We head off to Central Africa from the west coast to catch up with AIMS South Africa’19, AIMS AMMI’20 alumnus and a Mastercard Foundation scholar Salomon Kabongo Kabenamualu. Currently a PhD Student at the Leibniz University of Hannover in Germany, he shares his scientific journey on this week’s edition of #AlumoftheWeek!
Q: Kindly walk us through your academic journey before AIMS.
Salomon: Before AIMS, I had spent almost six years completing a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Université de Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This long wait was basically because visiting professors were primarily unavailable, and hard to get to our University. I was fortunate, however, to be supervised by Dr Franck Kalala, an AIMS alumnus, in my final year. Since then, he has been a mentor, helped me understand how to do scientific research, and provided me with enough tips and materials to prepare for AIMS.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Salomon: AIMS provided me with an environment free of financial stress and open to discovery where even the sky was not the limit. I liked the approach of marks allocation. This unique method taught me that doing better in a course was not the target I should have as a student, but understanding the material’s content was the focus of the academic curriculum.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Salomon: AIMS has helped me to become a problem-solver. More importantly, through AIMS, I now have an answer to provide to the world and especially people in the continent studying mathematics without understanding how these rather complicated structures are the backbone of the current advances in science. At AIMS, math makes sense J.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Salomon: I will first mention the network that AIMS has provided me. I got the opportunity to meet and become a family with lovely people all over the continent and the world. Also, at AIMS, I was introduced to data science; I got interested in working in Machine Learning and currently working toward a PhD degree at the Leibniz University of Hannover in Germany.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Salomon: I am more inclined with the Innovation, Industry and Infrastructure as well as Quality Education. I’m leveraging advanced NLP techniques to facilitate and modernize scholar communication (see https://www.orkg.org/orkg/, @orkg_org).
I’m actively working as well with the Masakhane Initiative (https://www.masakhane.io/ ) on pushing research for translation systems (http://translate.masakhane.io/) and speech technologies (http://speech.masakhane.io/) for African languages.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Salomon: The AIMS scholarship is a once in the lifetime opportunity, so don’t take it lightly.