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The University of Zululand (UNIZULU) has broken new ground as the first institution to host the Mathematics in Industry Study Group (MISG SA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The event will be held at the University’s KwaDlangezwa Campus from Monday, 13 January to Friday, 17 January 2020. The study groups have been held for over four decades across the globe and since 2004 in South Africa.

MISG SA is a five-day workshop during which academics, researchers and postgraduate students team up with representatives from local industries in order to solve various industry-related problems using mathematical models.

Day one of the study group will be kick-started by presentations by industry representatives who will each state a critical problem currently facing their industry. Among the problems to be tackled in this year’s workshop are issues of tourism, agriculture and climate change. Attendees (UNIZULU postgraduate students, UNIZULU academics and mathematicians from various institutions) will be split into groups and assigned to discuss possible methods of solving any one of the problems presented. The groups will have three days to put their heads together before presenting their final results to industry representatives on the fifth day.

Professor Nokuthula Kunene, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Agriculture said: “Mathematicians are significant in almost everything that happens in the world. It is surprising how mathematics can be used to find solutions to various real-life problems. We are proud to be involved in a workshop of this magnitude. As part of the strategy of the faculty, we intend to work with industries so as to expose our students to relevant situations. This will help improve our students’ capacity as they will have a blend of theory and practical work.”

According to Dr Syamala Krishnannair, an academic in the Department of Mathematical Sciences who is also part of the MISG organising committee, hosting the event at UNIZULU will expose postgraduate students to an array of employment opportunities open to them. Commonly, graduates with strong mathematical background end up in academia even though such graduates have better career opportunities in industries.  Through this workshop, Dr Krishnannair said she hoped students would see the pivotal role mathematicians play in solving industry challenges.

Prior to the study group, a four-day graduate modelling workshop will be held from Wednesday to Saturday, 8- 11 January 2020 at the KwaDlangezwa Campus. This will allow postgraduate students to get a better understanding of the problems and equip them to solve the problems during the study group. The graduate modelling workshop will run in a similar way to the study group. Students and academics will form teams which are tasked with solving a list of selected industrial problems within a period of two days. Each team will also be assigned a mentor to assist it during its brainstorming sessions.

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