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Dr. Udiani's research focuses on the mathematical models of self-organizing systems in ecology, epidemiology and evolutionary biology.
Oyita Udiani, Ph.D., earned his doctorate from Arizona State University. He comes to VCU having just completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
His research focuses on the mathematical models of self-organizing systems in ecology, epidemiology and evolutionary biology.
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about your educational journey?
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. My family immigrated to the United States when I was a young teenager, and I have lived here ever since. After completing high school, I received a scholarship to study mathematics at Saint Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh, N.C. I later went on to earn a master’s from The Ohio State University and my doctorate from Arizona State University.
When did you first fall in love with your field of study? What made you decide to work in academia?
I developed my love for mathematics and research as an undergraduate at Saint Augustine's University. I was fortunate to have been mentored by a group of amazing professors who got me involved in undergraduate research internships staring in my second year.
Can you explain the focus of your research?
Many problems in the natural sciences involve understanding collective behavior in large-scale complex systems. This behavior results from interactions and feedback of simpler systems that comprise the whole. My research develops mathematical frameworks to investigate the dynamics of feedback regulation across different systems. My current topics of interest include eco-evolutionary feedbacks in consumer-resource systems (e.g., host-virus-predator), the impacts of sociality and behavior on the spread of animal and human infectious diseases, and the emergent regulation of division of labor in social systems (e.g., ant colonies).
What attracted you to VCU? What are you most excited about in regards to VCU and Richmond?
The math department at VCU has been growing in recent years and I was attracted by the opportunity to help build the biomathematics graduate program. The urban location of VCU and Richmond was also a big factor in my decision, and I am excited to connect with local high schools via our outreach programs to broaden students’ exposure to and engagement with biomathematics.
Can you talk a little about your teaching philosophy? What do you most like about teaching?
Mathematics holds immense power in our society; thus, I believe all students should have the opportunity and support needed to learn mathematics with depth. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the extent to which governments, business leaders and industries rely on mathematical models to make decisions. It has also revealed the disproportionate effects in marginalized communities, from economics to health. I am keen on mentoring the next generation of students to understand how to access and leverage mathematics to advance the public good.
Can you tell us either a quirky fact about yourself or some of your hobbies?
I am an avid soccer player.