Making math research popular - Dr Jared Ongaro

Meet Dr Jared Ongaro, node coordinator at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, for the ISP supported mathematics network EAUMP.

Photo of Jared Ongaro

Dr Jared Ongaro started his career at the University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya where he obtained his bachelor´s and master´s degree in mathematics. Through ISP, he joined the Department of Mathematics at Stockholm University and in 2015 he defended his PhD thesis about Gromov-Witten invariants of the complex projective line, in particular Plane Hurwitz numbers.

After positions as a postdoctoral research fellow at Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford (UK) and as a researcher at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Berkeley University of California (USA), Dr Ongaro today works at School of Mathematics at the University of Nairobi. Here he successfully lectures students and organizes workshops to stimulate research and mentor young researchers. Dr Ongaro´s former students are now pursuing PhDs abroad in top universities in UK, Germany, Sweden, USA, China and South Africa under internationally recognized supervisors. Dr Ongaro has also deployed a tested automated course/exam timetabling solutions and deployment of teaching/online assessment technology platforms at UoN.

- ISP has been at the center of my career development for training me and encouraging me to go back and help develop my country. It's my dream that ISP continues its wonderful work in building research communities in Africa. This will do wonders to interest the young population in Africa in mathematics and in bringing out more talents.

Currently with the support of ISP, Dr Ongaro organizes the prestigious Africa Mathematics Seminar (AfMS) which is virtual bringing International Congress of Mathematics (ICM) to Africa. AfMS aims at a weekly seminar for the whole of Africa, alternating through the different countries while giving different regions their chance to host the seminar. The main goal of AfMS is building mathematical networks across Africa and showcasing African mathematical talent.

Dr Ongaro is also the coordinator for the Kenyan node of ISP supported network EAUMP.(Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme). Apart from UoN, EAUMP consists of four universities in East Africa, namely Makerere University (Uganda), University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM, Tanzania), University of Rwanda (UR) and University of Zambia (UNZA).

- I love mathematics, because no country in the world has managed to develop without first developing its basic education. And indeed math belongs to the basic sciences category!

Dr Ongaro, what got you interested in Mathematics in the first place?

- I grew up liking subjects which utilizes my unique skills of creativity to find solutions. My compelling desire to be an expert of an exact science was reinforced by the joint ICTP/ISP programmes in my university. This was the time when I met real mathematicians, who made me realize the pure/applied divisions of mathematics are not disjoint; mathematics is well studied as one entity.

What´s your plans for the future?

- I will aspire to grow my research scales and networks. No doubt we are far behind our peers in the first world. Some of the curricula we have in place do not encourage proper learning of mathematics. Africa needs state of the art facilities purposely designed to do mathematics. I will endeavor to use any means/activities possible to spearhead review of the mathematics curriculum in Africa. I will also seek ideas and resources to get at least my department to have functioning facilities for teaching and learning mathematics.

October 2020.