15=6+8+22

No, its not the title of Chetan Bhagat’s next novel (though it could well be). A colleague in the School of Life Sciences pointed me to a new site, Nature Index, “A global indicator of high-quality research” that “tracks the affiliations of high-quality scientific articles. Updated monthly, the Nature Index presents recent research outputs by institution and country.”

niThe 15 in the title above, is the overall ranking of the UoH, relative to all Indian institutions, based on our publications in all scientific fields, with 6, 8, and 22 being the rankings separately in Chemistry, Life Sciences and Physics. This is for the year 1 September 2013 to 31 August 2014, and presumably other time periods can be queried on the NI site as well.

There is reason to be pleased. We are the highest ranked University overall, and above us are only institutes like TIFR, RRI, IISc and consortia like the entire IIT system or all the CSIR laboratories put together. And this has happened in spite of the poor funding for science in the country, and for Universities in particular. As we are painfully aware, the real level of funding that we have to contend with has been very very meagre…

The ranking is based on the Article Count, namely the number of articles published from the institution. More formally, “a count of one is assigned to an institution or country if one or more authors of the research article are from that institution or country, regardless of how many co-authors there are from outside that institution or country” in computing the AC. There are other measures that can make us look even better such as the Fractional Count (FC), “that takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution (or country) and the number of affiliated institutions per article. For calculation of the FC, all authors are considered to have contributed equally to the article”, and the equation in the title then becomes, if we use the FC, 8=6+11+19. And to normalize, the corresponding equation for another Central University with which we share many similarities is 18=22+3+29.

In all these lists, there are no Universities that are ranked above us in Chemistry, one in the Life Sciences, and very few in Physics, so these country specific rankings say as much about us as about the funding patterns, the focus on research, and on infrastructure and support. Nevertheless, if anyone out there is looking, its pretty clear which among the Central Universities really is a University of Excellence.

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The Palamuru Seven

37On Monday the 27th January, I was in Mahbubnagar,  at Palamuru University, to attend the Annual Convention of the Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences (APAS), to keep an old commitment, namely to deliver the Sitamahalakshmi Memorial Lecture. And I was fortunate in at least two ways…

The first was that I got to see- after too many years- Ranga, aka Professor S Ranganathan who taught us Organic Chemistry so brilliantly at IIT Kanpur. Ranga, who is now at the IICT in Hyderabad, retired from Kanpur after decades of teaching generations of chemists. His classes were wonderful, and he was one of the first to seriously try to get some of us interested in biology- I remember him and Balu (Professor D. Balasubramaniam, also now in Hyderabad, and at the LV Prasad Eye Institute) inviting a number of people in ’73 or ’74 to try to educate us philistine M Sc students of the exciting things that were going on in biological chemistry. Some of my classmates took the bait, but it didn’t work out in my case… But more of that in another post, maybe.

The second was that I got to see seven of our colleagues being inducted into the Akademi at one go- the largest contingent from anywhere to be so elected! In the alphabetical order of the handout, here they are :

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M. Ghanshyam Krishna of the School of Physics was elected Fellow. His work focuses on the growth, characterization and applications of thin films.

Subramanyam Rajagopal of the Department of Plant Sciences, School of Life Sciences was elected Fellow. (OK, so the photo is an older one, and he does not sport the mustache now…) His group is working on bioenergy related to photosynthesis and phytomedicines. His major research contribution was on abiotic stress effects on photosynthesis apparatus of cyanobacteria, algae and higher plants.

Samar Das, of the School of Chemistry, was also elected Fellow. The focus of his research effort is to synthesize metal-oxide based inorganic compounds and to exploit their host guest, ion exchange and catalytic properties.

Pradeepta Panda of the School of Chemistry was elected an Associate Fellow. His  work is on the design and synthesis of various porphyrins.

S Srilakshmi of the UCESS was elected an Associate Fellow. She is a geophysicist, and the only woman in the group.

S Srinath of the School of Physics was elected an Associate Fellow. His areas are Magnetism, Multiferroics, Oxides, Nanomaterials  and  Thin films.

S Venugopal Rao of theACRHEM was elected an Associate Fellow. He does a lot of things, as you can see on his homepage, but to mention a few areas of his interest,  Semiconductor Nonlinear Optics: Optical frequency conversion techniques [Second Harmonic Generation, Sum Frequency Generation, Difference Frequency Generation], Optical Parametric Oscillators/Amplifiers in the near- and mid-infrared spectral region and construction and characterization of femtosecond/picosecond Ti:sapphire lasers.

And in addition, there were many other colleagues from the UoH there: they had already  been elected to the Akademi in earlier years. The President, Dr Ch. Mohan Rao, being an alumnus, made the presence of the University even stronger, and drove home the point that we are the preëminent research university in AP. And, of course, also in the country. Nice!

Aneesur Rahman Day

downloadThe computational physicist Aneesur Rahman was born in Hyderabad on 24 August 1927. Widely known for his seminal contributions to the field- he is often termed the “father of molecular dynamics”- Rahman was a pioneer in the area of computer simulations- his 1964 study of liquid argon started a field that has grown from strength to strength. By 1970, for example, there were 34 papers on the subject in the Physical Review journals alone that were on molecular dynamics, and in 2012, this number had grown to 2751!

