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Morgan State University

Title: Random Matrices, HIV/AIDS and Theater: Putting the Arts in STEM

Directors:  Asamoah Nkwanta, Shirley Basfield Dunlap


Dates of Program:  June 10 - July 19, 2013


The focus of this proposal is to introduce undergraduate STEM and Theatre Arts students to research centered on linking topics from mathematics and HIV/AIDS studies to theatre and stage production. The proposed project  places the A in STEM to produce STEAM which is a new acronym connecting the arts to STEM. The plays, In the Continuum by Nikkole Salter and Danai Gurira; Before It Hits Home by Cheryl L. West; and, Angels in America by Tony Kushner, are the scripts to be used in order to make the linkage to STEM. All of these plays have characters, plots and subplots that are about the influences that the AIDS virus has on certain segments of society. HIV is the infectious agent behind the AIDS epidemic. Scientists have been striving to develop a vaccine against the disease. Using a mathematical approach involving random matrices, they have been able to identify viral sectors or locations of proteins in HIV that could be a prime target for an AIDS vaccine. The Theatre Arts students will study the plays' scripts and basic biological concepts related to HIV/AIDS. The STEM students will research basic concepts and properties of random matrices as applied to the study of drug and vaccine design for AIDS. The students will then bring their ideas together to collaborate on developing scenarios for integrated scripts that incorporate random matrices and other related mathematical topics into the selected plays. This study will highlight the potential role mathematics could have in helping to better understand the social dynamics of various communities and how they deal and cope with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In addition, making the connections among HIV/AIDS, mathematics, and theatre provides an opportunity to use the arts to help popularize mathematics.

Student Researchers Supported by MAA:

Jalecia King
Brian Jamal Marshall
Sudani Rose
Eirin Stevenson
Keisheena Waldon 

Program Contacts:

Bill Hawkins

Support for NREUP is provided by the National Science Foundation's Division of Mathematical Sciences and the National Security Agency.