The application of mathematics to biosciences has a long history, which, in the particular case of infectious diseases, goes back to Daniel Bernoulli in 1760. However, a heightened synergy between biology and mathematics has come about over the past few decades, contributing to the enrichment and expansion of both fields.
The awarding to the University of Pretoria of the SARChI Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Bio-engineering and Biosciences (M3B2) is the culminating point of the strategic initiative that the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics started in 2007 to work closely with the cluster of Biological Sciences. Since then milestones in research activities have included the following:
The research focus of the Chair in M3B2 lies at the intersection of mathematical modelling of biological processes and a spectrum of mathematical specialisations, broadly located within analysis. The biological processes to be considered within the Chair are highly relevant to the needs of the country. These include mathematical epidemiology, specifically the identification of adequate scientific, engineering or medical responses to new diseases and old forms of new diseases, such as covid-19, malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases that pose a massive threat to development in South Africa and beyond. The Chair also develops new mathematical and numerical methods for broadly understood population dynamics, ecology and other fields of interest in life sciences.
• extensive international and local collaborations, including multidisciplinary research with some of the Institutional Research Themes and Faculty Research Themes of UP
• focusing on research areas of our strengths
• organising regular international workshops and conferences
• increasing the number of postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students
Another interesting initiative within this Chair is the ‘Under-Twenty Mathematicians’ (UTM) programme. This programme is aimed at identifying, recruiting and grooming young South African citizens to become mathematicians, a category that dominates the national scarce skills list.
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