The Black heroes of operational research


Definition of a Black hero: A Black person who is a trailblazer but help and inspire others no matter who they are.

Several years ago, during Black History Month (in October in the UK), I was challenged to develop a social media poster called The Black Heroes of Mathematics. In this article I will present some of these Black heroes in operational research from these shores and abroad. They will describe themselves in their own words.

Dr Jude Kong  Assistant Professor at York University – Canada.jpg

Dr Jude Kong

Assistant Professor at York University – Canada

“Integrating the power of AI, predictive modelling and simulations, the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data innovation Consortium (ACADIC) supports data-driven decision-making for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.  

“I lead this at York University (Canada) and, supported by Canada’s International Development Center (IDRC), the interdisciplinary team that includes over 50 researchers across key academic and government institutions across eight African countries. We have built COVID-19 monitoring dashboards that visualise information relevant to the public and policymakers in Africa. These dashboards are the official dashboards used in many African countries including the handling of vaccination programs.”

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Dr Louise Maynard-Atem

20 Women in Data & Tech 2019 | WATC Rising Star 2019 | Rise Up alumni | Data & Innovation

“My first role after academia was an operational research analyst in the civil service. Although data-driven decision-making has become a cornerstone of every business strategy, I haven’t seen an increase in the diversity of the data workforce or the STEM pipeline.

“As a Black woman who grew up in a low-income household, I’m extremely passionate about evening out the distribution of opportunity as much as I can.

“In 2019, I was named as one of the Twenty Women in Data, which allowed me to become an ambassador for the Women in Data organisation and to work closely with the sister organisation, Girls in Data. This has given me a bigger platform through which to encourage even more girls and young women into data careers.”

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Maryleen Ndubuaku

PhD Scholar (AI & IoT) | Lecturer | Data Scientist | Machine Learning

“In 2018, I and other researchers at the Data Science Research Centre (University of Derby) worked with a multidisciplinary team of researchers on a large-scale social Internet of Things project.

“The study, Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN), investigated how citizens’ interactions with green spaces influenced their wellbeing and recommended interventions to city planners. We used the Fasttext library to train a classifier with labelled data and hand-coded the data into 11 themes (labels). The ‘specific aspect of nature’ theme appeared to dominate regardless of the threshold we set. I found that the hot topics were also captured in the images analysed using Google Cloud Vision API.

"The study has helped stakeholders in Sheffield to identify actionable steps that can be taken in green spaces to improve mental wellbeing." 

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Adebanke Odeniyi

Technical Administrator | Big Data Analytics MSc

“I am strongly passionate about data analysis, creating visual dashboards and drawing conclusions that help my organisation in making profitable business decisions.

“While studying my MSc Big Data Analytics, I positively impacted my community by collecting feedback for improving the course, assisting in solving technical problems and serving as a bridge between tutors and students. I now offer advice to MSc Big Data Analytics students, recommending how to maximise opportunities that support the timely completion of module assignments.

“I volunteer at the Derbyshire Dales Council library, teaching people of various ages and backgrounds how to use Microsoft Word and Excel. I am also zealous in helping teenagers in Africa make the right choices towards their educational development.”

Dr Justice Moses K Aheto University Lecturer & Researcher University of Ghana.jpg

Dr Justice Moses K. Aheto

University Lecturer & Researcher, University of Ghana

“I use my expertise in mathematical/statistical modelling to help support targeted nutrition research, policy and intervention strategies to reduce malnutrition and improve general health outcomes of children in West Africa, particularly in Ghana where 40% of deaths among under-fives is attributable to malnutrition.

“I use geostatistical/geospatial, spatiotemporal, multilevel and multivariate response models with interactive web-based mapping to inform policymakers and program managers. My research outputs are used extensively to design more precise, high-impact policies and intervention strategies to reduce childhood malnutrition and its associated morbidity and mortality.

“My current research work is entitled Geostatistical analysis, web-based mapping, and environmental determinants of under-five chronic malnutrition (stunting): evidence from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey and was published in the Lancet Planetary Health.”

Black heroes of mathematics conference

Online: hosted by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences

5-6 October 2021

The Vision of the conference is 'To celebrate the inspirational contributions of Black role models to the field of Mathematics and Mathematics Education'.

There will be a balance of technical talks by internationally renowned black speakers that include some detail of career paths and experience to provide a testimonial dimension. We plan to achieve a balance of career stage and gender.

Find out more