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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

CTL experiments with mobile technology in teaching and learning

Description: CTL experiments with mobile technology  Tags: CTL experiments with mobile technology

On the left is Nokukhanya Nkosi, Researcher and Project manager at the Centre for Teaching and Learning presenting Annah Nggoepe her brand new laptop as part of the project which assesses the impact of personal mobile devices on teaching and learning.
Photo: Supplied

Video clip

Same curriculum. Add technology. Wait and see what happens. This research project which is funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) seeks to understand the impact of personal mobile devices (PMD) in teaching and learning.

The University of the Free State (UFS), in conjunction with the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg, and Sol Plaatje University, was approached by the DHET to spearhead this national collaborative project. Investigating whether the financial investment of a PMD on either the part of a university or of students adds value to the teaching and learning experience is the overall objective of the project.

Contemporary education
The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at the UFS have been taking an active part in the project since 2015, focusing specifically on the use of personal mobile devices in teaching and learning by both staff and students.

At the student level, the study will focus specifically on not just the obstacles that first-generation students face in terms of using technology in teaching and learning, but how institutions can support these students through access to these devices.  “In 2015, the CTL conducted the Digital Identity Study of students which highlighted the view that students at the UFS deemed laptops to be the most important PMD in their studies,” said Nokukhanya Nkosi, Researcher and Project manager at the CTL.   

In April 2016, thirty students were presented with laptops funded by the project grant. For the next two years, the CTL will assess whether these laptops enable greater flexibility and effectiveness of teaching and learning, both inside and out of the classroom for these students.  

Rise of the digital classroom
Annah Ngoepe, a second-year Geography and Environmental Management student taking part in this study, commends the shift from using only textbooks in the past to incorporating technology. “The laptop has the latest applications and programmes, which are convenient for me as a student, because they help in my learning. I can also download textbooks, get summaries of the textbooks, and even other people’s views on a particular subject online.”

Tiana van der Merwe, Deputy Director at the CTL, anticipates that, after two years, the Centre would be able to make not only institutional recommendations, but also recommendations to the National Department of Higher Education.

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