HPI at UCT Welcomes Three New Students

18 Jun 2024
18 Jun 2024

Annual call for PhD and Postdoctoral applications

The HPI Research School at UCT is invested in supporting the brightest ICT4D researchers from sub-Saharan Africa and offers fully funded PhD and postdoctoral fellowships for up to five new students per year. Three new PhD candidates join the school this year. It is a pleasure to welcome and introduce Nomonde Khalo, Godfrey Haonga, and Claytone Sikasote.

Nomonde Khalo is a research scientist who describes herself as optimistic, resilient, passionate and “full of the overcomer spirit.” She joins the HPI at UCT fellowship programme with a wealth of research and experience. In addition to holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the University of the Witwatersrand, Nomonde has worked as a research scientist intern at IBM and a game development lecturer at Vega Institute. She has also held data analyst roles at Nedbank and Momentum Limited.

Nomonde’s main research interest is in the field of natural language processing, with a specific focus on developing advanced NLP algorithms to interpret and analyse medical texts. She is supervised by Dr Jan Buys and her research study is entitled “Knowledge Enhancement to Improve the Reliability of Large Language Models for Patient-Centered Text Simplification.”

When asked about her research goals, Nomonde says:

“My current research integrates machine learning techniques with linguistic principles to develop algorithms that can effectively simplify complex medical texts for South African languages without losing critical information. I am passionate about bridging the communication gap in healthcare in efforts to enhance patient comprehension and engagement.”

To find out more about Nomonde and her research, view her LinkedIn profile, or read a recent publication:
Byamugisha, J. and Khalo, N., 2021, September. A CNL-based Method for Detecting Disease Negation. In Proceedings of the Seventh International Workshop on Controlled Natural Language (CNL 2020/21).

Godfrey Haonga describes himself as a technology enthusiast with a “passion for leveraging technology to create innovative solutions geared towards social improvement.” His academic background includes an MSc in management and information systems (change and development) from the University of Manchester, and BSc in information systems from the University of Dodoma, Tanzania. Godfrey joins the HPI at UCT fellowship programme with a strong educational background, having worked at the Open University since 2013, where he held roles of Instructional Designer and Assistant Lecturer.

Godfrey’s main areas of interest combine e-learning, mobile learning and ICT in education. Being supervised by Prof Lisa Seymour, his PhD research study is entitled “A Prescriptive Framework for Designing Personalized Learning (PL) to Improve Learning Experiences in Open Distance Learning (ODL): The Context of African Higher Education.”

When asked about his goals for the research, he says:

“The objective of this research is to design a prescriptive framework for PL in ODL institutions within the African context. The developed framework will assist educators (instructors/tutors, instructional designers, and administrators) in ODL environments in personalizing the learning process to cater to the needs of distance learners and improving their learning experiences. ODL institutions will be able to utilize the framework to personalize their respective courses and learning materials, aligning them with individual learners’ needs, such as their skills, abilities, learning styles, and prior knowledge.”

Connect with Godfrey and find out more via his LinkedIn profile.

Claytone Sikasote describes himself as jovial and friendly, and his welcoming presence in the lab has already made an impression. Before joining the HPI at UCT programme, he worked as a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at University of Zambia.

Claytone’s main research interest is in speech and language processing for under-resourced languages, and he positions this at the centre of his PhD project: “Investigating Methods to Improve Speech Recognition for Low-Resource Languages.” He is supervised by Dr Jan Buys and Prof Hussein Suleman.

When asked about his intentions and hopes for this period, Claytone says he is “looking forward to growth and under-taking research that brings about impactful change to society.”

Please visit Claytone’s website to find out more, as well as his Google Scholar profile and LinkedIn profile. Below is a recent publication that he has co-authored:
Sikasote, C., Siaminwe, K., Mwape, S., Zulu, B., Phiri, M., Phiri, M., Zulu, D., Nyirenda, M. and Anastasopoulos, A., 2023. Zambezi voice: A multilingual speech corpus for zambian languages. arXiv preprint arXiv:2306.04428.

If you are a prospective student interested in this programme, please visit the HPI at UCT website to find out about the supervisors and their fields of interest. Applications are open for prospective PhD and postdoctoral students in information systems or computer science with an annual deadline of 15 August. The school is financially supported by the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering.

Begin your application