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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

Three minutes for research

When you have only three minutes in which to explain an 80 000-word thesis, every second counts. This is what researchers from across the country realised during the first national round of South Africa’s Three-minute thesis competition.

The University of the Free State (UFS) Postgraduate School hosted this international competition on the Bloemfontein Campus, where master’s and doctoral students from 12 universities participated. During the competition, each researcher had to give a presentation on his/her research within three minutes.

Dr Henriette van den Berg, Director of the UFS’s Postgraduate School, and presenter of the two-day competition, said the competition is the ideal platform to teach researchers how to become effective research communicators.

“It is important that researchers should learn to communicate the essence of their research to audiences that aren’t necessarily specialists in the field. They should also be able to emphasise how their research contributes to the success and well-being of communities. Researchers often have to explain to persons who aren’t specialists in their specific research area the reasons why it is important to fund the research, for example, or during a work interview. They should be able to convey the essence of their research effectively in a very short time.”

The 3MT competition, which originated at the University of Queensland in Australia, has in 2010 developed into an international trend since its inception. Currently, the 3MT is presented in Australia, the USA, and the UK.

For the competition, participants are given just three minutes to explain their research. In this time, they have to explain the problem and the methodology, as well as why this research is important. Participants are allowed to make use of only one piece of static imaging material for support.

A panel of judges from the participating universities were selected to assess each presentation, based on how well participants expressed themselves in such a short time, and on their choice of imagery.

Gavin Robinson from the University of Johannesburg, Cameron McIntosh, and Ingrid Alleman, both from the UFS, were the respective winners in the categories for doctoral and master’s students.

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