College of Economic & Management Sciences

Striving to remain globally competitive

Harry Bopape (Director: Research Support) and Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation) congratulate Prof Kerstin Jordaan (CEMS) (centre) on her membership of the 2019 Half Million Rand Club.

Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellow Prof Kerstin Jordaan of Unisa’s College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS) is hoping to secure a postdoctoral fellowship for a young researcher from Cameroon, Maurice Kenfack-Nangho, for an exciting project on the solution of a moment problem involving the most general class of classical orthogonal polynomials.

Excited about the exclusive club

The distinguished researcher was honoured for her membership of the 2019 Half Million Rand Club at the 2020 Research & Innovation Awards for the funding she received, with her UK collaborator, Peter Clarkson, for the Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship 2019-2021 for their Research Project on Properties of Semi-classical Orthogonal Polynomials.

"I am extremely grateful for the recognition from the university for successfully obtaining external international support of more than half-a-million rand per annum for three years for my research. The competition for resources in the international arena is very competitive, therefore the recognition from the university for consistent striving for quality in research in order to remain globally competitive and persistence in attempts to obtain research support is a valuable tool to encourage researchers to go the extra mile."

Elaborating on the Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship, she said: "The aim of this award is to provide me with the opportunity to further develop the research strengths and capabilities of my research group through training, collaboration and reciprocal visits with a partner in the UK." The award is for £77 800 for three years, to be spent on travel costs for conferences and research visits, equipment, consumables and training costs for her research team.

Eminent researcher

Prof Kerstin Jordaan

Holding a PhD in Mathematics from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Jordaan has published more than 35 papers in ISI-accredited international journals. According to Google Scholar, her publications have more than 400 citations and she has an "h-index" of 13. Her research interests are the 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 asymptotic of the polynomials and their zeros.

Briefly talking about her research study, Jordaan explains that special functions play a significant role in mathematical physics, other branches of mathematics, physics, engineering and other sciences. In her recent collaborative research, they pioneered techniques arising from the intriguing relationship between orthogonal polynomials and Painlevé equations to solve some open problems on properties of semi-classical orthogonal polynomials. In the proposed research, they aim to extend their recent work to further analyse the behaviour and properties of semi-classical orthogonal polynomials, and to make a significant contribution to the classification and unified structure of the special properties that the Painlevé equations possess.

Jordaan served as the President of the South African Mathematical Society from 2016 to 2019. She is an National Research Foundation NRF-rated researcher and the convenor of the Specialist Committee for Mathematical Sciences, a Steering Committee member of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, a member of the Advisory Board for the National Graduate Academy in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and a founding member of the Department of Science and Technology for South African Basic Sciences Development Platform.

When Jordaan is not doing mathematics, she enjoys baking, reading and spending time in the outdoors. She promises that there also are interesting research projects with various postgraduate students to look forward to.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/04/03