I am passionate about teaching and have taught at all levels at UCT, from freshman to advanced graduate level with courses ranging from mathematical modelling to complex differential geometry. My philosophy is to “teach what I would have liked to have learnt, how I would have liked to have learnt it”. Consequently, I have not been shy with taking a lead and developing and re-developing material to bring courses up to modern international standards with appropriate input from contemporary research areas. I have embraced modern, rapidly developing technologies and pioneered many initiatives like podcasting and video casting lectures many years before they became the norm. I have been an invited plenary speaker at a National Teaching with Technology Conference held at the University of the Western Cape in 2010 to demonstrate some of the innovative techniques employed in my classes. I believe in my students. I believe that they are capable of much more than they know themselves and I push them hard to reach their potential. I have developed novel ways to engage strong students by stimulating them with research- inspired problems and mentorship and help struggling students with weekly work- shops on everything from career advice to scholarship advice to time management sessions. For my sins, I have been nominated for the Distinguished Teacher Award, selected onto the Mail & Guardian’s list of 200 most influential Young South Africans and found that my students have set up a “Jeff Murugan Appreciation page”.
My approach to graduate education is slightly different. Here, while I strongly believe that as the next generation of scholars, graduate students need to be encouraged and nurtured, it is also important that they are prepared for the rigours and demands of academic scholarship. Part of this is having as broad a background as possible. To this end, for the past ten years I have been running an advanced topics lecture series aimed at AIMS essay, MSc and PhD level students. Courses are run in intense two week blocks and, have in recent years, included select topics in black hole thermodynamics, conformal field theory, spinor-helicity methods, integrability and renormalisation group methods.
While my interactions with individual graduate students differ slightly from student to student, it is largely shaped by the following beliefs:
Students need to have an advisor that is visibly passionate about their field, and who appreciates the value of stupidity in scientific research.
To be a successful academic takes more than calculating ability and raw talent. It takes commitment, discipline and hard work. In addition to research, students need training in teaching, mentoring and various ‘soft skills’ like networking, time management and grant writing.
They need to understand and value the principle of collegiality.
Recently taught courses:
- An introduction to physical mathematics (1st year level, 2012-2015)
- An introduction to mathematical modelling (1st year level, 2009-2012)
- Applied complex variables (3rd year level, 2010-2013)
- Advanced mathematical methods - topological methods in field theory (2015)
- Advanced mathematical methods - symmetry and supersymmetry (2014)
- Advanced general relativity (2013)
- String theory (2009-2013)