As we bring our women’s month campaign to a close, this weeks’ #AlumoftheWeek – is a story of a young lady who found herself in Mathematics. Her desire and passion were to pursue nursing as a teenager. She later became comfortable with this new field because the area of mathematics she was exposed to was directly connected to the work she had always wanted to do in the health sector. She describes her stay at AIMS, how it changed her perception about education, and how the skills and lessons learnt at AIMS positively influence her current endeavour. She’s now a PhD Candidate at the Hamilton Institute of the Maynooth University, Ireland; our alumna of the week is Oluwayomi Akinfenwa. An AIMS Ghana 2021 alumna from Nigeria, and below is her story.
I aspired to be a medical practitioner right from my childhood, but life had other plans for me. With my strong passion and desire to become a nurse, I wrote the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination for two years yet was denied admission. I filled for nursing on a third attempt. However, I was offered admission to study Statistics instead with a note attached to my admission letter that says, “You have been offered Statistics and not nursing because you excelled in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, and Physics beyond your performance in medical-related courses in your West African Examination Certificate.”
I studied Statistics at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. In my second year at the university, I took a course in Statistical Inference with the Bluman Statistics textbook as a guide for the course. Bluman’s textbook concentrated on explaining Statistics by relaying it to medicine and the use of Statistics, mainly in Health Science. This book gave me a clue to the importance of Statistics in Medicine. I made up my mind to graduate as one of the best students during my pursuit in the university. I took this decision seriously because of my passion for academic excellence and ability to further my education to become a Biostatistician. I achieved this by graduating as one of the top students in the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Physical Science, University of Ilorin, Nigeria, in 2018 with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.62/5.0.
In pursuing a career in Biostatistics, a sound mathematical background is needed, and this prompted me to apply for a Master’s degree with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.
Accepting AIMS admission was one of the best decisions I made in 2020. The impact transcended academics to my daily living, thinking, and perception towards life. I had a basic understanding of R programming and no prior knowledge of Python programming before leaving for AIMS Ghana. Our lecturers, alongside the tutors, taught me programming languages from the basics to advanced programming. I learned to engage in quality conversations with my peers, lecturers, and world-renowned professors without mincing words. AIMS was an eye-opener to have the interest of Africa at heart and the centre of my research. I developed an interest in maximising all the knowledge acquired to lay the foundation of becoming a researcher whose research discoveries will impact individuals, society, and, most importantly, my continent, Africa.
My experience at AIMS was a life-transforming one and the best of his kind. I had never been privileged to work in a team throughout my undergraduate studies in our traditional universities. The academic structure ensures 100% participation by all group members. It was not an easy experience, but I learned and mastered how to participate and engage in group discussions and projects effectively. Despite the rigorous academic schedule and mandatory expectations from students, I could engage in extracurricular activities. I leveraged most opportunities that came my way and made the best of them. I actively participated in community development outreaches as an avenue to give back to my society. As an advocate for sexual purity, AIMS created an avenue for me to interact with school students both in junior high and senior secondary. I gained more insight into challenges facing young, growing teenagers as I was privileged to mentor and counsel those I contacted. I was also honoured to be among the content writers in my class. The opportunity to draft appreciation messages for lecturers at the end of each block was the beginning of my writing career.
AIMS is passionate about our achievements, and I am sure this sponsored the creation of AIMS-Chat as an avenue to help Alumni and current students. The AIMS-Chat is full of content that can serve as a game-changer to many. A platform with many life-changing opportunities. I won’t forget to mention our end-of-the-block parties as an avenue to relieve stress, relate with ourselves outside academics and interact with our lecturers.
After studying at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Ghana, my most outstanding achievement is my current PhD scholarship. I won a scholarship worth 300,000 euros with the Science Foundation Ireland as a residence researcher in Data Science with Hamilton Institute in Maynooth University, Ireland. AIMS contributed to this achievement by giving me access to available and relevant PhD opportunities through AIMS-Chat. AIMS prepared me academically and professionally as a researcher, which qualified me for the scholarship opportunity. I learned science communication skills at AIMS, and these have helped me professionally disseminate my research proposals, group presentations, and best vocal deliveries.
I currently apply Data Science in Health and Well-being (SDG 3- Good Health and Well-being). I am an enthusiast of good health and well-being. My current research area is Data Visualisation of Bayesian Modelling of health-related data. In studying the dynamics of diseases in epidemiology and establishing the effectiveness of new medications in the pharmaceutical sector, Bayesian modelling helps to validate uncertainties across probabilities and future predictions. My vision is to use these researches to address health challenges in my study and home countries. I aspire to transform scientific knowledge to practice by validating inferences in the public health sector, which would improve efficacy, efficiency, and responsiveness in health sector decision-making.
My advice to current students is found in one of Paul’s accounts in the scripture that says: I do not consider that I have made it, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call. With perseverance, hard work, commitment, and consistency, you will achieve your desired destination. Embrace help, seek counsel, maximise your potential, and what AIMS offers to unleash your hidden potential. Take responsibility and deliver to the best of your ability.