‘At times I felt like he was a PhD student rather than a master’s degree candidate owing to his ability to initiate and investigate new ideas and report his results in high quality articles.’
These are the words Dr Jean Fonou-Dombeu used to describe the talents of Mr Ameeth Sooklall who was awarded an MSc degree in Computer Science summa cum laude.
‘It was an immense pleasure to supervise Ameeth,’ said Fonou-Dombeu, who described Sooklall as dedicated, exceptional, disciplined and hardworking.
The application of ELECTRE algorithms in ontology selection was the focus of Sooklall’s research.
Fonou-Dombeu recollected that he held lengthy Zoom meetings at all hours with Sooklall to discuss the student’s work. ‘Ameeth always showed an interest and desire to improve himself, and not only implemented all my recommendations but always went beyond to bring new ideas to enhance what we had agreed upon.’
Sooklall investigated the concept of ontologies, which is a technique for representing knowledge, together with their applications and implications to the biomedical industry.
‘I found that there is a myriad of ontologies currently available, but the size and complexity associated with these ontologies acts as a barrier for their efficient selection and usage,’ he said. ‘To overcome this challenge, I developed and applied computational algorithms from the fields of decision theory and fuzzy set theory to provide decision support for analysing and selecting biomedical ontologies for reuse.
‘The ability to analyse and comprehend these ontologies enables medical knowledge to be widely disseminated, allowing for the development of applications and systems to aid the medical field, improving the overall state of healthcare.
Sooklall said the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) interested him because it was expanding at such a rapid pace. ‘I am especially excited about the impact AI has on the medical field,’ he explained. ‘By utilising AI-based techniques we are able to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of current medical systems and techniques – essentially allowing for more lives to be saved.’
Sooklall’s research is significant because it provides a set of decision support techniques to enable people to comprehend and analyse existing biomedical ontologies.
‘Currently, it is extremely difficult to comprehend these ontologies owing to their inherent complexity,’ he said. ‘My research aimed to diminish this associated complexity, enabling more people to understand and utilise BioOntologies in order to create specialised medical support systems to assist medical practitioners.
‘My MSc journey was a challenging one filled with difficulties and stressful situations, but it was worth it,’ said Sooklall, who plans to advance his current research through PhD studies at UKZN. ‘I have grown to appreciate the high academic quality that the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMCS) has to offer,’ he said.
Sooklall thanked his parents, supervisor, peers and University staff for their support.
Words: Sally Frost
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan