2023 Activity Report vol.9:Nara Women's University

Activity Report of Open Application Program 2023 vol.9 (Course A)

Academic exchange with Bangladesh on mathematical science and the sustainable establishment of a foundation for the education of highly skilled human resources

Report from Professor Fugo Takasu of Environmental Sciences Course,
Department of Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science,
Faculty of Science, Nara Women's University

 Nara Women's University (NWU) invited nine students (eight undergraduates and one graduate student) and one faculty member from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh (an NWU international partner university) to our Faculty of Science for an academic exchange program that ran from July 23 to 29, 2023. The program included lectures run by the Environmental Sciences Course (Department of Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science) on population dynamics that makes use of mathematical techniques, and on numerical simulation exercises involving mathematical models that use Python, a programming language; for their final task, the students set themselves a topic, built mathematical models, and gave presentations on the analysis results from these. In addition to academic exchanges, we arranged multiple exchange events with students from NWU and with local Nara City residents, which strengthened the foundation for ongoing exchange with the University of Chittagong.

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 Our academic exchange focused on mathematical models of population dynamics as nonlinear dynamical systems and numerical simulation exercises using computers. In the first half of the five‑day program, the students attended lectures and worked on exercises, and in the second half they built their own mathematical models using the knowledge they had gained so far, working on the preparation and delivery of presentations on the final day. Mathematical models of population dynamics can be applied to a variety of dynamics, including demographic change and the spread of infectious disease. Each of the participants chose a research theme that interested them, and worked on "mini‑research projects" to construct mathematical models, analyze them, and present them. I believe that these activities, which incorporated practical as well as theoretical learning, were valuable experiences for the participants, encouraging future learning and research activities. A quick digression: we first invited students from the University of Chittagong with support from the JST Sakura Science Program in 2017. At that time, many of the participants did not have their own computers, so they used NWU's computing facilities (Linux), but this time, all of the students had brought laptop PCs. It really gave a sense of the rapid economic growth underway in Bangladesh, which has enabled the students to have their own computers.

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 In terms of other activities (those not related to academic exchange), we arranged several opportunities for exchanges with NWU students and with local Nara City residents. These events saw the University of Chittagong students interact with our students and the local Nara residents in English, exchanging opinions about their respective day‑to‑day lives and cultures and chatting freely. Bangladesh is a country with which many Japanese people are still unfamiliar, but we felt that these events helped promote a mutual understanding between Bangladesh and Japan in a modest way. Plus, I believe that our own students became more aware of international exchange through their communication in English.

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 Before the students came to Japan, we provided preparatory online lessons in the afternoons of July 6 and 7. These included preparations for visiting Japan, tips for their stay in Nara, and explanations of this program's aims and lesson content. They also confirmed the basics of Python programing, which the participants would use for their exercises. I believe that these lessons facilitated smooth participation in this program after the students arrived in Japan. The popularization of online communication has made minimal online knowledge exchanges and discussions possible, but the quantity of information that can be exchanged in a certain time is far larger in face‑to‑face classes. For this program, we combined preparatory online classes and face‑to‑face classes, which I believe enabled the participants to learn in an effective way.
 This was the sixth time that support from the Sakura Science Program has enabled us to invite students from the University of Chittagong. This academic year, Japan's entry restrictions relating to COVID‑19 were almost completely removed, so we were able to successfully implement and complete the program in the way we did before the global pandemic. The program has become well‑known in the University of Chittagong, and I believe that it has contributed to the education of high‑level human resources in the field of mathematical science in Bangladesh, with several past participants taking teaching jobs in Bangladeshi universities. We are very grateful to the JST for supporting this program, and sincerely hope that the Sakura Science Program will continue in the future.

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