This week, CMU Africa announced that InstaDeep colleague Oluwafemi Azeez is the recipient of the university’s honourable award for “Rising Researcher 2020”. The accolade was launched in 2017 and is an annual fund in honour of late alumnus and faculty member Dr Jeremiah N. Mpagazehe.

Strong academic preparation and passion for research

The announcement was made during the Class of 2020’s virtual celebration on May 17th. Before announcing the winner, Founding Director of Strategy at CMU-Africa, Crystal Rugege, told the audience the award honours ‘a deserving graduating student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and scholarship through their research contributions and entrepreneurial activity’. Rugege continued with the jury’s justification for selecting Oluwafemi as this year’s winner. 

“Oluwafemi has consistently exhibited the attributes of a successful researcher; strong academic preparation and a passion for research. As soon as he arrived at CMU-Africa he actively persuaded opportunities to research the use of deep-layer neural networks for computer vision. He has since done several projects in this area with our faculty and had the opportunity to present his work in Vancouver at the NeurIPS conference”, she told the audience.  

Inspire an African transformation

Furthermore, the jury highlights Oluwafemi’s incredible dedication to developing the African ML community by inspiring people to strive for excellence through his cofounding and dedication to AI Saturdays Lagos, a community-driven, non-profit initiative making high-level AI education accessible to all for free. Rugege states; “Oluwafemi is not the typical graduate student who focuses only on grades, his major strength is his passion for knowledge and research and his commitment to teaching others around him”. 

Oluwafemi is indeed dedicated to this mission. “One of my goals is to inspire Africans to believe in the possibility of solving problems through research. Even though there are many young Africans who desire this, it’s not usually realistic because of hurdles people face on the continent, especially financial issues. You just want to get a safe job and take care of your friends and family.”

An ecosystem of support and inspiration

The opportunities Oluwafemi has received is not something he takes for granted and he humbly gives credit to his ecosystem. “My success is not typical but has been a rare chance of little opportunities created by individuals and organisations who could help in their little ways. They are the ones I owe my success to. I believe many other young Africans would do great given such conditions I was fortunate to have. Together with my co-founder and leaders of the AI Saturdays Lagos community, we are working on scaling similar opportunities to solve problems and satisfy our curiosity through research across Africa. Together with the rest of the Nigerian team at InstaDeep, we have been very involved in the collaborative community research efforts. The award is early recognition of these efforts, but there’s definitely a lot more to do.”

Accessible AI

At InstaDeep, we are not only delighted on Femi’s behalf for the incredible achievement but also proud to have teammates dedicated to initiates that significantly impact Africa’s social and economical transformation. Our teams across the globe are involved in multiple projects and initiatives driving the AI transformation and making AI accessible to all. 

Carnegie Mellon University is leading in the field of engineering and is in 2020 number 27 on the list over the World’s best Universities according to The World University Ranking. It has branches the world over including CMU-Africa which is based in Rwanda.

Watch the ceremony in full here:

Read more about the award here.

About CMU-Africa

CMU-Africa was established in 2011 and is the only U.S. research university offering its master’s degrees with a full-time faculty, staff and operations in Africa. Born out of a partnership between CMU and the Government of Rwanda, CMU-Africa is addressing the critical shortage of high-quality engineering talent required to accelerate development in Africa—home to the fastest-growing workforce in the world.