Rwandan-born Jean Pierre Twagirayezu is a PhD student at Michigan State University, where his research focuses on experimental astroparticle physics, spanning through data analysis and software development for scientific applications. Here’s what the AIMS Rwanda’18 alumnus had to say in this week’s edition of our #AlumoftheWeek series.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
Jean: In 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Rwanda College of Education, majoring in Physics, with Mathematics as my minor. I subsequently served as a high school Physics and Mathematics teacher until 2017, when I joined AIMS. As a teacher in the high school, I met an AIMS alumnus who urged me to consider applying to AIMS due to opportunities there and its international reputation.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Jean: AIMS has a unique setting and accessible 24/7 learning environment. I received my basic needs, and all I needed to do was to focus on my studies. I can’t forget the 11:59 pm deadlines. I recall when we were first introduced to Latex and had to complete assignments with it. Sometimes bugs showed up at the last minutes, and you had to fit it at all cost. It was an exciting experience. I can’t thank my classmates, tutors, lecturers, professors, and other staff enough for being there for us.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Jean: The skillset gained at AIMS was vital for me to move ahead in my career. My interest area is experimental astroparticle physics, specifically astrophysical neutrino research, methods of data analysis, and software development for scientific applications. The scientific computing and software development courses I took at AIMS come in handy daily as I go about my research work. The truth is that most of these courses were very new to me on arrival at AIMS. In addition to advanced math and physics skills, I also developed problem-solving skills.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Jean: AIMS opens doors. While at AIMS, I got admitted to Graduate School at Michigan State University, in the Physics and Astronomy Department. I work with the Michigan State University IceCube Research Group and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory Collaboration in general.
Doing research in experimental astroparticle physics and getting the chance to work with top researchers in the field helps me gain more skills in computing, data-driven problem solving, scientific software development, problem-solving in general, and other relevant soft skills essential to success in top research institutions. So, better to come.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Jean: Quality Education is the most important driving force for sustainable development. AIMS has had a remarkable impact and is shaping the way education is being delivered across the continent by emphasizing partnership with private and public institutions locally and internationally. AIMS has set an example, and I believe other academic institutions have already started doing the same. The remaining ones should follow or even do better to change the story.
Having access to quality education is also a key to addressing other SDGs. I am planning to provide teaching/mentorship to students, especially those from vulnerable communities.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Jean: Work at your best ability, collaborate and get the most out of it. There are more opportunities to come after AIMS. Believe that you can do whatever even you think you can’t. Most of all, follow your dreams and do what is needed! Always remember that AIMS opens doors.