July 3, 2023

AIMS South Africa hosts its 20th Graduation and Recognition of Achievement Ceremony

AIMS South Africa hosted its 20th Graduation and Recognition of Achievement ceremony at the centre in Muizenberg on 29 June 2023.

Thirty-two students (including 14 women) from 12 African countries completed the programme. Of these 17 students were conferred their degrees by the Stellenbosch University, and nine from the University of Cape Town (UCT).  The six graduates from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) will receive their official degrees at a ceremony to be held later in the year. In addition, UWC also conferred four degrees in absentia to students who completed the programme in December last year.

This brings the total number of AIMS South Africa graduates since 2003 to 1005, of which 35% are women.

This was also the first ceremony presided over by Dr Ulrich Paquet, who joined as the new Director of AIMS South Africa in January 2023. He welcomed all guests to the this truly pan-African celebration noting that graduation ceremonies like this were being held at the four other AIMS Centres in Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Rwanda this week. In his message to the graduating students he said, “This is your day. You’ve worked extremely. You are the stars of the show. They say that the human mind, once stretched, can never regain its original dimensions. Your minds have certainly been stretched and you’re leaving AIMS with new ways of thinking.”

The invited speaker at the event was Ms Andrea Böhmert, Co-Managing Partner, Knife Capital said, “My wish for you is to challenge your own assumptions, to take calculated risks sometimes, and to do as you say and get things done because that is the kind of people that the world needs.”

The ceremony was officiated by Prof. Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Stellenbosch University, who noted that the graduates now have “acquired impressive skills which are absolutely critical to driving Africa forward.”

He was joined by Prof. Daya Reddy, Interim Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town who said, “AIMS South Africa has made a disproportionally great contribution to the critical mass of Master’s students in the Mathematical Sciences in South Africa having graduated over 1000 students with this group.”

And Prof. Bertram Fielding Dean of Science, University of the Western Cape encouraged the students to “take what they have learnt and equip the rest of Africa.”

Ms Mary Kiarie and Mr Enock Ndunda, were the two graduates who spoke on behalf of the cohort. “AIMS has modelled us into strong and resilient human beings who have a burning desire to make an impact and transform the world making it a better place for all,” said Ms Kiarie. Mr Ndunda added, “AIMS has not only trained us academically but we have also been taught how to communicate mathematics to non-math audiences. We are on a mission, and we promise we shall transform the world, it is up to Africans to transform Africa.”

AIMS Endowed Scholarships were awarded for outstanding achievement on the AIMS Master’s programme.

  • The Stephen Hawking Scholarship named in honour of the renowned physicist went to Mr Elmar Constant Lasa for his performance on the programme including work on a research project titled: ‘The Poincaré Conjecture across dimensions’, supervised by Prof.Jeff Sanders, AIMS South Africa.
  • The Martin Rees Scholarship is named in honour of Lord Martin Rees, one of the world’s leading astronomers and cosmologists, went to Ms Kelie Marline Momo Nizegha for her performance on the programme including work on a project titled: ‘Persistent Homology: Theory and Applications’, completed under the supervision of  Dr Maria Vivien Visaya, University of Johannesburg, and Dr Cerene Rathilal, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Scholarship, endowed by the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, went to Ms Sarah Gakii, for her performance the programme including work on a research project titled: ‘Modeling the Impact of Human Behaviour on COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake’, completed under the supervision of Dr Josephine Wairimu Kagunda, University of Nairobi.

In addition, an Award for Academic Excellence went to Mr Andriniaina Kevinn Adolha Rajaona for his performance on the programme, including work on a project titled: ‘Content Generation using Adversarial Reinforcement Learning’, completed under the supervision of Associate Prof. Jonathan Shock, University of Cape Town.

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