Four master’s students will soon have a fully funded opportunity to become world class artificial intelligence researchers and engineers

DeepMind, a leading company in Artificial Intelligence research is in the process of donating four MSc Scholarships in machine learning, to students from underrepresented groups. The students are yet to be selected but the selection criteria will be very specific.

Wits Associate Professor in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Benjamin Rosman said, ‘‘We’re going to be focusing on students with a strong technical background, and particularly students [from SA and other African countries] who would not be able to afford the studies otherwise. It is also for students that are particularly interested in theoretical questions around advancing AI.’’

Wits University, alongside Stellenbosch University and Makerere University in Uganda, are the three African universities chosen as recipients of this scholarship.

Ulrich Paquet, DeepMind research scientist spoke to the need for increased diversity in the AI field. “Increasing African participation in AI is vital if we are to create a technology that represents global views and works for everybody.”

‘‘Despite the wealth of talented students in Africa, relatively few go on to participate in AI and machine learning at the global level,” he said. DeepMind is of the view that access to further education is essential in addressing the current imbalance in the field.

Applications are expected to open to students next month, ‘‘The plan is that [the scholarships] will start supporting students from the beginning of next year,’’ said Rosman.

Xolani Mti standing in front of The Computer Science and Applied Mathematics department building. Photo: Keamogetswe Mosepele

Xolani Mti, an honours student in the field of Computer Science is someone reliant on external funding to pursue his studies. “I got my bursary in third year, my first and second were not easy as I used to live at a friend’s place travelling back and forth from Bree to Braamfontein.’’ He expressed what this opportunity could potentially mean to him. “I want to pursue and do my PhD, doing my master’s is really something that I have always wished for.

Mti told Wits Vuvuzela: “I do have a passion for the industry, I enjoy coding I can stay in my room just doing coding for days.’’

He has already started applying the skills acquired through his undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. “This year I started [Cargo] a company with a friend of mine in Cape Town, we are building an app with the transportation industry.’’

During their studies, DeepMind scholars will benefit from one on one mentoring by researchers in the organization.

The scholarship will cover tuition fees, a stipend and equipment funding. The students can enrol to complete their masters through dissertation or coursework over the period of 2022-2024.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits students studying in front of the TW Kambule Mathematical Sciences Building, where the department of Computer Sciences and Applied Mathematics is located. Photo: Keamogetswe Mosepele