October 1, 2016

The AIMS network welcomes another Research Chair under the German Research Chair programme at AIMS

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences through AIMS South Africa, one of its six existing Centres of Excellence, feels honoured to welcome Dr Bubacarr Bah, the German Research Chair in Mathematics with a Specialistion in Data Science, into its fold.

The Research Chair programme at AIMS is one of the strategic initiatives aimed at attracting talented researchers who are able to establish research groups within the mathematical sciences and its applications at AIMS centres. Objectives of the AIMS Research Chair programme include: postgraduate and postdoctoral research; capacity building; and fostering collaborations among AIMS centres and other national, regional, and global institutions including industry.

The German Research Chair programme is one of the four programmes under the AIMS Research Chair pillar. As the third German Research Chair at AIMS, Dr Bubacarr Bah says, “I feel extremely privileged to take up this position and I look forward to making substantial contributions to the research and academic environment at AIMS.” He is excited about the opportunity to strengthen the links and even build new links between AIMS South Africa where he is officially based and other institutions in South Africa. He equally looks forward to working closely with other AIMS centres and with institutions in Germany and globally.

Dr Bah is an applied and computational mathematician and his research interest is at the intersection of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. His research at AIMS will focus on data science. He plans to develop a vibrant research group on data science; conducting research in foundational mathematical and computational methods and techniques (modelling, sampling, algorithms, etc.) for data science problems arising from the biomedical sciences, engineering, social sciences, etc. In particular, there will be a significant emphasis on associated scientific computing issues, which would include the utilisation of high performance computing (HPC) resources to address scalability challenges arising from Big Data.

Born in the Gambia, Dr Bah received his BSc degree (with sum cum laude) in mathematics and physics from the University of the Gambia. After working as a Graduate Assistant, he moved to the University of Oxford, Wolfson College where he completed his MSc degree in mathematical modelling and scientific computing. Thereafter, he enrolled for a PhD in applied and computational mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, under the supervision of Prof. Jared Tanner. His PhD research was on compressed sensing, in particular on random matrix theory questions arising from compressed sensing and signal processing in general. His PhD work earned him the 2010 SIAM Best Student Paper Prize published in the SIAM Journal of Matrix Analysis. He then undertook a postdoctoral programme at the Laboratory for Information and Inference Systems (LIONS) in Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, working on sampling strategies and designing algorithms for compressed sensing and sparse approximation. He also worked on machine learning, in particular learning linear embedding of high-dimensional data. His second post-doc was at the Department of Mathematics and the Institute of Computational and Engineering Sciences (ICES) at the University of Texas, Austin. While there, Dr Bah’s research continued in the areas of signal processing, machine learning and randomised numerical linear algebra. He was at the same time a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics.

His Chair in data science cannot come at a better time for Africa. There are a wide range of data science problems in Africa from finance, biomedical sciences, manufacturing, power systems, transportation, and so on, that are in need of data science research and technologies. A lot of developed economies like the USA and Germany have for many years successfully integrated data science research and technologies in almost every sector of their industries to improve efficiency and effectiveness of systems like engineering, business, education, government services, etc. The research output from this Chair position could have potential applications in industries in South Africa, and Africa in general and Germany via the collaboration with German researchers, which is a key component of this Chair. Furthermore, the Chair position gives Dr Bah the opportunity to engage in other academic activities that will contribute to the development of mathematics research and education in Africa.

Prof Barry Green, Director of AIMS South Africa and Chief Academic and Research Officer of the AIMS Global network noted, “It is a pleasure to have a talented researcher like Dr Bah join the existing research environment at AIMS. Big data research falls under one of the research thematic areas of the AIMS South Africa Research Centre and Dr Bah’s presence will open new directions and opportunities in this research domain.” He added that AIMS is extremely grateful to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Humboldt Foundation and DAAD for making this Chair position possible.

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