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Mathematicians Frank Sottile (Texas A&M University) and H. Praise Adeyemo (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) have found common ground in their collaborative study of cohomology spanning abstract fields, functions and continents.

COLLEGE STATION --

Mathematics has been described as the universal language, and for one Texas A&M University professor and a colleague from Nigeria, it has played a fundamental role in one of the most basic and relational of all human activities -- bonding.

For the past three years, Texas A&M mathematics professor Frank Sottile has been collaborating via email with University of Ibadan, Nigeria mathematics lecturer H. Praise Adeyemo on their research regarding formulas in cohomology, an area of mathematics central to modern algebraic topology and geometry. This spring, Adeyemo made his first-ever trip to Aggieland, traveling roughly 14,000 miles roundtrip for the in-person opportunity to complete his work with Sottile and also work alongside other faculty in the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics.

"This was much more than just working on a research project," Adeyemo said. "It's about swapping ideas and learning how things work here so I can take some of those ideas back to my country. And I must confess, there are a lot of things going on here; it's a fabulous department."

Adeyemo's visit to the states was made possible through the International Mathematical Union's Abel Visiting Scholar Program, a fellowship that enables postdoctoral mathematicians from developing countries who are in the early stages of their professional careers to conduct research at an international host institution. The fellowship typically provides a $5,000 stipend enabling the recipient to stay with a host institution for a period of one month, but Sottile and Adeyemo were able to secure additional financing to extend Adeyemo's term to an entire semester.

"Praise is a very outgoing guy and was able to get the full experience of our department," Sottile said. "He's been a great ambassador for his country, and I feel fortunate to have met him because he is someone who I believe has a future in his county as a mathematician."

Adeyemo made it a priority to become fully immersed in all things Texas A&M Mathematics during his stay, frequently taking the time to meet as many faculty, postdocs and undergraduates as possible. He also volunteered at many of the department's outreach programs, including Texas A&M Math Circle, a weekend day camp for grade-school children to explore mathematical concepts, as well as the department's first-ever celebration of National Pi Day to commemorate the mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

"This has been very wonderful and a very nice experience for me," Adeyemo said.

Adeyemo says he and Sottile initially met in March 2012 at a mathematics conference in Lubbock. Adeyemo, who was visiting the University of New Mexico on a similar fellowship at the time, was participating in a poster presentation on the cohomology of algebraic groups.

"A man approached me and began asking very fundamental questions about my work, which led me to believe he understood very clearly what I was doing," Adeyemo recalled. "I finally had to ask him, 'Who are you?' He didn't say anything; he just pointed to one of the references on my project. The name he pointed to was Frank Sottile."

As fate would have it, Sottile was scheduled to visit Nigeria later that summer for the Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées (CIMPA), where he was doing consultation work for a possible summer school in that region. Sottile and Adeyemo agreed they would meet up and ultimately decided to begin collaborating with one another.

"Frank is a mentor, a man who believes in the beauty of human capacity," Adeyemo said. "He's almost 20 years ahead of me in his academic career, but he works with me like an equal. He's humble, compassionate and ready to teach you anything at any time."

For Sottile, the experience has been equally fulfilling -- a precedent he hopes will lead to future collaborations between Texas A&M and the University of Ibadan.

"This has deepened our understanding of each other's countries," Sottile said. "Hopefully, this will one day lead to student exchanges between his university and Texas A&M. I think something like that would be very good for both schools."

Adeyemo says what he has always loved most about mathematics is its pervasiveness. From the flowers on the ground to the clouds in the sky, there's discernable symmetry, patterns and numbers in every facet of life.

"Everything in life is mathematical," he said. "You have to think very deeply, you have to observe in a certain way, and you have to read in between the lines. This is what has always fascinated me about mathematics."

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-aTm-

Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Frank Sottile, (979) 845-7545 or sottile@math.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • Sottile and Adeyemo, discussing their current research in Sottile's Texas A&M office within the John R. Blocker Building.

  • Adeyemo symbolically poses before a poster representative of the one that led to his first meeting with Sottile at a 2012 mathematics conference in Lubbock.

  • Adeyemo fully embraced his inner Texan as well as his many opportunities while in Aggieland, relishing his interaction with faculty and students and participation in a variety of Texas A&M Mathematics outreach activities.

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