College of Economic & Management Sciences

Meet Professor Kerstin Jordaan – A whiz with numbers

As a B3 NRF-rated academic, Professor Kerstin Jordaan is one of only three B-rated female mathematicians in South Africa.  She is also only the fifth female in her field to have been rated in this category since the inception of the NRF ratings in 1984.

She is a full professor in the Department of Decision Sciences at Unisa where she conducts research in mathematics, supervises postgraduate students and researchers in mathematics at the national and international level and teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules in financial engineering, financial mathematics, and financial risk management to students in Commerce and Operations Research.

Prof Kerstin Jordaan

Research focus

“My research interests are properties of special functions and orthogonal polynomials, in particular properties of the zeros, structure relations satisfied by the polynomials and their derivatives as well as asymptotics of the polynomials and their zeros,” Jordaan says.

Special functions play a significant role in mathematical physics, other branches of mathematics, physics, engineering, and other sciences. Classical orthogonal polynomials (OP) constitute an important class of special functions and have various well-known properties and applications. Their study has a long and rich history and continues to be an active research area. A deep exploration and understanding of the existing properties of OPs, together with a search for new properties, is crucial to enhancing their usefulness in theoretical and practical problems. This is the line of research that Jordaan has been pursuing since obtaining her PhD. In recent years, her research interests have developed to also include non-classical and non-standard situations such as semi-classical OPs. 

“This journey has been rewarding, and I have obtained new properties of orthogonal polynomials, solved some open problems and opened new research directions. I have published more than 35 research papers in peer-reviewed ISI accredited international journals since 2003, including 17 papers (2013-2020). My work has received a total of 269 citations yielding a WoS h-index of 10. According to MathSciNet, 153 authors have cited my publications 243 times. The Google Scholar database lists 529 citations of which 299 are since 2017 and my Google Scholar h-index is 14 with i10-index of 24,” Jordaan says.

Special responsibilities

Jordaan served the academic community as the elected president of the South African Mathematical Society from 2016 to 2019. This is arguably the highest-ranking position in South African mathematics. Apart from overseeing and leading the usual activities of this learned society, she initiated several new projects, for example, the BRICS Mathematical Sciences Conferences from 2017-2020.

She has served on the Steering Committee of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and since 2020, on the Advisory Committee of the NRF National Graduate Committee. Jordaan has been a member of the NRF rating specialist committee for Mathematical Sciences since 2017 and convened this committee in 2020. She has been an Associate Research Fellow of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, since 2015.

External recognition

She is the recipient of several international scholarly awards for her research: A Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship (2018-2021); a by-invitation-only award to present in a programme: Complex Analysis Toolbox at the Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge (2019); an award to participate in a research programme at the ICMS in Edinburgh (2019); London Mathematical Society Research awards (2015 and 2012); Academic Staff exchange scholarship SAPIENT (2012). She regularly receives invitations and funding to present at by-invitation only workshops, such as at the Banff International Research Station, Mexico (2018), Canada (2020), the Summer Research Institute, Tianjin (2018) and the Liu Bie Ju Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Hong Kong (2017).

The value of an NRF rating

“I am extremely grateful for the recognition from the NRF and my peers, internationally and nationally, for the quality and impact of my research. The rating is an important confirmation that the research is perceived as valuable and that it contributes to the understanding of certain aspects of mathematics and applications thereof,” Jordaan says.

* By Virginia McManus, Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation Portfolio

Publish date: 2022/05/09