In pursuit of his passion for data analytics and its application in the real world, he settled for a rather exciting pathway after several rejections. In this weeks’ edition of #AlumoftheWeek, we catch up with Siaka Lougue, AIMS South Africa alumnus of 2010, as he shares with us his story.
Q: Who was Siaka before he arrived at AIMS?
Siaka: I had my undergraduate studies in Mathematics and Physics for the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where I graduated with honours. I continued to have a two-year Master’s program in Demographic Studies at the Institute of Training and Demographic Research (IFORD) in Yaoundé (Cameroon). With that Master’s degree, I started working at the National Institute of Statistics and Demography (INSD) in Ouagadougou. However, I was soon bored with the work routine and the low level of applied data analytics. Hence, I decided to go back to school, this time, applying for a Ph.D. position. I applied to many Ph.D. opportunities in Statistics or Demographic studies everywhere in the world. This was because that was not being offered in my country at that time. After two years of applying and not getting the program and scholarship associated with it, I was desperate, so I settled for AIMS when the opportunity came.
Q: How will you describe your time at AIMS?
Siaka: AIMS was a life-changing opportunity for me as it helped me massively pursue my Ph.D. degree. At AIMS, I learned the difference between surface learning and deep application of mathematics, which changed my career path for the better. The model at AIMS taught students not only to target becoming first in class but rather to understand the concepts underlying these mathematical principles. It was at AIMS that I knew that I was such a hard-working person. The work was so intense that I swapped my breakfast for a few additional minutes of sleep. AIMS program is lovely because it prepares you to have a say in any field related to mathematical sciences.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Siaka: AIMS changed the course of my life in a good way. AIMS helped me to value myself beyond my expectations. I realized that I could be the African Einstein. In a nutshell, I realized that I could do fascinating things with mathematics. I could contribute to changing the world in various aspects of life and not only as a teacher.
I remember how bad I was in English to the point of calling everyone at AIMS “Sir” in my first few weeks. This was primarily because I only had male English Language teachers when studying it in pre-tertiary school. However, with my current level in English, I can go everywhere and publish in several scientific journals.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Siaka: After AIMS, I served as an Applied Statistics lecturer at the University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN) in Durban, South Africa. From there, I came back home as a researcher at the Institute of Research in Health Sciences (IRSS), where I have been since then. In the next few years, I see myself being upgraded to the level of a professor at the institute, managing several research grants and a robust research group focusing on biostatistics, health statistics, and health demography. I am also looking forward to using that opportunity to work with other AIMS alumni in a multidisciplinary setting. AIMS allowed me to meet companies such as the World Wide Web Foundation and the Population Council of Kenya, where I got international exposure outside the academic setting. I will be happy to grant other alumni such an opportunity.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Siaka: Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, and Reducing Inequalities are the essential SDG and are highly related to my research. Indeed, my research topics are mostly related to estimation, comparative analysis, and projection of health indicators concerning gender and care inequalities. In ensuring quality education, I do that through my knowledge-sharing engagement through supervision, training, mentoring, and capacity building of students and younger researchers. Topics such as maternal mortality, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases are fascinating to me.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Siaka: AIMS is a place of deep understanding. A home where multi-culture, multi-discipline, opportunities, and networking is highly encouraged. The AIMS program is well designed, and when followed judiciously, will aid you to achieve your career goal and succeed in everything you do.