Ms Rosemary Akinyi Aogo

AIMS Graduation 2014
Mathematical biology

Ms Rosemary Akinyi Aogo is currently completing a PhD in mathematical biology studying HIV-related cancers. She recalls how there was a prevailing attitude of incredulity towards girls pursuing maths in her home country of Kenya. However with support from key people in her life and a passion for math she describes as “beyond anything one could imagine”, she was accepted to AIMS South Africa in 2013. There she was inspired by the two dozen other female students who, like her, were determined to “work hard to prove to everyone that ladies could actually do better in the subject.” Arguing with male counterparts over the best way to solve math problems was an eye-opener. Rosemary was equally amazed by the teaching methods of visiting lecturers, male and female alike, which she says were “just beyond any description.” Whereas Rosemary and other students were accustomed to exam-oriented lessons where they were taught to repeat a
given procedure, at AIMS the emphasis was on independent thinking. Students worked in teams to come up with original methods of solving problems. Rosemary recalls how “everyone was ready to learn and become greater scientists.”

“At AIMS, even as we focused on our coursework, we always kept in mind the bigger problems facing our countries back home. Regardless of our different backgrounds, cultures and religions, we were all hell-bent on making Africa a better place.” This core aspiration has been the driving force behind her work since leaving AIMS, both at Stellenbosch University where she completed her Research Master’s, and at the University of New South Wales in Australia where she is currently a PhD candidate.

“At AIMS, even as we focused on our coursework, we always kept in mind the bigger problems facing our countries back home.”

Apart from her research on HIV, Rosemary has written on trypanosomiasis, a disease spread by the tsetse fly that threatens African livestock, and modeled other diseases endemic to the continent. With increasing international collaboration between mathematicians, biologists and other medical scientists, she is optimistic that many of these diseases will soon be eradicated. In Kenya, a healthier generation of young women will be able look to scientists like Rosemary to show how mathematics can make Africa a better place.