UP confers honorary doctorate on internationally recognised mathematician Prof Carlos Castillo-Chavez

Posted on May 14, 2021

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) conferred an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) in Mathematics on Mexican-American Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez during a virtual ceremony as part of its autumn 2021 graduation season.

Prof Castillo-Chavez played a significant role in transforming the demographic landscape in mathematical sciences in the US. He is a founder of the Institute for Strengthening the Understanding of Mathematics and Science, which focuses on providing college opportunities to high school students to increase the number of underrepresented minorities that obtain a PhD and take positions of leadership in the mathematical sciences or in fields that require high levels of quantitative expertise.

He is also the founder of the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute at Arizona State University. Notably, about 70% of students recruited to the institute have been drawn from underrepresented groups in the US. The American Mathematical Society has recognised the institute as a “mathematics programme that makes a difference”.

According to Prof Barend Erasmus, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Prof Castillo-Chavez’s career serves as an inspiration for aspiring academics. “He has shown that rising above your circumstances is possible. Throughout his career, he enabled students from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their potential in the challenging field of mathematics.”

Prof Castillo-Chavez’s research is the embodiment of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research, particularly at the interface of mathematics and natural and social sciences.

“Professor Castillo-Chavez’s work is recognised globally, and this honorary doctorate is a testament to his outstanding contribution to the field of mathematical science internationally,” said UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. “We congratulate him on this achievement, and are very pleased to welcome him to our global UP family.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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