STEM Expert Explores Potential of Applied Mathematics
Unleashing the Potential of Applied Mathematics: A Conversation with STEM Expert Dr. Oluwasegun Michael Ibrahim
A Conversation with STEM Expert Dr. Oluwasegun Michael Ibrahim
● Tell us about you?
My name is Oluwasegun Michael Ibrahim, and I hold a Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics. I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Pandemic Decision Science & Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin. Based on my involvement in STEM research, I have received both national and international awards of excellence, including the Ekiti State Government of Nigeria Outstanding Personality Award, the Next Einstein Initiative Award, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in the United States, etc.
● How did you get into the field of STEM?
My journey into STEM began with a deep fascination for the natural world and a desire to understand its underlying principles. This curiosity led me to pursue a formal education in science and mathematics, culminating in a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics with specialization in modeling human behavior and biology. Along the way, I had mentors and opportunities that nurtured my passion and guided me toward a career in STEM research. Through dedication and perseverance, I have contributed to the field and made meaningful impacts in areas such as finance, planetary orbit, crime and violence, and infectious disease.
● What is your current research at the University of Texas at Austin?
My current research at the University of Texas at Austin primarily focuses on infectious disease modeling. I aim to advance our understanding of respiratory diseases (COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV) and develop innovative approaches (based on mathematical epidemiology) for prevention and treatment, in resource-limited settings. By collaborating with public health professionals and institutions, I believe we can significantly reduce the burden of diseases and enhance our preparedness and response to future pandemic threats.
● Apart from infectious disease modelling research, what other areas of research have you explored while solving societal problems?
I have also explored the study of criminal behavior and intervention strategies for policymakers. Using mathematical modeling techniques, complex algorithms, and data analytics, I have mapped crime dynamics, identifying the root causes behind criminal activities. For instance, my research (Ibrahim, O. M., Okuonghae, D., & Ikhile, M. N. (2022). Mathematical modeling of the population dynamics of age-structured criminal gangs with correctional intervention measures. Applied Mathematical Modelling, Elsevier, 107, 39-71) has shown that delinquent adolescents between 8–17 years may drive crime dynamics, and the correctional intervention measures in this age range could potentially impact the criminal gang population in the most populous black nation on earth. My understanding of important social and economic factors has been vital in developing a novel model for the study of juvenile delinquency in the New York State (Ibrahim, O. M. (2023). A Mathematical Model of Juvenile Delinquency in the New York State. In K. Maki (Eds.), Mathematical Modeling Research. Rochester Institute of Technology, 1-10). Additionally, I have used mathematical skills to design efficient numerical methods for tracking the equilibrium points of celestial and orbital mechanics problems, resulting in advanced optimization of numerical techniques that are generally useful and cost-effective in terms of functional evaluation.
● With more than seven years of experience working in STEM, what challenges have you faced being in the field, and how have you been able to overcome these challenges?
In my 7 years plus of experience in STEM, I have faced various challenges. I will just highlight a few: research funding, balancing teaching and research, work-life balance, adapting to technological changes, and impostor syndrome. Overcoming these challenges in academia as an applied mathematician requires resilience, continuous learning, effective time management, collaboration, and a strong support network. These strategies have helped me navigate the complexities of the field and continue to thrive in my career.
● Given your passion for STEM, particularly as a top Applied Mathematician, how do you envision encouraging and involving more young people in STEM fields, considering the importance of these disciplines?
As a passionate advocate for STEM, I am actively involved in over 30 educational platforms, such as the STEAM City Initiative, which empowers and mentors young Africans on academic excellence. I also serve as a mentor at the United States National Math Alliance, where experts in the Mathematical Sciences field mentors upcoming folks. Engaging and inspiring young people in STEM fields is of utmost importance to me. Through these educational platforms, I aim to make STEM education accessible, engaging, and relevant, cultivating the next generation of passionate STEM enthusiasts who will contribute to the advancement of these crucial disciplines and ultimately improving lives.
● Reflecting on your journey and accomplishments, what achievement in your career are you most proud of, particularly regarding its impact on the business or economic landscape?
Reflecting on my journey and accomplishments, there are a lot of things to be proud of. It is safe to mention the most recent. Considering one of my recent publications (Ibrahim, O. M., Okuonghae, D., & Ikhile, M. N. (2023). Optimal control model for criminal gang population in a limited-resource setting. International journal of dynamics and control, Springer, 11(2), 835-850), I would say that the research identifies a correlation between crime rates and cost-effective intervention strategies (preventive measures: empowerment and enlightenment campaign program, corrective measures: the arrest and sentencing criminals for a corrective measure, and the combined measures: preventive and corrective measures). Based on the research study and many other underlying factors, it was established that the singular implementation of the preventive strategy is more costly and less effective among the three strategies considered. The implication of this finding is that the implementation of the corrective strategy and the combined strategies are less costly and more effective than the singular implementation of the preventive strategy.
● Your final thought and encouragement to fellow and upcoming STEM enthusiasts?
I would encourage fellow and upcoming STEM enthusiasts to bridge the gap between theory and real-world impact in their respective fields. Since I earned my PhD in applied mathematics, I have become an advocate for using applied mathematics as a tool for social transformation because in the face of adversity, a well-crafted formula can illuminate the path toward a brighter, disease-free, more peaceful and equitable society.