I was born and grew up in Brackenfell, where I matriculated in 1991 from Brackenfell High School. After completing my national service in the SAAF and a year at an insurance company working as an actuarial clerk, I spent the rest of the nineties either tutoring math and science or working on building and maintaining computer systems.
In 2000 I started a B.Sc in theoretical physics at Stellenbosch University, from where I graduated in 2002. Next I spent two years teaching grade one and grade two, followed by another year of teaching high school math, grades 10 through 12. In 2007 I went back to Stellenbosch to complete first a B.Sc Hons and then a M.Sc both in theoretical physics. The focus of my masters thesis was the application of evolutionary methods to both finding and optimizing quantum algorithms and the circuits that produce them.
I’m in the process of starting a PhD with Dr. Bruce Bassett focussed on application of various meta-heuristic methods to finding machine learning solutions for very large database mining. Other projects that I’m currently working on include a visual representation of wetland health, with Dr. Jessica Chamier of the CSIR, Deployment of the national math curriculum via a simple phone interface and lastly I’m also active as a tutor at both the physics department in Stellenbosch University as well as various High Schools around the peninsula.
What inspired you to study science?
I am curious by nature, and growing up on a farm gave me ample opportunity to explore. Another of my favourite places was the natural history museum in Cape Town, the dinosaurs fascinated me, like most youngsters, but my favourites were always the whale skeletons hanging on the roof. My imagination always saw these majestic animals in the ocean, flying through the water.
At school I got much encouragement from my teachers, both in the sciences as well as math, but the most influential factors were Carl Sagan’s series “Cosmos”, and a South African series “Die brandkluis” hosted by Marinus Wijnbeek.
Do you have a role model in science?
There are many scientists that inspire, but the one that I’ve admired from childhood has been Leonardo da Vinci.
A quote that inspires you?
“We are not princes of the earth, we are the descendants of worms, and any nobility must be earned.” – P.Z. Myers
“Stories without evidence is just advertising” – Bun Booyens
“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Machine learning and Artificial intelligence
Favourite reference papers:
Thompson, Adrian. 1996. Silicon Evolution. In Stanford University, 444-452. MIT Press.
This is the paper that got me interested in Meta-Heuristics to start with.
Zhang, Gexiang. 2011. “Quantum-inspired evolutionary algorithms: a survey and empirical study.” Journal of Heuristics 17 (3): 303-351. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10732-010-9136-0.
This is just a beautiful synergy of the two subjects that I was studying at the time.