10 out of 200: Diagnosis via app – Baye Gaspard uses machine learning to fight respiratory diseases

Meet Baye Gaspard, computer scientist and one of this year’s 10 out of 200 young researchers participating in the 6th Heidelberg Laureate Forum from September 23-28, 2018.

Photo courtesy of Baye Gaspard

What is your name and nationality?
I am Baye Gaspard, from the Extreme-North region of Cameroon commonly called Maroua. I am a Cameroonian.

Where did you study and where are you currently based?
After my advanced level certificate obtained from Government bilingual high school (GBHS) Garoua, I continued my education at National polytechnic (NPB) Bamenda. I obtained a Higher National Diploma (HND) in telecommunications engineering in NPB. I received an award from the president of the republic as the best student in my department for the HND. Then, I went to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) University, where I obtained my bachelor of science in ICT. I received 7 awards, one of them was an award for the overall best graduating male student in ICT-University. Currently, I am based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

What is your current position?
I am a B.Sc. Holder in ICT.

What is the focus of your research? What is your research project?
My research deals with creating a machine learning algorithm that will help diagnose, detect, prevent and even predict respiratory diseases in a shorter time in Africa. We are currently working on a mobile app called “Diagnos”. Diagnos is a mobile health solution that uses big data and artificial intelligence to provide a rapid diagnosis, detection, prediction and prevention of respiratory diseases. The device provides a free top-line consult in less than 10 minutes, predicting future problems, providing advice and connecting patients with doctors. Thousands of our relatives are dying when they acquire one of the respiratory diseases, if we can rapidly diagnose, predict and prevent them, it will save lives.

Why did you become a computer scientist?
Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by science. I usually asked myself thousands of questions like what actually constitutes the sky, why is it blue but not red or green, what can be found above the sky, how does light reach earth, why do we have days and night but not complete daylight, why do we see stars only at night, why do we fall sick, what mechanism is behind the facts that our wounds heal, and many others. Sometimes I try to imagine the answers by myself. When I went to high school, I started understanding the science of nature and could answer some of my questions. But I was not satisfied, I still tried to inquire more till I fell on the branch of science called computer science, especially artificial intelligence, as it is the ability to create a software that could be some sort of a “man-made brain” so it can reason on its own. I fell in love with this field and decided to stick to it as this field really has a great impact on our today’s economy.

What are some of the fundamental challenges you have faced in your academic career?
The transition from telecommunication engineering to ICT was the greatest challenge I have ever experienced in my life. My first day on campus was not easy. I was seeing lots of new terms and concepts, especially programming. In the beginning, it was difficult to adapt, but I took the challenge to learn all of these new concepts spending lots of sleepless nights until I became very comfortable with them. At the end of the program, I was the overall best graduating student in ICT University. From that time on I can learn any new concept or programming language or course on my own without any difficulties.

What do you feel are the greatest pressures facing scientists today?
Scientists are very worried about the extinction of the human race on earth. That’s the reason why they are finding alternatives to earth by exploring other planets like Mars and others. Global warming and other factors are becoming alarming. So they tend to develop solutions like humanoids or robots which can explore the universe in the quest for new planets that could support human lives with similar climatic and atmospheric conditions like that of the earth.

What are you doing besides research?
I am the eldest in my family, so I need to help my family and my siblings need to go to school. So, I need to work in order to do that. I am working in ATR (All Threat Restricted) cyber, an information security company as a software security engineer.

How did you hear about the HLF and why did you apply?
I was searching for international forums online via google. Then I fell on HLF. I read from the site, those accepted will meet inventors like Diffie, who is one of the greatest icons in cybersecurity as he and Hellman created the Diffie-Hellman key used in cryptography today. This drove my appetite for the forum, then I applied.

What do you expect from this meeting?
Meeting and discussing with these great inventors to know how they did it and share their experience. Also, I am looking for opportunities, networking, maybe even work or scholarships to further my education.

Which laureates present at the forum would you really like to talk to and what do you want to ask them?
Of course Mr. Diffie. I will first congratulate him for the incredible work he brought in the world of cybersecurity. Then ask if he could accept me to be his assistant despite my small knowledge of AI, I can propose some AI related solutions in cybersecurity.

Who were your most important mentors and what lessons did they pass on to you?
I met Mr. Aun Sharma during the 10Academy program, which is an intensive post-graduate programme which will identify, train and launch extremely high potential young African university graduates into careers where they have the opportunity to have extraordinarily large (10x) impact. During this program, he used to tell us that “If you’re going to be in the room, be useful”. He made us know that it’s been incredibly important while building a startup where things only happen if you make them happen.
Janet Fofang was my first mentor. I’ve known her since 2015. I spent nearly every day with her. She is my closest mentor and friend. I learnt a lot from her. She was at the same time my mentor, mother, best friend, coding partner, learning partner etc. She used to tell me  “Make something people want.” Meaning if I needed to create a product, I needed to consider designing it from the user’s view point.

How many people benefitted from your service Diagnos already? Do you think your service is scalable to screen the whole world population?
Presently, Diagnos is at the prototype level. We have already tested the app during our beta testing period. During this phase, we detected 67 cases out of 100 giving a 67% success rate. We don’t yet have enough capital to make it for patients in Cameroon and later in the whole world. Still, the product is designed to meet the world standard, such that in the long run it can be scaled up to reach every country in the world. Our vision is a world free of death caused by respiratory diseases by 2050.

Jens-Steffen Scherer is a neuroscientist and science communicator. Besides his studies at the University of Oldenburg, he works as an author for the Südwestrundfunk (SWR) and for the National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik). In 2018 Jens-Steffen won the 8th Science Slam of Oldenburg. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Jens-Steffen Scherer ist Neurowissenschaftler und Wissenschaftskommunikator. Neben seinem Studium an der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg arbeitet er als freier Autor für den Südwestrundfunk (SWR) und beim Nationalen Institut für Wissenschaftskommunikation (NaWik). 2018 gewann Jens-Steffen den 8. Oldenburger Science Slam.

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