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In 2000 Julienne Kabre emigrated to Chicago from Burkina Faso in West Africa, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. For nine years she owned a small business in the city, and in 2010 she decided to go back to school.

Kabre earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics at another university before applying to the Ph.D. program at Illinois Tech.

Her Ph.D. research focused on Poisson-Nernst-Planck equations, a system of nonlinear partial differential equations (PDE) that describe the flow of charged particles in solution. In particular, the research examined the transport of ions in the biological membrane proteins, or ion channels. Kabre did some related PDE research to solve chemistry problems when she was studying for her master’s degree.

"Knowing how transport of ions is happening is very important and can help us better understand diseases like osteopetrosis, which are related to some kind of malfunction of ion channels," Kabre says. "The ions are charged, transient, and dynamic. We used computer simulations of the mathematical models and a variety of numerical schemes to capture the distribution of the unimaginably small ions, with tiny electrical currents."