Many people still perceive mathematics as a difficult subject with those good in the subject often seen as paranormal beings. The country’s annual National Senior Certificates results have consistently recorded poor learner attainments in mathematics.
One of only three female maths boffins
But there is a tiny minority who have incredible natural aptitude to ace this seemingly hard subject. Among these gifted individuals is Professor Jordaan currently a full professor in the Department of Decisions Sciences at Unisa. She is a B3 NRF-rated academic and one of only three B-rated female mathematicians in South Africa. Furthermore, she is only the fifth female in her field to have been attained this status since the NRF ratings were introduced in 1984.
As a full professor part of her responsibilities include conducting research in mathematics, supervising postgraduate students and researchers in mathematics at the national and international level. Added to these, she also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules in financial engineering, financial mathematics, and financial risk management to students pursuing commerce and operations research.
Area of interest
Professor Jordaan says her research interests is on 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. Explaining some of the key concepts that she traverses as part of her research, Professor Jordaan says in simple terms special functions play a significant role in mathematical physics. She says this encompasses other branches of mathematics, physics, engineering, and other sciences.
Classical orthogonal polynomials (OP), she further explains, constitute an important class of special functions and have various well-known properties and applications. She says her 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, adds Professor Jordaan. Recently, her research interests have developed to also incorporate non-classical and non-standard situations such as semi-classical OPs.
Rewarding academic journey
Professor Jordaan says her academic journey has been rewarding as she obtained new properties of orthogonal polynomials, solved some open problems and opened new research directions. In addition, she has published more than 35 research papers in peer-reviewed ISI accredited international journals since 2003, including 17 papers (2013-2020). Her work has also received a total of 269 citations yielding a WoS h-index of 10. “MathSciNet says153 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.”
Serving in various prestigious committees
From 2016-2019 Professor Jordaan was elected president of the South African Mathematical Society, arguably the highest-ranking position. In addition, she also initiated several new projects, for example, the BRICS Mathematical Sciences Conferences from 2017-2020. Other leadership capacities in which Professor Jordaan served include, among others, being part of the steering committee of the National Research Foundation, Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Advisory Committee of the NRF National Graduate Committee since 2020. Professor Jordaan has been a member of the NRF rating specialist committee for Mathematical Sciences since 2017 which she convened in 2020. She has been an associate Research Fellow of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, since 2015.
Professor Jordaan achievements were not only confined to South Africa but she also received external recognition. Some of the international scholarly accolades for her research include:
- 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) and
- Academic Staff exchange scholarship SAPIENT (2012).
She also continues to receive regular 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).