C N R Rao: The Man Pioneering The Next Waveo of Nanoscience

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Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, 79, or C N R Rao, as he is better known, is acclaimed as a stalwart in the field of science. The announcement of the Bharat Ratna for Rao is seen by the scientific community as a fitting tribute to a man working to bring to the fore the amazing world of science and its applications for the common man.

Of late, he has been engaged with the question of how best to leverage nanoscience for practical applications, especially in the area of health care.

Having already won a dozen international awards, Rao towers in academic achievements and has established himself in solid-state and materials chemistry. He had been awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan. Currently, he is chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.

Founder of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Rao has about 50 doctorates and 1,400 research papers.

He has authored about 40 books and has been a visiting professor at famous universities, including Purdue, Oxford and Cambridge. He is also director of the International Centre for Materials Science.

Rao grew up in the Basavanagudi area here and went on to complete a doctorate in just two years and nine months at Purdue University in the US, where he met renowned chemist Linus Pauling.

The draw of home and the insistence of his mother brought him back to India 1959. In 1976, he set up a solid-state and structural chemistry unit at the Indian Institute of Science and became a director in 1984.

One of his fondest memories, he said in an interview, was meeting Nobel laureate professor C V Raman, when the renowned scientist had visited Rao’s school in 1946. Later, he had the privilege of seeing Raman’s lab, “a great and humbling experience, which had a big and lasting effect”, Rao said.

Rao has, for long, lamented in India, the focus is on big science, while the future clearly belongs to nanoscience. Some of his work on nanomaterials include that on chemical synthesis and various properties and phenomena of grapheme, as well as carbon nano tubes, inorganic nanotubes, nanowires and nanocrystals.

Despite weak support for nanoscience, Rao and his team have tried make an impact n this field. Recently, he said India was among the top three nations in the field of nanoscience, after China and the US.

His brain child, JNCASR, along with the reputed Indian Institute of Science, accounts for the largest group of scientists involved in nano-science.

JNCASR, under Rao’s tutelage, has been working on four major areas—advanced materials, molecular biology and genetics, evolutionary biology and engineering mechanics.

It is among the few research institutes to specialise in areas such as biology through nano-science. The institute is also working on a host of critical areas such as cancer, malaria, epilepsy, and HIV.

JNCASR, started on November 14, 1989, to commemorate the birth centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, has about 50 faculty members and 300 post-graduate students. Recently, it started new unit called New Chemistry.

The centre is involved in a number of outreach programmes in science education for school children, across rural and urban centres.


India Brand Equity Foundation, November 16, 2013