This week’s edition of #AlumOfTheWeek is all about Muthe Mathias, AIMS Tanzania’16 alumnus, and PhD Researcher at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)!
Q: Tell us about your journey before AIMS.
Muthe: At the primary level, I had some talented friends who excelled in arithmetic far more than I did. Like other younger maths aspiring students today, what was mainly puzzling us was whether studying maths and its related subjects was worthwhile instead of the popular visual arts and business disciplines. Many people in the community had little appreciation of maths and its applications, not to mention poor career guidance coupled with disappointing views such as, “you can only use math for teaching.”
Notwithstanding these challenges, I was keen on applying maths and ended up pursuing a BSc. in Actuarial Science. This program allowed me to simultaneously explore the applicability of maths and statistics in the financial, insurance, and pension industries.
Since then, my passion has been to better understand the application of mathematics out of academia in solving real-world challenges. I believe this is the key to keeping the math passion alive and prove the disappointing minds wrong. After my undergraduate studies in Actuarial Science, I was hungry for the knowledge to transform the theoretical part of maths into real-world practical applications and decided to apply for the AIMS Master’s to close this gap.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Muthe: It was such an exciting moment to meet around 48 fellow Africans from all over the continent in August 2015 when I joined AIMS. I got the opportunity to learn several computer-based skills that became useful during my stay at AIMS. AIMS pushed me out of my comfort zone by, among other things, reducing my sleeping hours from 8 to 5 hours per day to cope with the learning space!
I survived the learning phases at AIMS because of the AIMS teaching modality, which encouraged solving challenges jointly while receiving 24/7 maximum support from tutors and visiting lecturers. It was very encouraging and motivating to work with tutors and visiting professors who were highly committed to offering their support in the maximum way possible.
At AIMS, I learned flexibility, resilience, multi-tasking, and adjusting accordingly to meet the intended objectives effectively.
Moreover, I had an opportunity to build my network by interacting with colleagues and well-known and respectable researchers worldwide. This experience took my research career to the next level. Life at AIMS equally provided a hearty social context; we had parties where I acted as the DJ!
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Muthe: AIMS offered me an excellent opportunity to strengthen my research career and shape my professional personality. It also enabled me to acquire solid mathematical modelling and data analytics knowledge and implement and transform complex mathematical problems to real-world end-users through practical computer applications and programming training. These skills have been key drivers of my career success.
After AIMS, I joined a Master’s program in Mathematical Modeling at the University of Dar es Salaam, funded by AIMS. I graduated with outstanding performance within six months, which would not have been possible without the knowledge and skills I gained from AIMS.
Furthermore, even before completing my studies at AIMS, I was given a teaching position at the University of Dar es Salaam as a tutorial assistant and later promoted to an assistant lecturer. I capitalized on the teaching strategies I learned from tutors and visiting lecturers worldwide to sharpen my teaching strategies by inclining more on computer use and applications.
AIMS strengthened my attitude toward Pan-Africanism; I learned that my successes are not successes until they benefit the whole community.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Muthe: Upon completing my studies at AIMS, I authored a book titled Determine your Career Path: Career Guidance for Secondary School and College Students in Tanzania. The book provides guidance on possible career paths, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
In the same vein, I have been working with my colleague to author advanced mathematics books for secondary school students in Tanzania.
I consider securing an academic position at the University of Dar es Salam and later PhD studies at the University of Technology Sydney as a success worth celebrating.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Muthe: My current research explores the impact of high penetration of Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) in Energy Only Markets using mathematical models and data analytics techniques.
Without a doubt, the electricity sector has an essential role in contributing to Africa’s economic growth and emissions reduction. Upon completing my studies, I expect to contribute immensely toward resolving this trilemma in African countries, which are lagging behind these transitions, and help it stand on the principle of “leaving no one behind.” I feel from this standpoint that my contributions are more inclined on SDGs 7: Affordable and Clean Energy and 13: Climate Action. I also expect my work to contribute to SDGs 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and 4: Quality Education. In the future, I would like to establish a firm that will be solving challenges associated with the clean energy transition, clean energy technologies such as EV, and setting variable renewable plants where possible.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Muthe: Studying at AIMS is a unique opportunity and privilege that could turn your dreams into reality when utilized effectively. Nonetheless, the benefits one can derive from this opportunity are not by default; it depends on how you capitalize, prepare and integrate your plans with options available at AIMS.