College of Economic & Management Sciences

Venda’s first mathematics PhD graduate joins CEMS


Prof Daphney Mathebula

Prof Dephney Mathebula, one of the recent appointees in Decision Sciences, was the first person to obtain a doctoral degree in mathematics at the University of Venda in 2018. Until she joined Unisa she was working as a senior lecturer at the University of Venda.  

She first graduated in 2008 with a BSc degree in mathematics and statistics from the University of Venda. This was followed by an honours degree in mathematics from the same university in 2009. In the same year she also obtained an honours degree in biomathematics from the Stellenbosch University. She stayed and also obtained an MSc in mathematics. Professor Mathebula was awarded the National Research Foundation Innovation Scholarships for her postgraduate studies.

Her interest in mathematics started at primary school. Her sister who was also her mathematics tutor instilled in her a love for the subject. “I was motivated by her joy each time she was able to solve a mathematical problem”, Prof Mathebula says.

Now that she has mastered the subject she participates she wants to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Her community work includes her participation as a panelist in The Nestlé Nespray South African Mathematics Challenge and an annual internship as a tutor. 

She believes that managing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Influenza and COVID-19 by using mathematical modelling has made people more aware and appreciative of the role the subject can play in, for instance, in predicting how many people should be vaccinated to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.

Her research interests lie in the areas of applied mathematics-biomathematics where her focus is on mathematical modelling of infectious diseases such as Malaria, Schistosomiasis, Influenza, and COVID-19. She also conducts research in aspects enabling the fusion of artificial intelligence and data driven paradigms to automate disease modelling studies and surveys. Professor Mathebula’s research has been presented at international conferences and published in leading journals. She aspires to be an established researcher and establish more international research collaborations and publish more articles.

She also has extensive experience in lecturing, supervising and co-supervising postgraduate students and serves as an external postgraduate examiner. 

“My advice to young people inspired to follow careers in mathematics is to know that they should not be uncertain of their value, but to dream big and to work consistently towards their goals. Do not be ashamed of your failures, rather, take them as motivation to press on towards your goal.” Professor Mathebula, says.

Publish date: 2022/05/05

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