Now Data Scientist and Assistant Lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda, Frank Namugera, AIMS Senegal’17 alumnus, takes us on his post-AIMS journey.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
Frank: My passion for mathematics drove me to undertake a BSc in mathematics, with physics as my minor at Makerere University. Upon completion, I had an opportunity to implement some of the concepts learned in school while working with a Life Insurance Company in Uganda. I was greatly challenged with my work given that in the insurance sector, they were implementing actuarial mathematics and underwriting practices which were not a part of my BSc program. I, therefore, resolved to undertake further studies and certifications.
In 2015, I decided to further my understanding of mathematical implementation in statistics through an MSc in applied statistics at Makerere University, Uganda. While undertaking this course, I developed a passion for statistical computing, where I worked on ML, AI and other learning algorithms in big data problems.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Frank: I joined AIMS in 2016 after reviewing the unique and rich learning curriculum. I first heard about AIMS from my lecturer Joseph Sebuliba (PhD), who also undertook the program and highly recommended it. Upon my arrival in Senegal, I was warmly welcomed by a diverse team of students. With very little knowledge of French, I struggled to communicate with some of my colleagues. However, time solved this given that we undertook a language course.
The first days in class were completely strange to me. The heavy study schedule required us to stay in class for a longer time than any other university curriculum that I had undertaken. The idea of periodical quizzes, weekend assignments, and end of block assessments barely gave me time to focus on any other distractors. The AIMS model is designed to train all-around mathematicians skilled in the fundamental/building blocks of mathematics and its applications. Equipping me with language programming courses and scientific report writing skills has significantly impacted my research skills.
When I remember that graduation we had in June 2017, the shouts of joy re-echo in my ears. I met and made friends with people from various countries and my country mate Charlotte Olivia Namagembe, a great pillar in my success at AIMS. The bond of friendship that we created still lives on. I have to commend the supportive team of tutors and professors in class and beyond. They were available to support us through our studies and the preparation of our thesis work. Kudos to the team of 2016/2017.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Frank: In addition to the mathematical knowledge I acquired, AIMS greatly improved my programming skills, which have been instrumental in my day-to-day work. The research that I undertook in High Dimensionality Reduction has also been a building block to my Data Science skills; hence I have a career path thanks to AIMS.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Frank: My success story is incomplete without mentioning the time I spent at AIMS Senegal. I changed my career path for the best, widened my exposure to research, and am proud to be sharing my experience and knowledge with my students at Makerere University. In the next few years, I am looking forward to undertaking my PhD.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Frank: I have been working within the health sector; therefore, I would highlight the Good Health and Well-being SDG. I work with Living Goods Organisation, an NGO in Uganda that aims to reduce mortality in children under five years and ensure access to family planning services family for women and health care for those who are pregnant. I have been providing timely reports and data that have helped track the performance indicators and enable timely strategic decision making to further improve Good Health and Well-being in Uganda.
Equally, I am interested in contributing to Quality Education, most especially for undergraduate university students. I have been training students in statistical computing since 2019, and I should note that it’s been a fulfilling effort to be part of my students’ career-shaping.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Frank: The AIMS program is designed to help students discover their passion. It is rare to find an individual interested in all the fields taught at AIMS. Some students are interested in pure mathematics, applied mathematics such as statistics, mathematical modelling, computational methods, etc. However, somewhere lies your passion among all these; it is upon you to discover, grow, and harness it.