We continue to celebrate the success of women in March and put the spotlight on younger women who are Breaking the Bias in STEM. In this edition of the AIMS #AlumoftheWeek series, we bring you an interview with a Mastercard Foundation Scholar and an Alumna of AIMS Rwanda. Patricia Oluchi Azike, who originates from Nigeria, is currently pursuing her PhD at Boise State University.
Q: Tell us about your journey before AIMS.
Patricia: I studied Mathematics at the University of Jos, Nigeria. I never had a problem with Mathematics, but it was not something I thought I would do. Fast forward to my second year as an undergraduate, I developed an interest in Maths after taking a course in linear algebra.
The icing on the cake was when I did an introductory course in mathematical modelling. It was amazing to know that Mathematics could apply to various areas. My final project was about controlling mosquito populations using mathematical models. The project journey was exciting rewarding and opened my eyes to many possibilities. It was fascinating to realize that mathematics goes beyond how people view it. Its models can be applied to various things, such as studying bird migration patterns between continents.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Patricia: I still remember the application portal for AIMS Rwanda when I began my application. Climate Studies attracted me. Until AIMS, I had only done Mathematics courses, both Pure and Applied. However, one of my childhood dreams was to study Oceanography, courtesy of The National Geographic channel. Going to AIMS was like my dreams falling into place.
My stay at AIMS was a mix of some sort. It was exciting yet challenging, but it helped me grow. I took courses that I was afraid of, became more outspoken, and made friends from several countries. The Pan-African experience is second to none. I can speak some Arabic, French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili due to my interaction with students from those regions.
Living together was exceptionally helpful. It encouraged teamwork and awareness that although we might come from different places, we are Africans and brothers at our very core.
One of the things that I enjoyed at AIMS Rwanda was anchoring events. It helped build my confidence. The end-of-block parties were one of my favourite moments. I learned how to dance (oh yeah). That has been a valuable weapon in my arsenal. Did I mention the English class with Kai Arsten? It was superb. We had debates, interviews, etc. My participation in those contributed immensely to my life, especially in presenting to an audience.
At AIMS, it was easy to access a tutor at any time of the day. It was easier than when, especially when assignments were piled up and deadlines were approaching.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Patricia: The training I received in Climate Science forms the basis of my research work. I learned a lot about the Climate System, and it has been foundational in my current research focusing on wildfire smoke transport. The importance of the AIMS network cannot be overemphasized. Many people are connected to AIMS, and we have the key to reaching them. Also, AIMS has helped me in keeping up with deadlines. I also learned to reach out to people for help.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Patricia: I am currently studying for my PhD at Boise State University. I learned about my current school through AIMS alumni who encouraged me to apply. I also met my current advisors through AIMS. One of them, Prof. Jodi Mead, taught a course on Data Assimilation. It was not difficult to speak with her because she already knew me.
In the next few years, I see myself completing my research and going on to apply it in Industry. It will also be nice to pass on what I have learned to others interested in the field.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Patricia: Climate action. My research aims to understand how wildfire smoke travels using a complex data model that incorporates all the parameters. This includes the forces responsible, the effects of the winds, and the concentration of particulate matter. We will be able to reduce the errors that tend to occur in modelling smoke transport, in turn enabling meteorologists to give more accurate predictions.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Patricia: I would say there is a lot you can learn from AIMS. Take advantage of every moment. Never underestimate your classmates. You stand a lot to gain from them regardless of their different backgrounds. You can pass through AIMS without AIMS passing through you. But where is the fun in that?