Alex is the first student to defend a doctoral thesis at MDH through the network EAUMP

May 28, 2018 | Research/Cooperation

Alex Tumwesigye is one of several PhD students from East Africa, who through the International Science Programme (ISP) is studying at Mälardalen University.
On May 29th, Alex becomes the first PhD student under the ISP subnetwork Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme to defend a Swedish PhD at Mälardalen University.


– I’m very excited, Alex says, about defending his thesis Dynamical systems and commutants in non-commutative algebras.

Alex Tumwesigye is doing his PhD at Mälardalen University thanks to the International Science Program (ISP), which Mälardalen University takes part in. ISP is funded by Sida, and in turn ISP is supporting three networks in mathematics. Makerere University in Uganda, the home university for Alex Tumwesigye, is part of one of the networks – the Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme (EAUMP).

Usually within the EAUMP, the PhD students do a licentiate, and then go back to their home universities. When Alex arrived in Västerås, the plan was according to that. But the collaboration between Alex and Mälardalen University developed along the way.

– To do a licentiate, you need at least two publications, and that was the initial plan for me. Two publications is also the minimum requirement for a PhD in Makerere University, Uganda. So the plan was that I would take a licentiate here, and then go back to defend a PhD in Uganda.

When Alex defended his licentiate in 2016, discussions started regarding if he could extend his stay in Västerås.

– At that time I had three publications, which is three quarters of a PhD.

Alex got extended funding and stayed at Mälardalen University, working towards a Swedish PhD in Mathematics.

– Under these circumstances, I think I am the first to defend a PhD under the EAUMP at Mälardalen University.

The thesis Dynamical systems and commutants in non-commutative algebras is about commutativity, which is a very important topic in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering and many other fields.

– In real life there are many things and processes that commute, and there are many things and processes that do not commute. For example, you open a door and then get in. There you have two processes; first you open the door and then you get in. But you can´t get in first, and then open the door, you have to do it the other way around.

In Mathematics, it is well known that matrix multiplication is not always commutative. Commuting matrices or more general linear or non-linear operators play an essential role in Mathematics and its applications in Physics and Engineering. Many important relations in Mathematics, Physics and Engineering are represented by operators satisfying a number of commutation relations. Such commutation relations are key in areas such as representation theory, dynamical systems, spectral theory, quantum mechanics, wavelet analysis and many others.

International Sciene Programme

ISP has since its early days in 1961 contributed to a significant growth of scientific knowledge in lower-income countries. Alex himself highlights the valuable influence the program has for the academics in his home country Uganda, and in other nations in Eastern Africa.

– Thanks to Sida and the people involved in the programs, the academic situation back home is improving. The funding is so important and the money is coming to good use. It changes so many lives.

Also, as more and more people from low-income countries get involved in the programs, the opportunities for research collaborations and knowledge exchange increase in their home countries.

– Back home in Uganda you could be the only person in your field, and have no one to discuss with, which could be a problem. That is a big difference between Uganda and Sweden. Here at Mälardalen University we have a whole Algebra group, for example. But thanks to the programs, more people with higher education are now working in our region in Africa. 

“We have very favorable conditions”

Alex is grateful for having the opportunity to do a PhD at Mälardalen University, through funding by the ISP. He mentions several big differences between studying in Uganda and Sweden.

– Overall we have very favorable conditions here in Sweden. For example, back in Uganda I taught 400 students. That means you not only have to teach the students, you also have to grade them and that is a problem which takes a lot of time. Here, under the sandwich arrangement, I do not have any teaching to do and therefore can focus more on research work.

– Also, the facilities are a big difference. And here you have internet all the time and a very nice research environment. In Uganda, sometimes you can’t be sure the electricity is going to be on the whole. There are so many more academic challenges in Africa.

Further research

After defending his PhD, Alex is going back to his permanent position at Makerere University. Then Alex, hopefully, will be one of only a few in Uganda, and in the whole region of East Africa, with a PhD in Mathematics/applied mathematics. 

Alex says his farewell from Mälardalen University doesn’t necessarily means the end of the collaborations between him and the university. 

– On the academic part I have already held discussions with my supervisors about some further research. We do not want it to end with this thesis. We want to continue collaborating after the PhD.

The public defense of Alex Tumwesigye's doctoral thesis in Mathematics/Applied mathematics will take place at Mälardalen university, room Kappa at 13.00 on May 29, 2018.

Read more about the thesis .