Filament networks using theoretical physics
Kristian Müller-Nedebock’s association with Stellenbosch began when his parents moved the family here from his place of birth, Eshowe, in KwaZulu-Natal. With predilections for libraries, Lego and Latin, his pursuit of drama, music and experimental construction and electronics projects at home pointed toward a future academic career. Eventually, after enthusing about many disciplines, conversations with inspirational academics at Stellenbosch University led Kristian to settle on the study of physics. Following his B.Sc. and honours degrees, with a focus on theoretical physics, Kristian received a scholarship from the Emanuel Bradlow Foundation to pursue Ph.D. studies as a member of St John’s College, Cambridge. It was at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor Sir Sam Edwards at the Cavendish Laboratory, that he commenced studying aspects of the networks that are also the topic of this inaugural lecture. But he also attended many superb concerts played on period instruments, punted on the Cam and discovered that May Week occurs in June. Kristian subsequently moved to Mainz, Germany, as a post-doctoral researcher. There he derived equations for the behaviours of various types of polyelectrolytes and polyampholytes – electrically charged polymers. (It is perhaps also there that his accent became completely untraceable for most listeners.) During this period an unexpected encounter in Paris eventually led to the sequence of events that culminated with his appointment in the Physics Department at Stellenbosch University. Kristian spends his time tracing and assembling the mathematical-physical threads for filaments as they are found in cells. His theatre is the lecture hall. He has taught at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. He is currently serving on the council of the South African Institute of Physics, which also awarded him the Silver Jubilee Medal in 2003. Every so often he still uses a smidgeon of Latin.