The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) appointed Professor Somak Raychaudhary as its new director Tuesday. Raychaudhary, who had earlier headed the department of Physics and was the Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at Presidency University in Kolkata, took over from Professor Ajit Kembhavi, who headed the institute since 2009.
After Jayant Naralikar, Naresh Dadhich and Kembhavi, Raychaudhary will be the fourth director of the prestigious institute that was set up in 1992.
The astrophysicist has been a member of the faculty at IUCAA from 1995 to 2000, before moving abroad. He has worked at Harvard and Cambridge universities and was the director of Wast Hills Observatory from 2003 to 2012 at University of Birmingham, before moving back to India.
Speaking after the appointment, he said, “After Naralikar, Dadhich and Kembhavi, who were the founding members of IUCAA, people might think this is the first time where an ‘outsider’ like me has become the director. However, I would say that I’m an insider who spent some years outside. I have been a part of this institute and its projects and I hope to raise its prestige.”
The departing director, Ajit Kembhavi will now take the position of the vice-president of International Astronomical Union (IAU). Before signing off, he said, “I’ve been a part of a long journey that started from getting the first computer of the institute, which was of 1 MB Ram, to sanctioning an order of a super computer which will be a million times faster than the first one. I hope that IUCAA will nurture young talent to aid ISRO’s future projects like Astrosat, which is India’s first satellite dedicated completely to Astronomy and TMT (Thirty Metre Telescope).”
Mentioning his priorities for the future, Raychaudhary said, “There are 125 associates of IUCAA working in different universities of the country. Through them, we will reach out to different universities and schools in the country. There are many talented students who have a natural inclination towards Science and Maths. They can do tremendously well if they pursue subject-oriented research at IUCAA, rather than getting an MBA degree and working in a field not related to the subjects of their interest. Our motto for the future will be ‘catch’em young’.”
He added that it was IUCAA which had started the Astronomy Olympiad, which was later moved to Homi Bhabha Centre, and the institute still has the capability to come up with new ideas. “It is an interesting time to be involved in astronomy. Astrosat, an ambitious project started in 1998, is on the verge of completion and it is going to put our scientists in the driver’s seat,” he said. Apart from this, IUCAA has proposed to start an Astrosat Science Centre, where researchers can analyze the data collected by the satellite. The institute also plans to reach out to 10,000 students through its Second Saturday