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COSAM faculty, students and alumni attend the seventh annual Masamu Institute and Workshops in Mathematical Sciences in Arusha, Tanzania

Published: 12/15/2017

By: Candis Birchfield

Auburn University faculty, students and alumni attended the 2017 Masamu Advanced Study Institute, or MASI, and Workshops in Mathematical Sciences in Arusha, Tanzania from Nov. 17-26. The program was held in conjunction with the 2017 Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association, or SAMSA, Annual Conference hosted by the University of Dar es Salaam.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, or NSF, Auburn University faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, including Overtoun Jenda, professor and assistant provost for special projects and initiatives, Professor Ash Abebe, Professor Emeritus A.J. Meir, and Alumni Professor Peter Johnson, together with the SAMSA Executive Committee, formed the Masamu Program in 2010. The inaugural MASI and Workshops were held in November 2011 in Livingstone, Zambia. The word “Masamu” translates to “mathematics” in the Southern African region, and the program serves to promote U.S.-Africa collaboration in mathematics research. 

“The Masamu Program continues to provide opportunities for faculty and students around the world to work together in numerous research areas of mathematical sciences,” said Jenda.

Now in its seventh year, NSF has continued to support the effort, which has allowed the Masamu program to grow. Program participants have published research findings, completed dissertations and theses, and received appointments to fellowship, postdoctoral, faculty, and senior administrative positions in the U.S. and Africa, all while making new academic connections across the world.

At the 2017 Masamu Advanced Study Institute and Workshops in Mathematical Sciences, 50 participants from the United States, six Sub-Saharan African countries, and the United Kingdom worked in four of the seven MASI research areas, namely analysis, graph theory, numerical approximation/high performance computing, and mathematical modeling.

Additionally, Professors Jenda and Johnson both gave invited keynote lectures at the SAMSA conference.

“The Masamu Program continues to grow. This year we had our largest number of participants to date, and we added new research topics in analysis, mathematical biology, and high-performance computing, and we will add biostatistics starting in 2018,” said Jenda. “This program is highly beneficial in that it provides students and faculty a great opportunity to learn from colleagues around the world and develop new ideas.”

New to the program this year was a high-performance computing workshop presented by Daniel Moeketsi, Ph.D., a senior research scientist from the Centre for High Performance Computing in Pretoria, South Africa. The program also included the second annual SAMSA-Masamu STEM Education Workshop, where school teachers and university faculty from throughout Tanzania learned how to incorporate hands-on STEM activities in the classroom.

The Masamu Program is managed by the Masamu Steering Committee, consisting of research mathematicians from the U.S., Africa and U.K., and MASI and Workshops are implemented by Auburn University through the Office of Special Projects and Initiatives. This year, Auburn faculty, students, alumni and former Auburn Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, mathematics students attended the program, including: professors Jenda, Johnson, Abebe and F. Stephen Dobson; professors emeritus Meir and Geraldo De Souza; doctoral students Hannah Correia and Amber Holmes; mathematics alumni Cadavious Jones, Katherine Perry and Bradley Fain; and former Auburn mathematics REU students Ryan Matzke and Matthew DeVilbiss.

In addition to funding from NSF, support for students and faculty to attend the institute was provided by the Simons Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, South Africa’s National Research Foundation, the London Mathematical Society, Cancer Association of South Africa, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numerous African, European and U.S. universities.

The 2018 and 2019 MASI and Workshops are scheduled to be held in Botswana and Malawi, respectively. For more information, visit the website at

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