Participants at the Winter School on axial algebras, modern permutation groups and applications at the Howard College campus.

Brain Workout on Advanced Mathematical Theories for Masters and PhD Students

The Discipline of Mathematics at the UKZN School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), together with the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and the Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (CoE-MaSS) at the University of the Witwatersrand recently hosted a two-week Winter School at the Howard College campus.

Close to 30 attendees participated in the programme which aimed to give a structured pedagogical introduction to the active research areas of axial algebras, modern permutation groups and applications.

The Winter School was sponsored by the LMS Mentoring African Research in Mathematics (MARM) Project as well as CoE-MaSS. Attendees comprised of advanced graduate students at Masters and PhD level and young lecturing academic staff at southern African universities. It served as a forum for South African mathematicians to interact and exchange ideas and initiate collaborations with counterparts from elsewhere.

Participants received instruction in the form of mini-courses from Professor Sergey Shpectorov of the University of Birmingham, UK; Dr Kay Magaard of the University of Arizona, USA; Professor Bernardo Rodrigues, UKZN; and Dr Tung Le, University of Pretoria. Additional topics included groups of 3-transpositions and Fischer spaces. Participants also engaged in example classes to illustrate the principles that they were learning.

‘This School serves as a vehicle to transfer knowledge from people who are in an advanced stage of knowledge and brings it to the level of graduate students and people who are starting research for the first time,’ said Rodrigues. ‘It’s something important for South Africa. As much of this knowledge is not available in the country, by bringing people in from outside, they make this knowledge accessible to our students and to our community,’ he said.

Said Magaard, ‘I think winter schools are important especially for more advanced undergraduate and graduate students to find out about current research not necessarily covered in their classes, and to be introduced to emerging topics in science and technology.’

Conveners hoped that the School would achieve the goals of enabling participants to understand the basic ideas behind research areas covered, introducing current trends in algebra to graduate students and young academics, and discussing possible research topics for prospective Masters and PhD students.

‘I hope to learn new methods and new results that have been created in representation theory and to create more collaborations and tap into more open problems in the subject,’ said UKZN Mathematics lecturer, Mr Philani Majozi, whose research focuses on group theory, representation theory and character tables.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Manqoba Dylan Hadebe