After completing her master’s degree at the Technological University of Panama, Yolanda Vásquez obtained the highest academic degree under the direction of a researcher from the Center for Mathematical Modeling of the University of Chile.
At the end of last semester, Dr. Yolanda Vásquez Bernal joined the Department of Exact Sciences of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (UTP), after obtaining the highest academic degree at the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC) at the end of 2022, when she defended her thesis ‘Conservation laws with discontinuous flow modeling flotation columns’ in which she was supervised by Dr. Raimund Bürger, researcher of the Center for Mathematical Modeling of the U. Chile. Raimund Bürger, principal investigator of the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the U. de Chile and Deputy Director of the Center for Research in Mathematical Engineering (CI²MA) of the UdeC.
Although she received offers from other institutions, Yolanda Vásquez explains that she opted for the UTP because she has “a master’s degree in mathematical engineering, which I studied myself some years ago, in this one, there is much more application and there are many research niches linked to engineering”. Although she may have some hours dedicated to teaching, her position is “mostly focused on research,” she says.
“During the first semester of 2023 I taught the advanced numerical methods course for the master’s degree in mathematics and this semester I was assigned the Calculus II course at the undergraduate level. The master’s degree in mathematical engineering creates the way for its graduates to be able to apply for doctoral scholarships, as was my case and, surely, next year there will also be a new call for applications because we have had good results”, she points out.
As for her challenges as a trainer of new students, she points out that “I will be assigned courses in the new generation of the master’s program and I will have two thesis students, so I would already start in the role of tutor”.
In the months that she has been working in her new position, Dr. Vásquez points out that she has dedicated herself to “getting to know more or less the research that is being done, the areas in which they do research, where to contribute and, this second semester, from September 26 to 29 I will participate in the XIX National Congress of Science and Technology to make known some of the work that I was doing in Chile”.
Regarding the lines of research, the scientist emphasizes that her colleagues “are betting a lot on neural networks and genetic algorithms, but I think we could contribute in mathematical modeling, for example, of vehicular traffic, which is something that has a lot to do with flow or the optimization of irrigation systems, given that the region is affected by the El Niño phenomenon. These are possible research areas that we can address with the students who will join the master’s program in mathematical engineering next year.
Networks and new opportunities
Regarding inter-institutional collaboration, Dr. Vásquez explains that she is still in contact with those who supported her during the development of her doctoral thesis, such as Prof. Bürger, Stefan Diehl (Lunds Universitet, Sweden) and María del Carmen Martí (Universitat de València, Spain), in addition, she maintains collaboration with the researchers of the Metallurgical Engineering Faculty of the UdeC, Fernando Betancourt and Lepoldo Gutiérrez.
“Earlier this year we published an article in Minerals magazine and, at the moment, we are working on another one, which is an improvement of the model we had already been doing. Eventually, we want to see how to bring this new knowledge to the mining industry, both in Chile and here in Panama, where, being a smaller industry, it also offers more opportunities, more spaces to see what could be done in the future”, Dr. Vásquez explains.
Another collaboration opportunity offered by her position is to extend an invitation to researchers from other institutions, an option that Yolanda took to have the visit of her former colleague of the Doctorate in Applied Sciences with mention in Mathematical Engineering of the UdeC, Dr. Yissedt Lara Díaz, who currently works as an academic at the Universidad Católica del Maule.
Dr. Lara gave the seminar on mathematical modeling applied to the study of infectious diseases during the first week of September; “epidemiology, which is the area in which she works, is a subject on which not much mathematical analysis is done in Panama, so it is a new possibility to do something together”.
In this regard, the Director of CI²MA and CMM researcher, Dr. Rodolfo Araya Durán emphasizes that “it is always very comforting to know about the success of our graduates. In this case, Dr. Vasquez is an excellent graduate of our PhD program, in which she obtained important scientific results, so we are not surprised that she has found an academic position in a short time. Therefore, we wish her the best of success in her new professional life”.
Meanwhile, Dr. Raimund Bürger comments that “as director of the doctoral program and as Yolanda’s guiding professor, I am very happy to know that she has been able to insert herself so well in research and teaching at UTP and I wish her much success in her work”.
“I know that in her country there are very few PhDs with training in applied mathematics, so there is no doubt that she will have many possibilities to develop research topics, direct theses and lead teams, opportunities that she will surely take advantage of to put her university, and why not, her country ‘on the map’ of mathematical research. On the other hand, I have already commented that the topic of his thesis (on flotation models) and the publications that we prepared after the conclusion of it have had an impact, so the doors will be wide open for him to continue working with us, for example, through a research stay”, continues the academic.
“Finally, I value very much that Yolanda has taken advantage of the doctorate to form collaborative networks and cultivate them, through continued contact with her former thesis directors and, especially, Yissedt’s visit”, concludes Burger.
By Iván Tobar Bocaz, CMM-Concepción communications.