College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

UKZN Hosts Workshop and Conference on Computational Mathematics

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The Mathematics Discipline in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science hosted its 12th annual workshop on Numerical Methods for Differential Equations on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

The annual workshop is seen as a central pillar in capacity building and in developing mathematical skills at UKZN, in particular, and South Africa in general.

Numerical analysis is an area where mathematics interfaces with computer science in creating, implementing and analysing computer algorithms and in answering questions on aspects of accuracy, convergence, consistency and efficiency of numerical schemes. This provides real-world applications of algebra, calculus and geometry to solve mathematical models in the fields of science, medicine and economics.

The series of annual workshops on differential equations and numerical methods was started in 2008 by academic staff on the Pietermaritzburg campus after they identified that a significant knowledge gap existed in this area from undergraduate to postgraduate studies. Significantly, some early-career academics in applied mathematics appear to lack adequate mathematical programming skills and advanced knowledge of appropriate computer software. The series of annual workshops on numerical methods for differential equations addresses this knowledge gap through teaching usable and transferable skills by bringing together novices and experts in numerical methods from various institutions in southern Africa.

The focus of the workshop is to address slow progress towards the completion of postgraduate studies by many students, and the low productivity of early-career academics in areas of numerical analysis and fluid dynamics. The aims of the series are to encourage and promote research collaboration among early-career academics, address skills acquisition among postgraduate students at UKZN and other local and regional universities through cohort teaching, and to build a new vibrant research focus group with interests in numerical analysis and fluid dynamics in South Africa.

Participants at this year’s workshop included postgraduate students and young academics from various institutions from across South Africa as well as from Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. In addition to the main workshop activities, participants shared their research findings through an added mini-conference on the last day.

The workshop is currently sponsored by UKZN although it has received contributions from the Hanno Rund Fund (a school-based fund) and the Centre of Excellence – Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (CoE-Mass) in the past.

Words and photograph: Sabeliwe Langa