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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

Fighting the tuberculosis battle as a collective
2015-09-28



The team hard at work making South Africa a
healthier place

Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. More than 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Despite being more prevalent among men than women, TB remains one of the top five causes of death amongst women between the ages of 15 and 44 years. While everyone is at risk for contracting TB, those most at risk include children under the age of five and the elderly. In addition, research indicates that individuals with compromised immune systems, household contacts with pulmonary TB patients, and healthcare workers are also at increased risk for contracting TB.

According to the Deputy Director of the Centre for Health Systems Research and Development (CHSR&D) at the UFS, Dr Michelle Engelbrecht, research has found that healthcare workers may be three times more likely to be infected by TB than the general population.

The unsettling fact

“Research done in health facilities in South Africa has found that nurses do not often participate in basic prevention acts, such as opening windows and wearing respirators when attending to infectious TB patients,” she explained. 

In response to this concern, CHSR&D, which operates within the Faculty of Humanities at the the University of the Free State (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus has developed a research project to investigate TB prevention and infection control in primary healthcare facilities and households in Mangaung Metropolitan.

Action to counter the statistics

A team of four researchers and eight field workers from CHSR&D are in the process of gathering baseline data from the 41 primary healthcare facilities in Mangaung. The baseline comprises a facility assessment conducted with the TB nurse, and observations at each of the facilities. Individual interviews are also conducted with community caregivers, as well as TB and general patients. Self-administered questionnaires on knowledge, attitudes, and practices about TB infection control are completed by all nurses and facility-based community caregivers.

Healthcare workers are the main focus of this research, given their increased risk of acquiring TB in healthcare settings. At clinics, interventions will be developed to improve infection control practices by both healthcare workers and patients. TB patients’ households are also visited to screen household contacts for TB. Those found to have symptoms suggesting TB infection are referred to the clinics for further assessment and treatment.

The findings of this study will serve to inform the development of an intervention to address TB prevention and infection control in primary healthcare facilities. Further funding will be sought to implement and evaluate the intervention.

Curbing future infections and subsequent deaths as a result of TB is the priority for the UFS. The cooperation and collaboration of the community, government, and sponsors will ensure that this project is a success, hence prolonging life expectancy.


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