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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

Discussion on decolonising the UFS draws international speakers

During an insightful two days (27-28 October 2017), bright young minds and experienced thinkers came together at the University of the Free State (UFS) to engage in deep philosophical talks on the topic of decolonisation.  The event was hosted by the university’s Centre for Africa Studies and the Department of Philosophy.

Heavyweight thinkers
Attendees to this colloquium were treated to the thoughts of renowned academics from various social sciences disciplines, including: Prof Francis B. Nyamnjoh, University of Cape Town; Prof Henning Melber, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Nordic Africa Institute, University of London, University of Pretoria and the UFS; Prof Heidi Hudson, UFS; Prof Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni, University South Africa; Alida Kok, Unisa; and from the UFS Prof Johann Rossouw, Dr Stephanie Cawood, Dr Christian Williams, and Khanya Motshabi. All the speakers had extensive global experience that allowed them to use practical examples to illustrate theoretical ideas. These ranged from students removing colonial spirits with African rituals, incorporating indigenous knowledge systems in curricula, to the creation of cultural houses on campuses where students can become acquainted with different cultures in a safe space.  


 Description: Decolonising colloquium bigger Tags: Decolonising colloquium bigger

Questions from attendees at the recent colloquium on decolonising the university,
hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies and the Departement of Philosophy,
showed a search for solutions to the current decolonising dilemma.
Photo: Charl Devenish

Where to from here?
Questions from attendees showed a search for solutions to the current decolonising dilemma. How will it look? Is it possible? Has it worked anywhere? During the two days, it became clear that colonialism reaches far and deep, rendering decolonisation a complex problem that should be addressed carefully to avoid greater divisions. “Colonisers and colonised are two sides of a coin,” Prof Melber explained. “Essentially it means that we are part of the same coin.” This metaphor illustrated how there is no right or wrong world view, or right or wrong knowledge – there should, however, be an integrated approach suitable for that “one coin”. 

It starts at home
Successful decolonisation starts in the mind, it was agreed. Colonisation robbed us all of a richness of knowledge by offering absolutes, or “the only truths”. Questioning existing colonial knowledge and exploring other bodies of knowledge will ultimately lead to a new world of knowledge. Being mediators between the different worlds of knowledge is what the new generation of academics needs to become.  


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