From Lagos to Halifax – from student
Tokunbo Makanju began his graduate school
experience at Dalhousie in the fall of 2005. It was
an experience that began just the way he thought
it would. Culture shock, acculturation, making new
friends, learning to live in a new country; these
were all things that he expected after moving to
Canada to start graduate school. Its ending,
however, was something that he could never have
imagined. A PhD degree, an award winning thesis
and a budding start-up.
It all began with a thought; a simple thought that
led to a decision that it was time for him to pursue
a graduate degree. After completing a degree in
Computer Science at the University of Lagos,
Tokunbo got a job working as an IT Systems
“I loved my job initially but after a while I got bored with it. I felt it wasn’t challenging enough,” he says.
So the decision was made to pursue a Master’s degree in Computer Science in Canada.
“My initial plan was to complete my Master’s and return to work,” he states.
However, with encouragement from his supervisors, Dr. Nur Zincir-Heywood and Dr. Evangelos Milios and of course some more thought, Tokunbo decide to go on and pursue his PhD. The research topic was ready-made – it was a spin off of work he had done previously during his Master’s. He had helped develop part of a prototype application to assist system administrators manage and better utilize the information in their log data. He was particularly drawn to the topic as it dealt with a problem that he was familiar with from his prior job.
“The time spent during my PhD was not unlike any other. I had my highs and lows and there were times I just wanted to quit.” he concedes.
In spite of this he had a number of significant accomplishments. During the course of his PhD, Tokunbo published a total of twelve papers in top quality journals and conferences from around the world. His best by far was his publication titled “Clustering Event Logs using Iterative Partitioning” which he presented at the Association of Computing Machinery’s flagship data mining conference, KDD, in 2009. KDD is a premier data mining conference and attracts high quality participants from both academia and industry. That year the conference took place in Paris.
“Publishing was by far the most enjoyable part of being a PhD candidate. Not for the joy of publishing but for the joy of travelling…” he chuckles.
Each publication presented an opportunity to travel. He ended up visiting 18 cities in 10 countries around the world during the course of his graduate education.
Dr. Makanju’s PhD thesis, “Exploring Event Log Analysis with Minimum A Priori Information,” was a joint winner of this year’s prestigious IEEE IM/ NOMS PhD dissertation award. The competitive yearly award is awarded to the best PhD thesis completed within a 12 month period in the area of Network Operations Management. The competition is open to researchers from around the world. This year the award was given out at the IEEE IM Conference in Ghent, Belgium.
“If there was anything that I could say made me feel that my time at Dal was well spent, I would have to say it was winning this award” says Dr. Makanju.
With his time at Dalhousie complete, Tokunbo now spends time working for a budding Halifax startup, topLog Inc. Tokunbo co-founded topLog with fellow Dalhousie PhD candidates Ozge Yeloglu and Patrick Laroche in March 2013. topLog Inc. represents an attempt to commercialize his award winning thesis. While it is still early days for topLog, the company is already showing a lot of promise. It has secured an office space at Volta Labs, a startup incubation space located on Spring Road in downtown Halifax. They have been featured in the Chronicle Herald and have succeeded in attracting venture capital funding.
“It has been an exciting journey – one for which I have no regrets. All I wonder now is where my thoughts will lead me to next….”