School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

Summa Cum Laude Honours Another Sparkling Milestone for Statistics Star

Mr Aaron Naidu’s honours graduation in Statistics with top results is another feather in the cap of the Oxford University-bound alumnus.

Naidu, who also graduated summa cum laude for his undergraduate degree at UKZN, placed in the top 3% of every module, including the six extra he took on!

He received the Zac Yacoob Scholarship for being the best honours student at UKZN across all Colleges and Disciplines.

While his honours year was the most challenging of his studies so far, especially since Naidu completed most of his undergraduate studies online owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience he gained was invaluable as he was able to apply many of the concepts he had learned to a real-world problem with a large data set. Efficient time management became important as Naidu negotiated in-person university studies for the first time, but he found the workload manageable if he worked consistently throughout the year.

Naidu attended Eden College in Durban where he excelled at mathematics, winning several awards at a national and international level, including in the South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO), Computer Programming and Physics Olympiads, and the International Mathematics and Informatics Olympiads.

He represented South Africa at the World Youth Chess Championships in 2014 and was the top student in the SAMO three times, finishing in the top five on six consecutive occasions. He was the first student to win the Tertiary Mathematics Olympiad outright while still in high school.

Naidu also placed first in KwaZulu-Natal and second in South Africa in his matric examinations in 2019 and received offers of bursaries from several universities. He chose UKZN because of its proximity to home and his experiences in the Siyanqoba Regional Olympiad Training Programme run by Emeritus Professor Poobhalan Pillay.

Having enjoyed statistics coursework during his undergraduate studies in Data Science, Naidu was eager to gain more profound knowledge of the topics that interested him and gain skills to enhance his employability.

His undergraduate and honours degrees provided Naidu with a solid grounding in the foundational concepts of statistics and its related fields, and he presented his findings and the results of his honours project at the South African Statistical Association annual conference last year.

Hoping to broaden his horizons by studying further, Naidu applied to universities overseas to complete his master’s and was awarded a place at Oxford University in the United Kingdom to pursue a Master of Science in Statistical Science degree. The 12-month programme includes a research dissertation component, and Naidu is looking forward to modules such as statistical machine learning and statistical programming which he will encounter.

Until he heads to Oxford in October, Naidu is working towards writing actuarial science board exams to broaden and solidify his knowledge and is familiarising himself with the content that will be taught in the master’s programme. He looks forward to building on what he learned at UKZN during his master’s course.

Naidu thanked God for the talents and the nurturing environment he was blessed with, and his family for their support, particularly his parents, Dr Sean Naidu and Dr Anoshini Moodley, as well as his brother, Mr Jaedon Naidu. He paid tribute to the lecturers and staff he encountered at UKZN for their valuable teaching and advice.

Words: Christine Cuenod

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini