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Math professor honored as top scholar

Ryan Rendleman

Daily Egyptian

At one time he lived in a house with dirt floors along the Nile River. He has risen from humble beginnings, and Salah-Eldin Mohammed has become a pioneer in his field.

Mohammed was recently named the SIUC Outstanding Scholar for the 2006 school year. Provost John Dunn said the honor was "richly deserved."

Mohammed, a mathematics department professor, said he appreciates the recognition.

"It's always nice to know that the University can recognize faculty's contributions," he said.

Mohammed grew up in hot and arid Sudan. At night, people slept in their courtyards because it was too hot to sleep inside the actual buildings. The beds were covered with screens to protect them from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken environment, Mohammed said having supportive parents was what kept him going. They believed in education and had high expectations of him. Without them, he said he couldn't have pushed on through school.

In Sudan, national testing determines who can go to college. From this, only the top 5 percent went to the University of Khartoum, where Mohammed received his bachelor's degree in 1970.

In 1976, he received his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. Afterward, he began teaching in Khartoum.

In 1984, unable to maintain his scientific activities there, Mohammed said he took an offer to make a yearlong visit to SIUC. During the visit, he said a tenured position opened up and he decided to take the job.

Marvin Zeman, a professor in the mathematics department, said Mohammed has been a very valuable colleague to work with, and is someone who has been full of interesting conversation.

"He's very sociable," Zeman said. "His understanding of mathematics in general is very impressive."

In addition, Zeman said Mohammed has benefited the department greatly in various ways. Not only is he someone that always has answers to questions, but he has also been given National Science Foundation grants that in turn brought money to the University. In addition, Zeman said he has raised the reputation of the University because he is highly regarded by many outsiders.

Mohammed said growing up poor allows people to learn to make due with less. However, he said every person responds differently to such a situation and despite his successes, doesn't wish it upon anyone else.

"I think I'm just lucky that I got through it," he said.

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Last update: Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 8:34:04 PM
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