Training at AIMS Tanzania

Master’s in Mathematical Sciences

Aims and Structure

Each AIMS centre offers an intensive one-year graduate-level course leading to a taught Master’s Degree in Mathematical Sciences. The course provides both a broad overview of cutting-edge science and strong mathematical and computer 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 curriculum, ensuring it is well integrated with local undergraduate and Master’s 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 support, assistance to foreign language speakers, and continuity across the visiting lecturers.

First Semester: Skills Courses

Skills courses are compulsory and designed to:

• provide introductory and foundational material to the students;
• train students in problem solving using a wide range of mathematical and computing methods;
• provide a working knowledge of mathematics, physics and selected topics.

They are structured to achieve pre-defined outcomes, with little flexibility in their content.

Second Semester: Review courses

Review courses are elective and are fundamentally different. Each is flexibly designed and together they provide a wide range of topics. Students are required to complete 11 courses selected from the 18 review courses offered (with at most two chosen from any three-week block). Choices offered are balanced as far as possible with respect to their focus on mathematics, physics, statistics and interdisciplinary topics such as epidemiology, bioinformatics and financial modelling. Students select from the list of courses in consultation with the Academic Manager who ensures coherence.

The AIMS understanding is that each Review Course provides an overview and in depth study of some topic from a major field of modern scientific work in the mathematical sciences and its applications. These are often relevant to African development.

Third Semester: Research project

During the nine week research project phase, students work on a research topic with a supervisor. Students are not expected to do original work to achieve a passing grade, but the criterion for an outstanding research project is broadly that it could constitute the early part of a Research Master’s 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 supervisor’s discretion.

The purpose of the research 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 do experiments – on a computer or otherwise – and report the results;
• to write a scientific report, and to defend it in an oral exam.


Courses for 2016-17

AIMS Tanzania’s courses in 2016-17 are:

Skills (Core)

• Mathematical Problem Solving by David Stern (University of Reading, UK) and Mike Obiero (Maseno University, Kenya)
• Introduction to Data by Roger Stern (Statistics for Sustainable Development, UK) and James Musyoka (Maseno University, Kenya)
• Programming with Python by Emile Chimusa (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
• Topics in Linear Algebra by Joyati Debnath (Winona State University, USA)
• Differential Equations & Modelling by Mark Roberts (AIMS Tanzania & University of Surrey, UK)
• Physical Problem Solving by Edward Wilson-Ewing (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics – Albert Einstein Institute)

Review (Electives)

• Graph Theory by Mashaka Mkandawile (University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania)
• Measure Theory and Probability by Cathal Walsh (University of Limerick, Ireland)
• Statistical Interference by Jane Hutton (University of Warwick, UK)
• Classical Mechanics by Pawel Danielwicz (Michigan State University, USA)
• Introduction to Bioinformatics by Raphael Sangeda (Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania)
• Stochastic Modelling by Sure Mataramvura (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
• Electromagnetism and Light by Astrid Eichhorn (Imperial College, London, UK)
• Partial Differential Equations by Patrick Dorey (University of Durham, UK)
• Multivariate Regression by Ian Plewis (University of Manchester, UK)
• Frame Theory by James Solazzo (Coastal Carolina University, USA)
• Quantum Mechanics by Vishnu Jejjala (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)
• Environmental Statistics by Abdel El Shaarawi (Cairo University, Egypt)
• Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics by Phillip Höhn (University of Vienna Austria) and Sylvain Carrozza (University of Bordeaux, France)
• Financial Modelling by Ludger Overbeck (JLU Glassen, Germany)
• Geospatial Statistics for Public Health by Peter Diggle (Lancaster University, UK) and Emanuele Giorgi (Lancaster University, UK)
• Groups and Geometry by Alan Beardon (University of Cambridge, UK)
• Numerical Analysis by Ralph Masenge (University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania)
• Epidemiological Modelling by Ngwa Gideon Akumah (University of Buea, Cameroon)

Learning Environment and Strategy

AIMS Tanzania offers world-class, quality education with a unique approach where students, lecturers and tutors eat and live together in a 24-hour learning environment. The result is continuous learning in both formal and informal settings; a lot of dialogue and thought-provoking conversations that will result in creating the exceptional, independent, critical thinkers the programme seeks to create.

Teaching at AIMS is based on the principle of learning and understanding, rather than simply listening and writing, during classes; and on creating an atmosphere of increasing knowledge through small group discussions. Formulating conjectures and assessing the evidence achieve this and sometimes going down wrong paths and learning from these mistakes. The essential feature of the classes at AIMS is that, in contrast to formal lecture courses, they are highly interactive; and time is allocated for class discussions. In this way, AIMS provides a climate of interactive teaching, where students are encouraged to learn together in a journey of questioning and discovery, and where lecturers respond to the needs of the class rather than to a pre-determined syllabus. The AIMS teaching philosophy is to promote critical and creative thinking; to experience the excitement of learning from true understanding; and to avoid rote learning directed only towards assessment.

Students are helped and encouraged to develop their own ideas, both during and outside formal class times, and to absorb new ideas instead of being presented with the finished product.

The teaching at AIMS is done through self-contained (modular) courses in which the advertised content is used as a guide, and lecturers are encouraged, and expected, to adapt daily to meet the needs of the students. The challenge for the lecturers is to create a sense of enquiry in all students who come from very diverse backgrounds. Each student should develop, and succeed from their own particular starting point. AIMS considers the journey undertaken to reach a conclusion to be as important as the conclusion itself.

Although we have students, tutors and lecturers of many different nationalities, all teaching at AIMS Tanzania is in English. To assist students who are not fluent in English when they arrive in August, and to improve the communication skills of all students, we have an English language programme running throughout the academic period.

Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistants, or tutors, are a fundamental feature of the AIMS model. AIMS Tanzania appoints between eight and ten advanced postgraduate students as teaching assistants. Their duties are to provide assistance to the Academic Manager and lecturers in matters concerning the academic program and the assessment of students. Teaching assistants attend the lecture courses, deliver additional tutorials, assist with the marking of assignments, and help the students with computing and research project writing. Teaching assistants are recruited via announcements on AIMS websites. Criteria considered for selection include: academic achievement, ability to speak relevant languages, and an ability to function in the unusual AIMS teaching environment.


July 2017
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“We are pleased to bring the  AIMS model to Tanzania. We bring together top global scholars in math and science to teach and research with Africa’s brightest students”. Our graduates then use these skills to tackle African development issues ranging from disease prevention to environmental degradation, education and poverty.

AIMS graduates have a broad-based training and are talented problem solvers and innovators, which is just what this continent needs.”

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