Jeff Murugan is fascinated by cartoons and McGyver. That’s appropriate, given that his esoteric area of science is one in which the rules don’t always apply. Murugan earned his PhD in 2003, working jointly at Oxford and the University of Cape Town. By his early 30s he was one of four South African experts on string theory, which attempts to explain the high-energy world where our traditional (but incomplete) rules of physics break down. “If we’re correct,” says Murugan, speaking for his colleagues, “it will be the biggest revolution in our understanding of the universe since Einstein.” Now researching and teaching at UCT, he is constantly seeking “the expression on the face of a student when an idea you’re trying to convey suddenly clicks into place”. According to his students’ “Jeff Murugan appreciation page” on Facebook, he achieves this with a certain flair for deeply sarcastic academic humour.
– Ian Macleod