SIAM News Blog

Getting to Know the Mexico Section of SIAM

By Gerardo Hernández-Dueñas, Jorge X. Velasco-Hernández, Irma García-Calvillo, and Daniel Olmos

The Mexico Section of SIAM (MexSIAM), which was initially formed in 2000 and revived in 2018, serves as an international forum for applied mathematics in Mexico. It provides a broad and inclusive channel for the exchange of information and ideas between professionals in the mathematical sciences to promote research in mathematics and further its application in a wide variety of settings. The response of the mathematical sciences community in Mexico—which includes individuals in scientific programs that incorporate methods and techniques from engineering, mathematics, statistics, and computer science—has been outstanding. This enthusiasm reflects the growing importance and vitality of applied math in both academia and industry.

A significant number of applied mathematical scientists in Mexico work in the petroleum, mining, and energy sectors (e.g., Pemex, the Federal Electricity Commission, and the Secretariat of Energy); financial institutions; the aeronautical industry; environment and ecology fields (e.g., the National Commission for the Preservation of Biodiversity); medicine and healthcare; technological design; and engineering. Students also represent an important part of the applied mathematics community, and exposure to mathematical sciences applications early in one’s career is crucial.

As with most countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an increased burden on Mexico’s educational system. Economic inequity and the concomitant lack of technological infrastructure in many parts of the country has made it difficult for schools and institutions to offer remote online classes and other educational activities in certain communities, cities, and regions. The communication channel and support that MexSIAM provides—although circumscribed to the mathematical sciences—is therefore exceedingly important during this time. Our students have responded enthusiastically to MexSIAM activities, thus inspiring the creation of the first SIAM student chapter in the country. The student chapter at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will begin to host events later this year, with Raul Esquivel Sirvent and Gerardo Hernández-Dueñas as its faculty advisors.

Figure 1. Attendees of the 2019 MexSIAM Annual Meeting in Ensenada, Mexico. Photo courtesy of the local organizers at the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education.
Mexico is home to several internationally recognized academic research centers and university departments that advance and teach the mathematical sciences. Addressing the country’s most pressing issues—including national innovation and technological development, sustainable natural resource use, and public health—requires the multi- and interdisciplinary engagement of mathematics. Mexico is very heterogeneous, and social inequity remains a major unsolved problem. Scientific infrastructure is predominantly located in major urban centers, with a significant presence in Mexico City. MexSIAM is fully committed to the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at the undergraduate and graduate levels across the various states of the Mexican federation — with a particular focus on women and underrepresented groups/sectors that are primarily located in states with high poverty indexes and low average per capita annual incomes. To strengthen this commitment, section members routinely organize summer schools that are open to students from all over the country. Members have also been involved in the development of a new applied mathematics program that will soon launch at UNAM Campus Juriquilla.

Mexico and the U.S. share a long border, an extensive history, mutual regional and bilateral interests, and an important tradition of academic exchange in many areas of STEM. The mathematical sciences have always served as a bridge between the academic establishments of both countries, and many applied mathematicians in Mexico have been SIAM members for many years. As such, MexSIAM is an important milestone in the history of our academic interrelation. We expect that MexSIAM will increase its membership in the coming years and continue to attract mathematically trained professionals who work in industry and the national productive sector. These connections will reinforce national development of the applied mathematical sciences.

The first Annual Meeting of the Mexico Section of SIAM took place in December 2019 at the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education (CICESE) in Ensenada, Mexico. 82 registered participants delivered 64 talks and 12 poster presentations. An employee of Samsung Research Tijuana also hosted a workshop. Participants came from more than 20 universities in Mexico and the U.S. (see Figure 1).

In August 2020, UNAM and MexSIAM joined forces and organized a Seminar Series on COVID-19 that centered on mathematical modeling approaches to control, mitigate, forecast, and understand evolutionary trends of the epidemic (see Figure 2). The emergency response generated by the worldwide spread of SARS-CoV-2 necessitates the involvement of all individuals to mitigate, contain, and control COVID-19. The seminar series focused on strategies to achieve these goals and explored ways in which applied mathematics and mathematical models can contribute. These virtual seminars—which were organized by Isaac Pérez-Castillo (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana – Iztapalapa) and Jorge X. Velasco-Hernández (UNAM)—took place biweekly and featured speakers from Mexico, Spain, the U.S., and Canada.

Figure 2. A mathematical model of SARS-CoV-2 that explicitly focuses on splitting a population that is undergoing a selective lockdown. Each population on the right side of the diagram is characterized by a different time-dependent effective contact rate. Figure courtesy of Manuel Adrian Acuña-Zegarra.
This year, MexSIAM is partnering with the Mexican Mathematical Society, Mexican Society of Scientific Computing and Applications, Mexican Society for Operations Research, and Mexican Association of Statistics for a diverse set of academic activities that focus on the dissemination of applied mathematics research in Mexico. These societies are organizing a virtual applied mathematics colloquium this semester to promote interactions and the exchange of ideas between their members during the ongoing pandemic.

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Mexico section of SIAM will take place virtually from June 21 to 23. Students and academic professional members of the section who work in multiple areas of the mathematical sciences and related fields will deliver contributed talks, organize minisymposia, and present posters in their respective research sectors. This year, some of the meeting’s main topics include geoscience; mathematics of planet earth; climate, ocean, and atmospheric modeling; mathematical and theoretical epidemiology (particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic); mathematical and theoretical big data in public health; and ecological perspectives. There is particular interest in research that involves the use, development, and analysis of mathematical models as tools to study the dynamics of natural phenomena and their impacts on human activities.

The invited plenary speakers at the upcoming Annual Meeting are distinguished researchers who appropriately represent each of the areas that are highlighted at the meeting. They include Edgar Knobloch (University of California, Berkeley), Pablo A. Marquet (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile), Francisco J. Ocampo Torres (CICESE), Beatrice Rivière (Rice University), Mauricio Santillana (Harvard University), and Pauline van den Driessche (University of Victoria).

MexSIAM looks forward to continued growth and will remain actively involved in the larger SIAM community to promote the applied mathematical sciences.

Gerardo Hernández-Dueñas is an applied mathematician who is interested in applications in the area of fluid dynamics. He is president of the Mexico Section of SIAM (MexSIAM). Jorge X. Velasco-Hernández is a biologist, mathematician, educator, enthusiastic amateur pianist, and a SIAM Fellow. He is vice president of MexSIAM. Irma García-Calvillo is a mathematician, reader, educator, and promoter of applied mathematics who enjoys traveling. She is the secretary of MexSIAM. Daniel Olmos is a biomathematician, lecturer, and active promoter of applied mathematics at every level who is always looking for all kinds of equilibrium. He is the treasurer of MexSIAM.

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