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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

Two research chairs awarded to UFS women

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Two professors at the University of the Free State (UFS) have just been chosen as recipients of research chairs by the National Research Foundation’s South African Research Chair Initiative.

The research chairs are a massive financial injection for research in each of the relevant disciplines – that of Profs Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela from the Centre for Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies at the UFS, and Felicity Burt from the Department of Medical Microbiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Profs Gobodo-Madikizela and Burt are two of 42 female researchers in the country receiving research chairs as an initiative to give due recognition to women in research.

Profs Hendrik Swart, from our Departement of Physics and Melany Walker, Director, Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, each also holds research chairs by the NRF. A third research chair has also been granted to the UFS Department of Plant Sciences for the research in field crops.

Prof Felicity Burt

The work of Prof Burt’s research chair is to investigate medically significant vector-borne and zoonotic viruses currently circulating; to define associations between these viruses and specific disease manifestations that have previously not been described in our region, to increase awareness of these pathogens; to further our understanding of host immune responses, which should facilitate development of novel treatments or vaccines and drug discovery.

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela, who has received international recognition for her work on forgiveness studies, will use this research chair to investigate historical trauma within two African contexts – those of South Africa and Rwanda. She hopes to gain insight into the role that memory plays in the formation of the experience of trauma, and to bring about healing of the trauma.

Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research at the UFS, expressed her pride on the announcement.

“We are extremely proud of the national recognition these two outstanding women researchers received.  The UFS strives for research excellence, and the five current NRF research chairs, as well as two NRF A-graded researchers who are at the forefront of their disciplines globally, indicates our continued commitment to innovating, relevant, and high-impact research.  We are excited about the progress of the past two years to position the UFS as a national leader in research.”


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