Professor Serestina Viriri has taken the helm as the new Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) and his vision is to lead a teaching and research environment that is responsive to the demands and challenges of the 21st century, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the University, and the broader community.
‘With its three core Disciplines of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science driving the 4IR, the School is the engine to transform teaching and learning and research in the University by leading multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research efforts in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES). Keeping up with contemporary education standards is vital in positioning our Institution as a university of choice,’ he said.
Viriri plans to achieve this by focusing on excellence in teaching, research, collaboration and community engagement while cultivating an environment where all stakeholders in the School from academic, professional and technical staff to students flourish and achieve their best.
With above-average research productivity and postgraduate student throughput, Viriri hopes to build on the strength of the School’s research by focusing on both pure and applied research. Furthermore, he intends to focus on turning big data into products, something the School has already pioneered through the initiation of an interdisciplinary programme in Data Science that imparts techniques for interrogating data in a given domain and extracting useful information.
‘I envisage solidifying and consolidating our research as one of our pillars in positioning our School nationally and internationally as well as facilitating the development of innovative service courses for other Disciplines within the University to impart Artificial Intelligence-related skills, Mathematical problem solving, Data Analytics and Computational thinking skills,’ he said.
Viriri is an accomplished Computer Scientist with over 25 years of experience in academia. His research niche is Computer Vision, Medical Image Analysis, Machine Learning, Image Processing, Pattern Recognition, and other areas relating to Artificial Intelligence and Image Analysis. He holds a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science and MSc in Computer Science from the University of Havana in Cuba, and a PhD in Computer Science from UKZN. Viriri is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a National Research Foundation rated researcher.
CAES Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head, Professor Albert Modi congratulated Professor Viriri on his appointment and his responsiveness to achieving the College’s goals.
Words: Christine Cuénod