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Indian origin prof is People mag's 'Smart Guy'

Last updated on: December 26, 2005 12:52 IST

People magazine has featured a geophysicist of Indian origin alongside the likes of U2 frontman Bono in the 'Smart Guys' section of its 'Sexiest Man Alive' issue.

Michael Manga, a 37-year-old geology professor of UC Berkeley, who won the $500,000 MacArthur 'genius' grant earlier in 2005, shares pages with stars like Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Orlando Bloom among others.

"My first inclination, of course, was to say no, because that's not how I perceive myself," Manga, father of two boys, said. "But it is a way to let people know about science and that it is OK to be a scientist."

The list has included academics since 1997 and magazine editors who scanned pictures of this year's MacArthur winners and came across the pony-tailed Manga, said Elizabeth Sporkin, People's executive editor.

"I think a lot of people would be thrilled to have him as their professor," Sporkin said. "He has long hair, he's hip, and he's young."

According to the university publication, UC Berkley News, Manga  told his wife, librarian Susan Storch that People magazine had contacted him because he had won the MacArthur in September.

Manga's wife 'laughed for an hour' when her husband later told her he was going to be in America's favourite celebrity rag.

'He just isn't a People magazine kind of guy,' UC Berkley News quotes her as saying.

Manga was one of only two men in academia admitted to the ranks of America's dreamiest dudes.

'I wanted to get information out to people who wouldn't normally hear or see anything about science.'

Although finding it amusing, Manga concedes he is teased about it. 'The MacArthur is so much better,' he says.

'The nice thing about being at Berkeley is that no one reads People, so no one knows about this yet. And that's the way it should be. It is kind of embarrassing in a way, because it's not how I perceive myself.'

His father, who is of Indian origin, immigrated to Canada from South Africa. Manga was born in Hamilton and raised in Ottawa.

Photograph: MacArthur Foundation

Meenakshi Ganjoo in Silicon Valley
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