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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

Champagne and cancer have more in common than you might think


Photo: Supplied
08 May 2013

No, a glass of champagne will not cure cancer....

…But they have more in common than you might think.

Researchers from the Departments of Microbial Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, Physics and the Centre for Microscopy at the University of the Free State in South Africa were recently exploring the properties of yeast cells in wine and food to find out more of how yeast was able to manufacture the gas that caused bread to rise, champagne to fizz and traditional beer to foam. And the discovery they made is a breakthrough that may have enormous implications for the treatment of diseases in humans.

The team discovered that they could slice open cells with argon gas particles, and look inside. They were surprised to find a maze of tiny passages like gas chambers that allowed each cell to ‘breathe.’ It is this tiny set of ‘lungs’ that puts the bubbles in your bubbly and the bounce in your bread.

But it was the technique that the researchers used to open up the cells that caught the attention of the scientists at the Mayo Clinic (Tumor Angiogenesis and Vascular Biology Research Centre) in the US.

Using this technology, they ultimately aim to peer inside cells taken from a cancer patient to see how treatment was progressing. In this way they would be able to assist the Mayo team to target treatments more effectively, reduce dosages in order to make treatment gentler on the patient, and have an accurate view of how the cancer was being eliminated.

“Yes, we are working with the Mayo Clinic,” said Profes Lodewyk Kock from the Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology Department at the UFS.

“This technique we developed has enormous potential for cell research, whether it is for cancer treatment or any other investigation into the working of cells. Through nanotechnology, and our own invention called Auger-architectomics, we are able to see where no-one has been able to see before.”

The team of Prof Kock including Dr Chantel Swart, Kumisho Dithebe, Prof Hendrik Swart (Physics, UFS) and Prof Pieter van Wyk (Centre for Microscopy, UFS) unlocked the ‘missing link’ that explains the existence of bubbles inside yeasts, and incidentally have created a possible technique for tracking drug and chemotherapy treatment in human cells.

Their work has been published recently in FEMS Yeast Research, the leading international journal on yeast research. In addition, their discovery has been selected for display on the cover page of all 2013 issues of this journal.

One can most certainly raise a glass of champagne to celebrate that!

There are links for video lectures on the technique used and findings on the Internet at:

1. (Comic version for school kids)

2. (Detailed version for fellow scientists)

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