Each AIMS centre offers an intensive graduate-level course over 10 months leading to a master's degree in Mathematical Sciences.
The course provides both a broad overview of cutting-edge sciences and strong mathematical and computing research skills. The course is unique, offering students exposure to a range of topics, thereby allowing them to make an informed choice as to their future specialisation. The goal is to develop well-rounded scientists, with excellent problem-solving skills, capable of creative thinking and genuine innovation. There is a strong grounding in end-to-end skills, from problem formulation, estimation, prioritization, and generally applicable mathematical and computing methods, through to clear and concise scientific report writing. The aim is to equip students with the necessary tools and confidence for decision making and policy analysis.
Faculties from African Universities have been intimately involved in developing the AIMS course, ensuring it is well integrated with local undergraduate and masters courses, and with local postgraduate research opportunities. World-leading scientists and educators have volunteered to teach at AIMS centres. Their participation ensures an education of the highest international quality. Tutors (often including AIMS alumni) provide teaching and administrative assistance, assistance to foreign language speakers, and continuity across the visiting lecturers.
Completing a course of such scope and depth in just one academic year is possible only if it is highly intensive, so students must come prepared to work hard and focus. The residential nature of AIMS allows far greater contact time between lecturers and students than normally available in a university setting. Courses are student-centered but very demanding. Students study two subjects at a time every three weeks, with morning lectures and related afternoon problem solving and computing sessions. Each course consists of 30 hours contact time (10 per week). Additional tutorials and special lectures are often held in the evenings, when students complete their assignments.
No special preparation for the course is needed on a student's part. The course also carries a large component of scientific computing, and many hours are spent in the computer lab; students who have improved their touch typing skills before the programme will have a distinct advantage.
The AIMS Masters in Mathematical Sciences is a 10-month programme commencing mid-August each year. The curriculum runs over 3 semesters described below. There is an oral defense of the research project in mid-June, and the year culminates in graduation at the end of June.
Skills courses are designed to provide introductory and foundational material to the students, and are structured to achieve pre-defined outcomes, with little flexibility in their content. All courses are compulsory.
Review courses are fundamentally different in that they include a wide range of topical issues and are more flexibly designed. Review courses will be taught from November through March. Students are required to complete 2 out of the 3 available review courses in each time slot, a total of 12. The 3 choices in each time slot will be balanced with respect to focus on mathematics, physics and interdisciplinary topics such as computer science, biomathematics, financial mathematics, and more. The ongoing communication skills and computing classes are compulsory.
During the seven-week-long Essay phase students work on a research topic with a supervisor, usually from a local university. Students are not expected to do original work to achieve a passing grade. The criterion for an outstanding essay is broadly that it could constitute the early part of a Masters thesis. For example, it could be publishable in a journal, or form an outstanding introduction to the field that could be used by other students entering the area. During this phase targeted communication skills and computing classes may continue, at the lecturers' discretion. The purpose of a Masters project is:
- to give students the opportunity to work with an expert supervisor on a non-trivial project;
- to go through the process of independently reviewing, understanding and explaining scientific or mathematical material;
- to optionally (usually) do experiments — on a computer or otherwise — and report the results;
- to write a scientific report.
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