. He always talked about what he was doing (among other scientific experiments) with so much passion. It cultivated in me a strong passion for science and mathematics. Also, I was always impressed with the research and engineering behind the technologies that make our lives easier. When I graduated from high school, I knew what I wanted to be in the future: a scientist (very broadly speaking).
During my time at university, I was a member of the computer club, the Google Developer Group and the lead women tech maker, and a member of the university basketball club.
Q: How will you describe your time at AIMS?
Glorie: A significant problem we face as Africans is our education quality. From the lack of scientific laboratories to outdated academic programs and other resources. However, being at AIMS allowed me the chance to reduce the gap between the theory and real-world problems that need immediate solutions. The program at AIMS serves as a bridge between the academic sector and the industrial sector. The objective is to apply what we have learned in the classroom to solve concrete problems in our society.
A lecturer who had himself passed through the AIMS program recommended it. I applied because I needed to broaden my skills to be more competitive in the market. Most of all, I was curious to know how AIMS was different from others. At the beginning of the program, the pressure made me question my ability to finish, but I strived and am glad I didn’t give up. Today, I am aware that studying at AIMS was one of the best choices of my life.
I had the opportunity to understand better and appreciate the value of mathematics in everyday life, instruction in English (the global language of business), enjoy living together with other students, and interact with lecturers from all over the world. Seriously, I often miss the group outings and our soccer games.
Q: Describe your success story beyond AIMS.
Glorie: My time at AIMS-Cameroon ended with an internship in the cooperative master program. My internship was at an insurance company, and I had to work on the churn rate of customers. This experience allowed me to improve my skills in data science and especially in the use of data for decision-making in such a company. Moreover, as Mathematical science for climate change resilience (MS4CR) scholar, I had the opportunity to work on remote sensing techniques applied to agriculture during my internship. These experiences have been two critical assets in obtaining my current job, which is that of Scientific Officer at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), where I develop solutions to improve crop monitoring using satellite images. Crop monitoring is vital because it allows us to understand better whether our crops are growing well and anticipate the type of decision to undertake to avoid having an alarming yield. Implementing such a tool in several regions can significantly reduce food insecurity globally.
Q: What will you say is the most important thing a person in STEM should know?
Glorie: As a person in STEM, it is crucial to be up to date on the technological advances, especially in research, lest you duplicate or waste time on what is already done. So to be up to date, I read a lot, follow tutorials if necessary, and participate in workshops as much as possible.
Q: How would you advise AIMS current and other young people in Africa?
Glorie: Don’t be discouraged or discredit your thoughts or feelings. Be confident in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals. Participate in activities within your school. It is essential to improve your communication skills, be included in the community, and, most importantly, learn from others, share with them, and develop leadership skills.