Scottish mathematicians to Africa

Mathematicians from Heriot-Watt and their colleagues from across Scotland are to share their expertise in the international hunt for the Next Einstein, thanks to the £200,000 of funding given by the Scottish Funding Council to the African Institute of Mathematical Science (AIMS).

AIMS Next Einstein Initiative

The James Clerk Maxwell AIMS Fund, launched at a lecture at Heriot-Watt University in November, is designed to support the AIMS Next Einstein Initiative which is creating a network of centres across Africa offering specialist, advanced courses in mathematical science.

Although 1 million students graduate from African universities each year, more advanced study is generally unavailable, particularly in scientific fields. Few students continue to Masters or PhDs, leading to a critical scarcity of high-level mathematical and scientific expertise.

AIMS at Heriot-Watt University

Professor Bernd Schroers of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences is leading the initiative in Scotland. He has worked with AIMS since 2004, teaching at AIMS centres in Africa and developing the links with AIMS that have allowed 12 postgraduate students from universities across Africa to study at PhD level at Heriot-Watt. There are currently seven AIMS postgraduate students at Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Schroers said: "AIMS attracts brilliant students from across Africa, many of whom will go on to become leaders in their chosen fields. Contacts at this stage could lead to interesting opportunities for collaborations between Scottish and African universities in the medium term."

Education is a catalyst for change, and AIMS has already had a huge impact.

Professor Bernd Schroers,School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University

"Education is a catalyst for change, and AIMS has already had a huge impact. Since 2003, 442 students from 35 African countries have graduated from AIMS and over

 80% of them have progressed on to further advanced study. Helping nurture a new generation of outstanding mathematicians to work in key sectors such as education, engineering, finance, energy, telecommunications, IT and more, this is a new and effective a way of supporting developing nations."

The first AIMS centre was set up in Cape Town in 2003 by Professor Neil Turok, Director of the Perimiter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. The second AIMS centre opened in Senegal in 2011, and a third in Ghana in August this year.

The main purpose of AIMS is to establish a network of 15 centres of excellence for graduate-level training and mathematical research across Africa. Heriot-Watt University already has strong links with AIMS through staff who have lectured in Africa and the seven graduates who came to the university to study at PhD level.