On this week’s edition of AlumoftheWeek, we catch up with AIMS Ghana’14 alumnus Edward Korveh, PhD student at the University of Ghana.
Q: Kindly walk us through your academic journey before coming to AIMS.
Edward: I gained admission to study for a BSc in Mathematics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana, graduating in 2012. After our first lecture in my first year, four other freshmen and I decided to form a study group. This study group was a game-changer for me. Our modus operandi was a straightforward one — share the challenging semester courses among members, and let them lead the discussion during group meetings. The group became very successful, and soon our membership doubled. This approach also encouraged other members of the class to do the same. At the end of the four years, six people graduated with first-class honours and half of that number were from my study group, myself included.
After my undergraduate studies, I was selected to do my national service as a Teaching Assistant at All Nations University College, affiliated to KNUST. This period was more or less like an academic adventure for me, as I discovered several other areas of mathematics. I was not in my comfort zone, but I embraced the challenges and discharged my duties to the admiration of both students and staff.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Edward: I got to know about AIMS from the Association of Mathematics Students’ (AMS-KNUST) magazine. A story of an alumna of the department who had gained a scholarship for her Master’s at AIMS in South Africa (the only centre then) was featured. After reading it, I decided to apply to AIMS. Then in my final year, we learned that AIMS would be opening its third centre in Ghana. I applied, and AIMS Ghana selected me.
My time at AIMS Ghana was full of memories and fun-packed. There were perfect moments, unpleasant moments, and also sad moments. It was my first time meeting fellow students from countries like Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia. And we were all living under the same roof bound by the cord of mathematics.
The end-of-block parties, dubbed African Night, stand out as one of the best moments at AIMS, where we forget about all the stress and pressure of the three weeks and put on our dancing shoes, stepped onto the dance floor to shake them off. My first time dancing publicly was at AIMS, and I think my moves were not that bad!
Another moment that I will never forget was the moment I sadly lost my adopted mother during the Christmas break. The support I received from students and staff during this time was unprecedented. AIMS allowed my classmates to travel from Biriwa in Cape Coast to Koforidua (a round trip of 8 hours) to support me on the day of the burial and funeral rites. I felt a strong sense of belonging to a more prominent family that day, and I appreciated that act of kindness.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Edward: I wouldn’t have survived my time in Europe if I had not been to AIMS. Skills such as programming, communication, presentation, and academic honesty came in handy. My training at AIMS prepared me to be independent in my thinking and appreciate different views and opinions.
Programming skills in python and sagemath developed at AIMS came to my rescue. At the University of Warwick, we were given a two-day crash course in C++ and another two-day in MATLAB. We were then directed to use those two and any other programming languages of our choice for our works. My exposure to python at AIMS made it easy for me to choose it as my ultimate programming language.
My communication skills in English improved tremendously, thanks to the English Language course at AIMS Ghana. For example, I received positive feedback from examiners of my Research Project at the University of Warwick, highlighting that my project work was written and presented with enough citations and references. Eventually, I got a distinction in that project.
My supervisor at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden decided to work with me on my Master’s thesis because I sent him an excellent email. He was also impressed with my write-up on the first assigned task and the fact that my write-up passed all the plagiarism checks to his satisfaction.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Edward: The atmosphere at AIMS, where students dine and chat with renowned professors and academics from across the globe, provided me with the opportunity to discuss my plans with Professor Mark Roberts, who taught us Differential Equations. He then directed me to look at the Erasmus Mundus program in Complex Systems Science coordinated by his former University, the University of Warwick, and three other Universities in Europe. I eventually applied, with a recommendation from him and one other UK professor. I got accepted to study at the University of Warwick in the UK and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. We were only seven in my cohort, and I was the only African. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Ghana and working from the AIMS Ghana Research Centre.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Edward: SDG 4 — “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. To achieve this goal in mathematics education, we need to break the myth surrounding mathematics and how the subject has been taught over the decades on the continent. There is a saying that “actions speak louder than words”. I want to rephrase this as — pictures speak louder than symbols. One way of demystifying mathematical concepts and breaking them down is through the use of images and simulations. In my current work, I try as much as possible to include some simulation results to make my research work accessible to industry players.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Edward: Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, for you may not know where your true interest lies. Use your time at AIMS to explore other related fields of mathematics and take every opportunity that comes your way with a sense of seriousness. Make it a point to leave AIMS a better person than you came in.