#AlumoftheWeek — Kouagou N’Dah Jean, AIMS SA ’19 & AMMI ‘21

You would often want to hear from scholars who have gone through the mines to inspire you to pursue your dreams. This edition of the #AlumoftheWeek highlights the story of Kouagou N’Dah Jean. An AIMS South Africa and AMMI Ghana Alumnus who has given his best to pursue the goal set before him, and these are his words – “Choose your path – the one you’re passionate about, follow it and never give up”.

Before arriving at AIMS South Africa, Jean had completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Abomey-Calavi and attended the first semester of a Master’s in Pure Mathematics at the Institute of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (IMSP, Porto-Novo). He has always been passionate about mathematics and programming languages. In fact, he had qualified to attend highly ranked schools such as La Faculté des Sciences de la Santé (FSS), and l’École Polytechnique d’Abomey-Calavi (EPAC) after successfully passing his National Baccalaureate exam with excellent grades. However, he chose to enrol at the Faculty of Mathematics (FAST-MPI)—the last decision most students in Benin with good grades would make.

“I was told by close friends that I would end up being a teacher in high schools with a miserable salary, although what I really wanted was to become a professor of mathematics at the University. I never stopped believing in my choices. Today, I am sure of one thing; I made the right choices.”

Having gained admission without a scholarship to the University of Paris-Saclay, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences presented him fully funded scholarship with a promise of a long exciting journey.

“AIMS had everything I wanted. First, the language of instruction at AIMS is English, and I was aware of the importance of English in science. Second, AIMS offered a full bursary covering travel expenses, accommodation, tuition fees, and more. At AIMS, I got to know and interact with people from different countries and backgrounds. My computer skills and knowledge of English significantly improved at AIMS. Last but not least, I graduated with a Master’s in Mathematics from Stellenbosch University”.

In 2019, Jean was part of the cohort of the AIMS Industry Incentive selected to be part of the AIMS-ESMT Industry Immersion Program. During this period, he was equipped with Business Management skills that helped him to fit perfectly in the industry. It also gave him industrial knowledge and hands-on industrial skills he could share with his students should he become the university lecturer he has always wanted to be.

His love for programming languages made him research deeper into what benefits there are for him. This desire pushed him to apply for the African Masters in Machine Intelligence, to which he was admitted in Ghana in 2020. During this period in AIMS Ghana, lecturers and top tech industry players like Google and Facebook exposed him to several machine learning techniques. Today, he is in his third year of PhD studies in Neuro-Symbolic AI at Paderborn University, Germany.

“Securing a PhD position in AI and Machine Learning is my greatest success. I underwent long and highly demanding selection processes, including video interviews, coding exams, and more. But I finally made it thanks to my past education in mathematics, my Master’s degree from AIMS-ZA, and my computer skills and knowledge acquired from AMMI”.