Mathematics is Everything - Professsor Adeniran

A Professor of Mathematics in the College of Physical Sciences (COLPHYS), Professor Olusola Adeniran, has emphasised that there is more to get from Mathematics, than teaching and learning, stating that globally, mathematicians remained the highest paid professionals because their works are generally applicable in the laboratories, military intelligence, weather prediction, earth movements, among others.

    Professor Adeniran, whose research is focused on non-associative algebraic structures; “Theory of Loops”, disclosed that this area of specialisation was very essential in the transmission of information that require encryption (encoding) and decryption (decoding), in order to avoid any third party from accessing the content of a message without prior approval.

    The Professor of Mathematics, also disclosed some of his major breakthroughs in solving classical problems in mathematics, saying “classical problems or catalogued problems have been identified as problems mathematicians have tried to solve over the years and could not make a head-way. These problems are then thrown open for anyone in the mathematics world to solve”. He said he had made significant contributions to the “construction of a finite simple Bol loop”, being the outcome of his research work, while trying to provide insight into solving a classical problem. The Don noted that once a mathematician has been found to have contributed to solving a classical problem, he/she is considered to have made meaningful impact globally, explaining that some of the classical problems were as old as 40 years old and still had not been solved, based on the available information and literature on what others had done.
    Another breakthrough in his research of a classical problem, is in determining the universality of Osborn loops, whereby he was able to discover that not all Osborn loops were universal. He explained further that if a loop and its isotope were isomorphic, then that loop is universal and the discovery of this phenomenon would serve as the solution to a worldwide problem.

    Speaking on the importance of his work on Loop Theory, to real world application such as military science and information security, he said that mathematicians develop keys or mappings, that are used to encrypt and decrypt information, such that in the military, vital and important messages are encrypted so that only the intended recipient will be able to decrypt them with a key.

    Going back to memory lane, he recalled that during the Gulf War, a mathematician called R. P. Burn, was invited to use some identities of Bol-Molfang type, to help them encrypt information being transmitted. He added that other mathematicians involved in numerical analysis also assisted during the war through the analysis of projectiles, as they used collocation methods alongside the knowledge of the target location and point of projection, to define a proper path, angle and motion for their missiles to navigate. The Professor of Mathematics listed some major careers available in the profession, saying that Americans often employ mathematicians into the research units of the US Army, laboratories and military intelligence, as well as in weather prediction, software codes development and earth movement monitoring, with a small number in the academic sector and that hardly will any mathematician in a developed country be jobless. He noted that in Nigeria, majority of the existing mathematicians are found in the academic sector teaching, while a few work with bodies such as the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, as he lamented that Nigeria was still yet to utilise the full potentials of mathematicians in solving the problems of the country, but rather, continue to rely on foreign hands at the expense of indigenous intelligence.

    According to the Don, his motivation to venture into this research area came to him as an undergraduate student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, where he preferred doing things differently, saying that, “I don’t usually like to join the crowd to do things; I usually pick-up anything to read, once I get tired of my normal books in the library. I picked up the university handbook on one of such days and decided to read up the research areas of some of my lecturers in my Department and found that one, who later became my supervisor, was working on the “Theory of Loops”. I then decided to read relevant books that talked about loops, and realised that they are similar to what we were familiar with at the undergraduate level was about groups (as loops are the generalisation of groups).

    So, I decided that for my undergraduate project, I will not join others to work on “groups”, but my project would be on the “Theory of Loop”. Even though, the HoD at the time wanted me to be his project students, because I was one of the best in my class, I was determined to work on the theory of loops and so, I was handed over to the only lecturer who specialised in loops. He assisted me with books for the project and it was a great experience. Also, I was lucky that the school had a culture of retaining bright students and I was among the three that were employed in the Department at the completion of our undergraduate studies and I was also the first of the three to become a Professor of Mathematics.”

    Professor Adeniran explained further that the Loop Theory is considered in two ways, such as the geometric structure (which deals with shapes), as well as the algebraic structure. He cited an example from one of his recent visits to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where students were made to think and come up with innovative projects every year, which do not necessarily have to be in their line of research and these projects would in turn, be assessed. The effect of such is that these students use their knowledge of loops to come up with different unconventional shapes that are used to design buildings in the institution, adding that a polytechnic or university should encourage its students, irrespective of their discipline, to use their ingenuity to come up with designs and projects for assessment. “At the Obafemi Awolowo University, some of the the first sets of buildings put in place were the faculties of law, education, civil engineering and the administrative office, which were all inverted pyramids and designed by architecture students from the University of Rome. These are aspects where the study of loops is very applicable, especially in architecture when dealing with shapes. This is equally applicable in the building sciences, as well as in engineering, statistics and nuclear science (quantum mechanics)”, he added.

    Professor Adeniran, however, observed that lack of useful research materials and updated journals in the library had been discouraging and a source of challenge to research, unlike what was obtainable during his days as an undergraduate, when he had to come up with algorithms manually, by writing out patterns on large sheets of paper, but he said that nowadays, computers had assisted to overcome that challenge. He also bemoaned the epileptic power supply in the country as a major setback for research.

    He added that in the Department of Mathematics of the University, researchers had always depended largely on external grants as this should not be so. He called on relevant authorities in Nigeria to recognise the usefulness of mathematics. For instance, he decried that while applying for foreign grants, they (mathematicians) often face the problem of having to compete with researchers from Namibia and other poorer countries for funds, because of the belief of foreigners that Nigeria was rich enough to sponsor its researchers. He charged students and researchers alike to be resolute, in order to overcome a major mental challenge, which is the fear of mathematics (arithmophobia).

    He pointed out that the Chinese and Taiwanese were the best mathematicians in the world, because they usually start teaching their children early in life, in the local way using the Chinese Abacus, which helps to develop the intellect of children at a young age, such that they are not scared of figures. He then charged the older ones not to discourage the younger ones from learning mathematics, because without fear, people would find mathematics easy to learn.

    Professor Adeniran revealed that his focus was to look for more areas in the application of his research, by affecting lives positively. He encouraged researchers to keep up the good work of trying to solve societal issues. He added that the country needed to encourage indigenous research that could solve the problems of housing, food, clothing and shelter, by making use of research recommendations, while also calling on the government to make adequate budgetary provisions for research.