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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

Mathematical methods used to detect and classify breast cancer masses
2016-08-10

Description: Breast lesions Tags: Breast lesions

Examples of Acho’s breast mass
segmentation identification

Breast cancer is the leading cause of female mortality in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the low survival rates in developing countries are mainly due to the lack of early detection and adequate diagnosis programs.

Seeing the picture more clearly

Susan Acho from the University of the Free State’s Department of Medical Physics, breast cancer research focuses on using mathematical methods to delineate and classify breast masses. Advancements in medical research have led to remarkable progress in breast cancer detection, however, according to Acho, the methods of diagnosis currently available commercially, lack a detailed finesse in accurately identifying the boundaries of breast mass lesions.

Inspiration drawn from pioneer

Drawing inspiration from the Mammography Computer Aided Diagnosis Development and Implementation (CAADI) project, which was the brainchild Prof William Rae, Head of the department of Medical Physics, Acho’s MMedSc thesis titled ‘Segmentation and Quantitative Characterisation of Breast Masses Imaged using Digital Mammography’ investigates classical segmentation algorithms, texture features and classification of breast masses in mammography. It is a rare research topic in South Africa.

 Characterisation of breast masses, involves delineating and analysing the breast mass region on a mammogram in order to determine its shape, margin and texture composition. Computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) program detects the outline of the mass lesion, and uses this information together with its texture features to determine the clinical traits of the mass. CAD programs mark suspicious areas for second look or areas on a mammogram that the radiologist might have overlooked. It can act as an independent double reader of a mammogram in institutions where there is a shortage of trained mammogram readers. 

Light at the end of the tunnel

Breast cancer is one of the most common malignancies among females in South Africa. “The challenge is being able to apply these mathematical methods in the medical field to help find solutions to specific medical problems, and that’s what I hope my research will do,” she says.

By using mathematics, physics and digital imaging to understand breast masses on mammograms, her research bridges the gap between these fields to provide algorithms which are applicable in medical image interpretation.

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