Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher Adji Bousso Dieng will become the first black woman faculty to join Princeton’s School of Engineering in its 100-year history.
Dieng is currently an AI researcher at Google, working in the field of generative modeling. In an interview with Forbes, she explained how generative modeling works.
“It allows you to learn from data without needing any supervision. Generative models have many real-world applications with regard to natural language processing, computer vision, healthcare, robotics, and in a range of sciences,” she told Forbes.
The Senegalese woman comes from humble beginnings, having been raised by a mother who did not finish high school but understood the value of education. She was raised in Kaolack, Senegal and attended public school there.
In high school, she was awarded a scholarship to study abroad after winning a competition organized by Pathfinder Foundation for Education and Development in support of African girls in STEM. She went on to attain an engineering degree in France and a master’s in statistics at Cornell University in the United States.
Dieng is not just a researcher. She is amplifying the voices of Africans in STEM. She is the brains behind The Africa I Know (TAIK), a platform where she showcases African talent. A lot of success stories in Africa go unreported and according to Dieng, sometimes only negative views of the continent make it to the media.
“I founded TAIK to unearth the success stories of Africa and its people and to foster an economic and social consciousness in Africa,” she said to Forbes, adding, “the success stories are not told: the majority of people don’t know much about Africa and hold a negative view of the continent given how it is portrayed in the media. This negative view of Africa has significant repercussions on Africa and its people.”
TAIK is run by a team of young African volunteers from all parts of the continent. The content produced is in English and French, both languages widely used in Africa.
Dieng, who joins Princeton University as a tenure-track assistant professor, feels that it is important to have black female representation in the academia. In her study journey, she never came across a black female lecturer.
“It’s important to have role models, role models that look like you and representation matters, for it gives hope and courage to pursue one’s endeavors,” she highlighted in the same interview with Forbes, “That’s one reason behind why I created The Africa I Know, to give young Africans career role models they can look up to.”
With a late father who never managed to go to school and a mother who did not finish high school, Dieng’s professorship is of great significance. It is a testimony that one’s background does not determine her career path or possible achievement.