WHILE growing up as a young herdboy looking after goats and cattle with the only beautiful things being the surrounding nature and sky, Professor Azwinndini Muronga fell in love with nature and started asking questions that were considered taboo.
This curiosity led him to become a physicist interested in not only asking fundamental questions about nature and origins, but also how the powers of science and technology could be harnessed to change the world for the better, especially for those at the margins of society.
As the newly appointed Dean of Science at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Prof Muronga will be in the best place to achieve these goals.
His appointment comes into effect from April 1 this year.
Prof Muronga is a theoretical physicist, who started his tertiary education at the University of Venda with BSc degree in Mathematics and Physics, then enrolled for a BSc (Honours) and Master of Science (MSc) degrees in Physics at the University of Cape Town. Subsequently, he completed a PhD in Physics at the University of Minnesota in the United States.
He did his postdoctoral training at the University of Frankfurt and at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany.
He joined UCT in 2005 as a senior lecturer until September 2010. Since October 2010, he has been an associate professor at the University of Johannesburg and, until 2015, served as Director of the UJ Soweto Science Centre.
Prof Muronga’s own research field lies in the intersection of nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, studying the nature and properties of hot and dense matter in heavy ion collisions and astrophysics, as well as the properties of a new state of matter, Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP), which existed just for a microsecond at the beginning of the universe after the Big Bang and might also exist in the deep interior of neutron stars.
He has collaborated with scientists working on large experimental facilities such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility in Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research known as CERN (Switzerland).
Apart from his own research interests, Prof Muronga is also an outstanding and recognised science educator, with a strong passion for, and interest in, taking science to society, particularly to rural and disadvantaged communities.
He has also been awarded for his outstanding contributions to science education and leadership.
In 2015, he was also elected as President of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP).
On his appointment Prof Muronga said: “I am excited and honoured to be joining NMMU at a time of such great opportunity. I am impressed and inspired by the quality and commitment of the University’s community and look forward to serving the Faculty of Science and working with the entire Faculty community in playing a centrally important role to the achievement of NMMU Vision 2020 goals. I would like to thank the entire NMMU community for giving me this opportunity.”
NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz congratulated Prof Morunga and said: “NMMU is privileged and proud to enlist the services of Professor Muronga as our new Dean of Science. We believe that his pedigree, passion and talents would greatly benefit the advancement of science and technology development not only for NMMU, but also for the wider society.
“With his new leadership, we can develop more effective ways of harnessing existing science and technology capabilities, as well as building new capabilities to better tackle the major developmental challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality in society. We are hugely excited about these possibilities.”