The UoH will celebrate this coming Saturday, 24 August 2013, as Aneesur Rahman Day, at ACRHEM, bringing together researchers from all over the country who work in the area of molecular simulations to discuss their work, share their research.

Rahman died in 1987 after a career that took him from Osmania University, Hyderabad to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, to Argonne National Laboratories in the US where he worked for 25 years. He then moved to the University of Minnesota where he was Professor of Physics and a Fellow of the Supercomputer Centre. His education had been at the Universities of Cambridge and Louvain (where he got his Ph. D. in 1953).

UntitledOur colleague Professor Kalidas Sen of the School of Chemistry was kind enough to share some details of Rahman’s life and work from where I got the above information, and also learned of the few papers that he published from Osmania, a composite image of which is on the left (taken from Prof. Sen’s presentation).

The American Physical Society now annually awards the Aneesur Rahman Prize for outstanding achievement in computational research. I hope that each year, the Anees Rahman Day will similarly bring outstanding researchers who use molecular dynamics simulations in their work to our campus,  to celebrate the life and contributions of this great Hyderabadi!

The convenor for this year’s meeting is Dr G Vaitheeswaran (write to him for any information) and the announcement and programme is downloadable from the (new) What’s up? UoH site.

… and this

UntitledI was asked by the Dr. K V Rao Scientific Society to be at their annual meeting and also to give away their annual awards on the 13th of the month.  Founded in 2001 by the friends and family of Dr. Rao (who retired as Superintendent Chemist at the Geological Survey of India) the KVRSS seeks to actively promote and encourage young scientists. This is a rare entity, an orrganization devoted to science promotion at all stages, including the grassroots- they run a number of programmes to nurture talent at the district level as well as recognising the work done in institutes of higher learning.

UntitledIt was therefore a very good feeling to see that three of the awardees this year were students of the UoH, Pidishety Shankar of the School of Physics, Supratim Basak of the School of Chemistry, and M Hanumantha Rao of the ACRHEM. It was equally heartening to see a number of young students from all across the state receive commendations, and the confidence with which all the awardees spoke was very reassuring.

Another achievement of the student body is the victory of our  University Football team in the Fourth Inter-state A. P. football tournament that was held at IIIT-H. As one of the team members and vice-Captain,  Achyut Kulkarni wrote in a mail to me, this is a first for our University, and a feather in the  captain, William Haokip‘s cap! The team came by my office along with the Physical Education Officer and their coach-

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The team members are, in addition to  William Haokip (Captain) and  Achyut Kulkarni( Vice-Captain), Kedar Kulkarni, James Tuglut, Kunga Chongloi, Joel, Asif Ali, Bujair, Sai Abhinav, Muanpuia Tlau, Mesevito Terhiijah, Subhash Nayak, Nrusingha Behera, Sense Alaji, Leon Dailiam,  and Yunus Bava.

It was such a pleasure to have all that energy in the office that day- a nice change from the usual goings on. Thanks for coming by, guys, and keep the UoH flag flying high!

Deconstructing Mass

A day after the announcement at CERN of the experiment confirming the (probable) existence of the Higgs boson, the Indian Express carried an article by Payal Ganguly that was provocatively titled UoH Professor looks beyond the God particle. A discursive interview with Professor Bindu Bambah of the School of Physics, the article tried to explain to the lay public what the excitement was all about.

This post is not to recap all that, but merely to point to those sources and some others wherein one can hopefully understand why the discovery is such a big deal. Its not just that there is mass at the end of the tunnel, its also a staggering scientific and engineering feat, and as Prof. Bambah says, a “vindication of scientific method and thinking.”

Her own research is, of course, connected with experiments at CERN. As she describes in the IE article, In 1988-1990, I worked on the electron positron collider, which was a low-energy version of the present LHC. That was when India was taking baby steps in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Today we have a huge presence there, with participation in major experiments, contribution of significant money, and much opportunity for additional work, looking beyond this particular set of experiments.

Given the fact that several colleagues in the School of Physics work on particle physics, we should have a public lecture at the University on the discovery as soon as term begins later this month to learn more of what images on the left mean. Really. Meanwhile, my son sent me this link (one of many such, I am sure) that is accessible to a wider audience, from the PhD Comics site, The Higgs Boson explained. And recognising the general interest, there was even an episode of The Big Fight on “Will Science be able to define God?” on NDTV…

But speaking of comics, there is a raging discussion on the font used by CERN in their power-point presentation. Strong opinions are being voiced on what font to use, or more to the point, to not use… Comic sans MS being deemed stylistically inappropriate for such gravitas. Even if much of this discussion is on Twitter… Anyhow, I am also certain that there is some space for levity here, in spite of the gravity of it all, so let me take this opportunity to announce a clerihew competition on this theme. Send your entries by email, or comment on this post. To start things off, here is mine:

Said Peter Higgs

While munching figs,

I think it odd

To call my particle God.

