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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Computational Mathematics, Modeling and Analysis of Biological, Bio-inspired and Engineering Systems

PIs: Madundo Mtambo and Burton Mwamila (Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology);
U.S. Partner: Padmanabhan Seshaiyer (George Mason University)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2014
Tanzania Partnership Picture A
U.S. partner Padmanabhan Seshaiyer leads a talk during the Mathematical Modeling Summer Institute, held September 2013 at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology (Photo courtesy Drs. Mtambo and Mwamila)

There is currently a great need in East Africa to build capacity for educational excellence in science, engineering and technology, which can help play a vital role in the economic and social transformation of East and Sub-Saharan Africa. The ultimate goal of the project is to promote capacity building by creating a broad network of knowledgeable scientists and researchers who will start to collaborate to tackle some of the most urgent problems in food security, environment, education, water and global health affecting Tanzania and neighboring countries. To this end, a three-week course will be organized to train 30 members of the mathematical, biological and engineering community in Tanzania, especially early career researchers, graduate and post-graduate students on multidisciplinary applications of mathematics. The proposed work will help create much-needed awareness to pursue multidisciplinary real-world problem solving using science, engineering, and technology, and, in turn, help increase the number of people involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the country. This program is expected to be well received by the mathematics, biology and engineering communities in East Africa, where there is a great need to expose the next generation workforce of young talent to such multidisciplinary learning opportunities.

The proposed project will be modeled after and build upon a successful National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program that the U.S. partner currently directs. In particular, the selected participants will have the opportunity to learn about new content, software, and tools and apply them to solve real-world problems. Some of these proposed projects that the participants will learn about and work on include fish harvesting and its economic impact, social process modeling and bioconservation, optimization models for energy security, enhancing student learning in STEM, sensor networks to detect petroleum adulteration, mutualism models for rhizobia legume interaction, and prediction of tobacco concentrations using contaminant transport models coupled with disease dynamics.
Summary of Recent Activities
Even before the signing of the grant agreement, preparations for the project had begun with the Mathematical Modeling Summer Institute that took place from September 2-6, 2013 at NM-AIST, facilitated by U.S. partner Padmanabhan Seshaiyer. Later in the fall, the project team received a delegation from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Academy of Sciences. This gave the PI and the project team an opportunity to discuss important project information and outline progress. The 17 students working on 14 projects have begun their research activities, including sorting literature, reviewing information, and conducting surveys.
The first half of 2014 will be marked by the students and their supervisors actively pursuing their research activities, collecting data, and seeing to it that the data are appropriately packaged and ready for analysis. The project administration will ensure appropriate and effective communications and identify related project areas in which outreach activities can be formulated.

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