‘I want to be one of the greats’

AIMS alumnus Dr. El Hadji Abdoulaye Thiam has always dreamt of being one of the world’s great scientists. He used to write this on the walls of his middle school at Paoskoto, Kaolack Region of Senegal. At the age of seven, he was already passionate about numbers. This passion allowed him to become one of the best students in mathematics and physical sciences at Paoskoto College. Looking back, he recognizes the importance of his teachers in nurturing his interest in mathematics. After this, he joined Université Gaston Berger of Saint-Louis, in northern Senegal, and obtained a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science in 2012. Following this, he was admitted to AIMS-Senegal.

Recently, El Hadji won the Ibni Award 2018.  The Ibni Award was created in 2009 to honour the memory of Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, a mathematician and Chadian politician, in order to carry on his legacy to deliver a high-quality training of young African mathematicians. The Ibni Award is currently awarded by the CIMPA, the International Centre for Pure and Applied Mathematics, and the Foundation of the University of Orléans, France.

El Hadji credits his family, particularly his father for his successes. “If I became a doctor, it is thanks to him. He always wanted me to become someone. So, he is very happy to see me the winner of the Ibni Award.” He dedicated his award to his family, including his wife and son.

In the short term, El Hadji wants to strengthen his foundation through training and join Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar as a teacher-researcher, containing his learning journey. “Science goes beyond national borders. There is a quasi-natural link between mathematicians. When I see a mathematician, I want to know what he is doing and it goes beyond the ethnic and geographical framework; I am immediately interested to know more and to explore collaboration possibilities. »

Spreading his wings with AIMS support

El Hadji defended a PhD in Differential Geometry and Applications in May 2018 at AIMS Senegal. Through AIMS, he met Dr. Moustapha Fall, German Research Chair holder based in Senegal who was interested in his profile. Together, they wrote a project and submitted it to DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst). DAAD offered him a scholarship of three and a half years to do his PhD. “AIMS is necessary and vital to support and improve the quality of the teaching of mathematical sciences. AIMS offers new perspectives to young African scientists, including the opportunity to learn from the world’s best scientists, discover other cultures, and to be able to obtain a scholarship to work on its projects.”

Elhadji strongly believes mathematical sciences will help Africa develop. “We need governments to invest massively in infrastructure and strong system to support students and researchers. These investments should also be directed to improve quality of teacher training to raise the level of science education on the continent.”

For El hadji, the journey continues. To paraphrase André Weil, the daily bread that sustains a mathematician are the big problems. “Mathematicians are compulsive problem solvers.