Professor Bambah (the title of this post is a nod to her joint position in the Centre for Womens Studes at UoH) will judge the competition and decide the winner, unless she sends an entry in too…

Physics***

The N. S. Satya Murthy Memorial Award in Physics for young scientists  was instituted in the memory of late, Dr. N. S. Sathya Murthy in the year 1992, by his colleagues at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai.  This is given by Indian Physics Association to a scientist below the age of 35 years, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the growth of Physics in India by way of research, applications and other activities. The selection of the awardee is made by a committee constituted by the executive committee of IPA. The recipient of this award should have carried out a major part of the reported work within India. This year’s award, which will formally be given on 12 January, goes to our colleague in the School of Physics, Surajit Dhara who works in the area of liquid crystals. The specific work that is being cited is his fundamental contributions on the structure property correlation in unconventional liquid crystals, and the discovery of discontinuous anchoring transition and its applications.

Another piece of good news to share is that our colleague Ganapathy Vaitheeswaran in ACRHEM has been elected as Associate Fellow in Physical Sciences for the year 2011 by the Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences. Dr Vaitheeswaran works in the general area of theoretical condensed matter physics.

Earlier, on the 19th of December 2011, the University awarded the D. Sc. (honoris causa) to Professor Girish Agarwal, presently of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater and earlier our colleague, from 1977 to 1995. Writing about him some years ago, his colleagues in the School of Physics had this to say: Professor Girish Saran Agarwal, the founder Dean of School of Physics, is one of the outstanding scientists of India, who has elevated quantum optics research in India on par with the top international levels. A product of the Mecca of optics, the University of Rochester, he dedicated himself to the growth of indian science, first as the founder Dean of School of Physics, University of Hyderabad (UH), and then as the Director of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. His contributions to quantum and nonlinear optics span every conceivable area ranging from near-field optics to EIT-assisted giant nonlinearities, from cavity QED to quantum Information, from optical bistability to tests of non-classicality. Such a broad spectrum is truly rare even in the international context.

Though he was trained as a theoretician, his understanding of modern sophisticated experiments is remarkable. His many collaborative papers with the groups of Prof. Walther and Prof. Boyd speak for that. That he was much ahead of his time is evidenced by many of his path-breaking theoretical predictions which were verified much later by other experimental groups. His discoveries have frequently led to new directions of research. A long list of collaborators from all over the world who are themselves eminent scientists proves the truly global nature of his science.

The immense contributions of Prof. Agarwal have been recognized: he has received all the major awards of India for scientific research, including the S S Bhatnagar award  and many international recognitions. At UoH he was the first to attract some major international awards like the Max Born Prize of the Optical Society of America and the Physics prize of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the Max Born Award, and the Einstein Medal of the Optical Society of America. He was also the first at our University to be honored by the American Physical Society by its Fellowship. Very recently he was recognized by the University of Liege with the award of the honoris causa. 

In view of his outstanding contributions to optical sciences and quantum optics and his service to the scientific community, the University of Hyderabad is honoured to award Professor Agarwal the D. Sc. (hon. caus.). 

Hearty congratulations to all!

Outstanding!

The image on the left shows our colleague in the School of Physics, Rukmani Mohanta at the WISE 2011 (Women in Science and Engineering) conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 29 September. That was the day that TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, OWSD the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World and The Elsevier Foundation announced that they are recognizing eleven talented women scientists from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean for their research excellence.

Dr Mohanta is being recognised for her contributions in high energy physics, and is the only awardee from India. Each winner will receive a cash prize of US$5,000.

The press release says: “Once again, the standard of the winners selected for the OWSD Awards for Young Women Scientists from the Developing World has been outstanding. For us, this is not a surprise, as we are well aware of the excellent contributions that women are making to science,” noted Professor Fang Xin, President of OWSD. “The aim of the OWSD Awards, therefore, is to honor the work of these young researchers, bringing it to the attention of the scientific and policy-making communities in their countries, and to highlight their successes so that they may act as role models to other girls and young women who might be considering a career in science.”

Lubna Tahtamoouni, winner from The Hashemite University in Jordan said, “Over the years I came to recognize that it is difficult for women to do science since they have to juggle their career, marriage, motherhood and other social obligations. Winning such an award made me more confident about my decision of pursuing a career in science. Women need recognition, especially young women to give them that ‘head start’ and confidence. This award is celebrating women!”

Denise Evans, biological sciences winner from South Africa added, “It is important to highlight that women, even from developing countries, are doing great things – making breakthroughs, contributing to advances in medicine, science, chemistry and engineering – becoming leaders and experts in their field. It is important to acknowledge young scientists so that they may be motivated from an early age to stay in science and develop a career in science and research.”

Through a grant from the Elsevier Foundation, the OWSD Awards for Young Women Scientists from the Developing World were expanded to cover three disciplines in each region – Biology, Chemistry, and Physics/Maths. The grant was made as part of the Elsevier Foundation New Scholars program, which supports programs for women scholars during the early stages of demanding careers in science and technology. After a rigorous review by the four regional OWSD committees, shortlisted candidates in each discipline were nominated and subsequently ranked by the regional vice presidents and Professor Fang Xin, the current OWSD president.”

Heartiest Congratulations, Dr Mohanta!