Black History Month
Joseline Ishimwe Aimee: Facing Forward!
Written by Ruth A. Situma
Black History Month offers a chance to explore and focus on the ongoing contributions of Black Canadians in Canada. This month, PIMS celebrates this ongoing tradition by focusing on young talented scientists in STEM, how far they have come, and what they envision their future to be.
Eleven months into the lockdown and Joseline Ishimwe Aimee is looking forward to the next three. Many like her have had to make adjustments: She’s on the last semester of her undergraduate studies, working on her applied math and physics thesis, and, at the same time, eager to see what the new year will offer.
One thing is a constant — her love for everything math. “I have loved mathematics from a young age” she says. “In fact, I was 8 years old when we moved to Canada and although my proficiency in English was very minimal, I always knew how to express and explain my love for math whenever I was asked what my favorite subject in school was.” Her love for numbers and problem solving was natural, but her passion grew when she learned how mathematics plays a role in everyday life and how it is used to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. Asked what her favorite theorem is, she’s quick to tell it out loud: “Pythagorean theorem. It forms the foundations of geometry, which without, life as we know it would not be the same.” Since attending the PIMS Diversity in Mathematics Summer School, she has taken an interest in fluid dynamics as well. It was here that she learnt about fluid dynamics in the medical field, through a short course taught by Dr. Malebogo Ngoepe, from the University of Cape Town.
For Joseline, the PIMS Diversity in Mathematics Summer School brought together diverse, hardworking students and professionals that were committed to elevating the presence of women and underrepresented minorities. “I enjoyed having effective and meaningful interactions with other young women while learning about the impacts of mathematics. The program elevated my passion for using mathematics to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges such as those faced in the health industry”.
As she reflects on Black History Month, she reminds us that we should focus on and nurture young talent, so that they can be part of a strong, and diverse talent pool. “For young black mathematicians such as myself, always ask questions; no matter how simple or complex it may be, be bold and confident, learn from your mistakes, don’t be afraid to take the lead and always help those around you. As young women, understanding the power of our contributions to the fundamental revelations that STEM provides is the key to modernization. We are responsible for future prosperity and advancement. However, once we have obtained academic and professional achievement, we require support in ways that are specific to being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated area. I believe that through mentorship, leadership and more programs that are dedicated to elevating the presence of women, young women can be more equipped with such tools so that they can confidently take their role as leaders”.
Despite her eagerness to complete this part of her life’s journey, the fatigues of distance learning are overshadowed by gratitude and a few grounding lessons. Self-care is important for Joseline, so too is the need to be self-aware of the necessity to balance work and undergraduate life. “This present time has also taught me the importance of not only setting a goal, but the importance of everyday decisions that are made to achieve the goal. Every day I strive to do my best with the tasks at hand while also making the time for hobbies and doing things that bring me joy”. Taking math courses via Zoom is a mild aggrievement (she prefers chalk-talks!) and she would not be able to get by without at least 2 cups of black tea daily.
For Joseline, the time is fast approaching where she too will have to decide on her career trajectory after completing her undergraduate degree. After the fluid dynamics course at the PIMS Summer School, she is searching for ways to integrate her interest in applied mathematics and health, narrowing her choices down to biomedical engineering or medical physics. It looks like her love for math at a young age, has opened possibilities. To her we say: continue breaking barriers — Onward Forward!