#AlumoftheWeek — Ngoupeyou Tondji Lionel, AIMS Senegal’18 & AMMI ‘19

As an organisation of excellence, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is bent on presenting the best opportunities to its students. This phenomenon is due to its strict adherence to the AMA principle of Academic Excellence, Mindset Change, and Access and Opportunity. Each year, over 30% of alumni across all Centres enroll in post-graduate studies outside Africa, with the remaining 70% shared between industry and academia across Africa. Alumni testimonies go a long way to motivate the organisation to do more of what it is currently doing, and we share with the world the testimony of the Mastercard Foundation alumnus Ngoupeyou Tondji Lionel today as our #AlumoftheWeek.

Lionel is a Cameroonian national who had his high school and undergraduate studies in his home country. For his bachelor’s, he was awarded a certificate in Mathematical Sciences in 2014; in 2016, he was awarded a Master’s degree in Cryptography from the University of Yaoundé I. He developed an interest in applied mathematics and coding while pursuing his undergraduate studies. This nurtured interest won him the prestigious Mastercard Foundation Scholarship offered at AIMS Senegal to be part of the Co-operative Master’s Program in Big Data and Computer Security in the 2017/18 academic year.

Describing his decision to apply to AIMS and the experiences learnt from being a part of the AIMS Community, Lionel summarises as such;

“I decided to apply to AIMS because it is a Pan-African Centre of Excellence and offers perfect conditions for students to excel. Lectures are delivered by world-class experts in various fields of mathematics, allowing you to study concepts and practical use of theories in detail. At AIMS, I learnt multiple programming languages and a lot about African Culture as students represented several countries. I count AIMS as my second family, a very nice place to be and the best place to study. Beyond activities in the classroom is the periodic playing of football at the beach with students and lecturers; there are no segregations whatsoever among community members.”

In 2019, Lionel gained admission into the African Master’s in Machine Intelligence (AMMI) program at AIMS Rwanda. AMMI is Africa’s first and best AI master’s program currently run at AIMS Senegal. The program is funded by Google and Facebook (Meta) and has the vision of training African youth who will lead the transformation of Africa through Artificial Intelligence and its applications. Like the regular AIMS model, lecturers for the AMMI program are drawn from the best pool of AI experts at Google and Facebook.

“My experience at AMMI was life-changing for me. I learnt a lot of exciting topics in Machine Intelligence given by the best top scientists in the world. I made connections, attended summer schools and conferences, and was given internship opportunities, including one at the Mila-Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute in Montreal. I learnt to make presentations and give talks.”

After the AMMI program in Rwanda, Lionel was selected to join Google as an AI Resident, a position equivalent to a Junior Research in a traditional university. By the end of 2020, he was admitted into the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of Braunschweig, Germany, where he started his PhD journey. Braunschweig is the hometown of the famous and exceptional mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss. Lionel’s PhD is on Convex Optimisation, and more precisely, he is working on designing incremental methods for large-scale medical image reconstruction.

As a French Cameroonian, Lionel isolates the language barrier as one of the challenges he faced studying at AIMS and counts it all joy because the module at AIMS helped him overcome it, and he has now become an asset.

By way of advice to other younger Africans dreaming of a greater tomorrow, Lionel shares this;

“Don’t let anyone convince you that your dreams are too big. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams — Eleanor Roosevelt.”