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14 December 2020
Prof Abdon Atangana
Prof Abdon Atangana is known for his work in developing a new fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. He was recently awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences.

Prof Abdon Atangana, Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS), was awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries.

It is the first time that the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award was bestowed. According to a statement issued by TWAS, this award is given for outstanding mathematical work carried out by a scientist working and living in Africa or the Arab region. It states that the award can be given for work in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, probability, or statistics. Prof Atangana received the award for his contribution to fractal mathematics and partial differential equations.

Making a difference in society

He is known for his research in developing a new fractional operator, the Atangana-Baleanu operator, which is used to model real-world problems. With this operator, he not only describes the rate at which something will change, but also account for disrupting factors that will help to produce better projections.

His work can be applied to make complicated predictions in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. His models can, for instance, help to predict the spread of infectious diseases among people in a settlement, forecasting the number of people who will be infected each day, the number of people who will recover, and the number of people who will die.

Prof Atangana’s models can also help to advise people drilling for water by predicting how groundwater is flowing in a complex geological formation. These are only two examples of how his work can be applied to make a difference in society.

The award from TWAS is the third prestigious commendation he has received in the past month. He was recently named as one of the top 1% scientists on the global Clarivate Web of Science list. His name also appeared on a global list of leading scientists published by Stanford University in the United States. The list is the result of a study published in PLOS Biology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal.

World’s most accomplished scientists

Honours awarded by TWAS and its partners are among the most prestigious for research in the developing world. They recognise outstanding achievements and contributions to science and acknowledge the best work by scientists from the global South.

TWAS, founded in 1983 by a group of scientists under the leadership of Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate, Abdus Salam, believes that developing nations – by growing strength in science and engineering – will be able to address challenges such as hunger, disease, and poverty, through their knowledge and skills.

TWAS is represented in 100 countries, and of the more than a thousand elected fellows, 14 are Nobel laureates. Eighty-four percent of these fellows are from developing nations. TWAS fellows are also some of the world’s most accomplished scientists.

News Archive

State-of-the-art physics equipment and investment in students result in academic success
2017-09-26

Description: State-of-the-art physics equipment 1 Tags: State-of-the-art physics equipment 1 

At the recent nanotechnology facility tour at the UFS,
were, from the left, Dr Mthuthuzeli Zamxaka, SAASTA;
Prof Hendrik Swart, Sarchi Chair in the Department of Physics;
and Xolani Makhoba, Department of Science and Technology.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Nanoscience, which is revealing new properties of very small arrangements of atoms, called nanoparticles, is opening a new world of possibilities. The Department of Physics at the University of the Free State is undertaking fundamental research with potential commercial applications. Its equipment and expertise is giving solid state physics research the edge in South Africa.

The UFS team of researchers and students are passionate about studying planets and atoms, all under one roof. Recently, the department, in collaboration with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), hosted a nanotechnology facility tour to give the public, learners and the media the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the science of nanotechnology, its origins, potential applications and risks.

Successes of the department
According to Prof Hendrik Swart, Senior Professor in the Department of Physics, the increase in resources since 2008 is playing a big role in the success rate of its research outputs. The Sarchi Chair awarded to Prof Swart in 2012 (bringing with it funding for equipment and bursaries) also contributed to the successes in the department.

The UFS Directorate Research Development also availed funding that was used for bursaries. These bursaries made it possible for the department to appoint 10 post-doctoral fellows, not one of them originally from South Africa.

The investment in people and equipment resulted in researchers and students publishing some 80 articles in 2016. Their work was also cited more than 900 times by other researchers in that year.

Another highlight in terms of the department’s growth in the past 10 years is the new wing of the Physics Building. Physics at the UFS is the only place in sub-Saharan Africa where state-of-the art equipment is found under one roof.

Description: State-of-the-art physics equipment 2  Tags: State-of-the-art physics equipment 2  

Antonie Fourie, Junior Lecturer in the UFS Department of
Physics, explained to a group of delegates and
members of the media the workings of an electron beam
evaporation system.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Application of research
The department is a unique research facility with equipment that includes the X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (for the study of atoms), the Scanning Auger Microscope, as well as the Ion Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (revealing the chemical bonds in a sample, and drawing maps of the positions of atoms).

One of the areas on which the department is focusing its research, is phosphors. Researchers are exploring light emitting diodes (LEDs) which use less energy, are brighter and provide a wider viewing field. They are also looking into LED displays (LCDs) which are used in flat screens – the phosphors create the different colours and backlighting.

The research on solar cells reveals that phosphors can increase their efficiency by increasing the range of light frequencies which can be converted into electricity. Glow-in-the-dark coatings absorb light in the day and emit it later so cells can charge at night. As glow-in-the-dark phosphors become cheaper and more effective, they can be used as a lighting substitute on the walls of houses, street numbers and stop signs.

Video production of the Department of Physics research and equipment

 

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