Ms Abla Mawussi Azalekor

AIMS Ghana 2013
Researching ways to make wireless networks more reliable and faster

Ms Abla Mawussi Azalekor, from Togo, completed a four year degree in Mathematics at the University of Lomé. After which she worked as a tutor in mathematics at the same university, passing on her knowledge to new generations of students. “Though teaching was a valuable experience, I felt a strong desire to continue to further my studies and academic development. However, in Togo there are so few opportunities to progress in academia, so teaching is one of the only pathways available. As a result, many talented young graduates are forced to leave the country in search of more varied opportunities in research. When a friend of mine, an alumnus of AIMS South Africa, first told me about AIMS I was struck by the idea of an institute of excellence providing free post-graduate training to African students. With all the financial obstacles I had previously faced, AIMS seemed like a rare and incredible opportunity. I then took the life-changing decision to apply to AIMS, in hopes of deepening my studies and unlocking career opportunities post-AIMS.”

“AIMS was an incredible melting-pot of cultures, languages, ethnicities. Being at AIMS amongst talented students made you believe that together you can achieve something world changing.”

“As well as the Master’s degree courses, we were also given skills courses through the AIMS Industry Initiative Program. For example, the course where we learned how to write a CV, how to fill in a job applications, public speaking etc. These are essential skills in our personal and professional development that helped us to present ourselves to future employers – no other institute provided this for its students.”

“I think in African and many other societies there is a problem with how students of mathematics or related disciplines are perceived. I don’t believe mathematics and science are valued highly enough in our society. Some of my friends didn’t understand why I was studying so much to achieve better grades, they didn’t see the point in putting so much energy and time into it. In a different context but similar way, women do not see themselves as mathematicians, often they think it is a “man’s subject”. Whilst I was studying my BA in mathematics we were only 8 women amongst more than 200 men, and in my 3rd and 4th year I was the only woman on the course. AIMS is trying to change these perceptions with each graduate that leaves its centre. I welcomed AIMS’ landmark efforts in trying to re-balance the gender inequality in the mathematical sciences sector, and increase the number of women scientists.”

In 2013 she was invited to become a PhD student at Herriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Her field of study is applied probabilities, because her strength is working on statistics. The aim of the research team she is part of is to increase the stability of wireless networks. “We want to achieve this by elaborating a new mathematical model which can be applied to any type of wireless network. The idea is to reduce the time people are in the queue waiting to send a message through the system, by increasing capacity, we reduce the waiting time and as a consequence make wireless networks more reliable and faster.”

“Africa faces many challenges in strengthening academic excellence on the continent. African leaders need to recognise the importance of mathematical scientific education in all levels. African nations should seek to improve the working and living conditions of teachers and lecturers across the continent. This way we can attract and retain more bright minds to stay and teach to pass on their knowledge to future generations.”

In the future she plans to return to work in Africa. “I would like to apply my skills from AIMS to a number of different sectors, including the communication and financial sectors. I would also like to one day give back to AIMS, the organisation that has provided me with so much. My greatest aspirations have been realised through AIMS, as a young girl I never imagined I would be studying for a PhD in Europe. Now I am a confident woman equipped with mathematical and leadership skills that can be applied to many different fields.”

Story and photo courtesy of Matteo Besana