I travel to Cameroon next week to teach a graduate course at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). The course is Modelling and Searching Networks and will focus on complex networks and graph searching games such as Cops and Robbers.
What is AIMS?
There are five AIMS institutes in Africa: ones in Cameroon, South Africa (the first one), Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, and Tanzania. AIMS began in 2003 and was founded by physicist Niel Turok, the present director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Here is Turok’s TED talk about the initiative:
The six AIMS institutes are funded by sources such as the Governments of Canada, France, and Germany, and by companies such as Google and Mastercard. AIMS hosts Masters courses taught by mathematical scientists from all over the world, offers teacher training programs, and students there can pursue their Masters and doctorate.
I love that AIMS focuses on mathematical training rather than training in other sciences or engineering. There is an understanding behind AIMS that mathematics is fundamental, and no society can progress without a critical mass of mathematicians. We mathematicians have known this for some time, and it’s wonderful to see how this awareness is catching on around the world.
Mathematics is universal and relatively inexpensive to teach and practice. No labs or special equipment, other than chalk, are needed. As AIMS Cameroon President, Prof. Mama Fouapagnigni said:
“No country in history has developed without mathematics and technology, without designing and implementing a consistent policy of science and technology. Science and technology are prerequisites for sustainable development.”
Cameroon is a nation in the western part of Africa, bordering Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo. The country has a developing economy with about 23 million residents.
AIMS Cameroon, which began in 2013, is located in Limbé on the western coast, a two-hour drive from the country’s largest city of Douala.
AIMS brings professors from North America and Europe to teach graduate education at its institutes. David Kribs at The University of Guelph is the International Academic Advisor to AIMS and helped recruit me. It’s a small world as David and I completed our doctorate at the University of Waterloo in the late 1990’s. David is a champion for AIMS in Canada and elsewhere, and he’s taught at every one of the institutes and supervised students from Africa through its programs. He met with Dean of Science Imogen Coe with other representatives from Ryerson in early 2017, and after calls and meetings, my course will be the first taught at AIMS by a Ryerson faculty member.
My class contains 48 students, with 18 of those women and 18 from Cameroon. I’ve taught this course several times at my home institution of Ryerson University, as well as in the National University of Ireland in Maynooth and Dalhousie University in Halifax. I’ve updated the course for the present iteration, including some new topics. My doctoral student Erin Meger will be joining me as TA for the course.
My teaching style is interactive, and I’ll have the class break out into small groups to solve problems and present these in front of the class. Mathematics is not a spectator’s sport, and I like to foster an atmosphere of discovery in my classes.
I’m excited to bring network science and graph theory to Africa through AIMS. And one more thought as we witness the success of the film Black Panther and #Afrofuturism:
Africa is the future.