Supervising students in the modelling of infectious diseases
Dr Theresia Marijani from Tanzania was born the fourth child in a family of five children. At primary school, her life totally changed when her father lost his job and her mother struggled to pay the children’s school fees with the low salary she earned as a secretary.
During this period, Theresia caught malaria and was forced to miss some of her studies. It was at this point that she first dreamed of solving the problem of malaria and decided she would study science. However, her dream seemed to die when there were no good biology teachers available. A motivational maths teacher at her school inspired her to switch to mathematics.
Years after making this important decision, Theresia went on to receive a government undergraduate fellowship and began a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Statistics. While Theresia was in the middle of her studies, her mother retired and she could no longer consider a Master’s or PhD as an option. Her priority became to find any career in science. But at the end of her first year, a woman introduced her to the possibility of studying a Master’s of Science abroad if she maintained a high Grade Point Average (GPA). Theresia decided to pursue this route and worked hard at her first degree. After finishing her final exams, she applied to AIMS South Africa and secured a place. She describes the centre as an opportunity that “rose up in my dreams.” At AIMS South Africa she developed research skills and learned how mathematics and biology could be used to solve the problems that can be caused by diseases in society. Completing her studies at AIMS South Africa in 2006, Theresia began to apply the knowledge and research skills she had gained to pursue her dream of fighting infectious diseases. She received her PhD in mathematical modelling in 2012 and is now lecturing at the University of Dar es Salaam while pursuing research on infectious diseases.
“At AIMS I developed research skills and learned how mathematics and biology could be used to solve the problems that can be caused by diseases in society”
She loves to inspire young people to enjoy mathematics and is currently supervising Master’s students in the modelling of infectious disease. Offering a word of advice to future AIMS students, Theresia states: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”