Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dr.Patcha Ramachandra Rao: A World renowned Scientist

Dr. Patcha Ramachandra Rao (21 March 1942 - 10 January 2010) was a world renowned metallurgist and administrator. He has unique distinction of being the only Vice-Chancellor (2002-05) of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) who was also a student (1963-68) and faculty (1964-92) at that institution. From 1992 to 2002, Dr. Ramachandra Rao was the Director of the National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur. After his tenure as Vice Chancellor of B.H.U., in 2005, Dr. Rao took the reins of the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) as its first Vice-Chancellor. He was to serve DIAT until his superannuation in 2007. From 2007 till the end, Prof. Ramachandra Rao was a Raja Ramanna Fellow at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials, in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

Dr. Ramachandra Rao was born on 21 March 1942 to Late Sri. Pacha S.R. Narayanaswamy and Late Smt. Laxmi Bai at Kavutavaram in the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh. His father, the Late Sri Narayanaswamy, was a government servant and retired as Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies while his mother, late Smt. Laxmi Bai was also educated and studied up to matriculation when very few women were going to school. From his mothers side, Dr. Rao is the nephew of Late Shri Narla Venkateswara Rao, a Telugu language writer, journalist and politician from Andhra Pradesh, Late Shri Narla Gowri Shankar Rao, an assistant accountant-general (retired) in the Central Government of India, and Late Shri Narla Tata Rao, a doyen of the power sector in India and a former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Board.
For the early part of his life, Dr. Ramachandra Rao's parents home-schooled him and admitted him to the seventh grade directly. He completed formal school at the early age of 13. Thereafter, he went onto study intermediate at the newly established Andhra Loyola College at Vijayawada and moved over to Osmania University, Hyderabad for higher education. At the young age of 19 years, in 1961, Dr. Rao graduated with a Masters degree in Physics from the Osmania University in Hyderabad India. Thereafter, in 1963, Dr. Ramachandra Rao graduated from the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, with a B.E. degree in Metallurgy. During his second year at I.I.Sc Bangalore, Dr. Rao was supported by the Dorabji Tata Trust. His long association with the Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U) began soon afterwards, when his mentor Dr. T.R. Anantharaman encouraged him to enroll in the doctoral program at the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at B.H.U. Dr. Patcha Ramachandra Rao's pioneering doctoral dissertation in Rapid Solidification laid the foundation for the research in this area in India. He obtained his M.Sc. in 1965 and Ph.D in 1968.

Research Contributions
Dr.Patcha Ramachandra Rao pioneered research activities in the area of rapid solidification, an area pertaining to the solidification of liquids at the phenomenal rates of a million degrees per second, in India in the mid 1960s. Such a process leads to the formation of extensive solid solutions, metastable intermediate phases and metallic glasses. He was the first outside the United States of America to conduct research in this technologically important area. Prof. Rao discovered novel intermetallic phases and also the hitherto unexpected phases with 5-fold rotational symmetry. His interests then shifted to identifying the theoretical basis of the formation of such phases and he began to model their formation from a thermodynamic standpoint. Some of the expressions developed for the free energy of undercooled liquids are being used extensively by modellers. The techniques of rapid solidification which were once a matter of scientific curiosity have now been industrially exploited by the advanced countries in the form of novel metallic glass-based transformer core materials, fine grained high strength alloys, new hard magnetic materials etc. Many noteworthy contributions made by Dr. Rao, his students and erstwhile colleagues at the Banaras Hindu University have brought immense recognition to India as an important centre for rapid solidification studies.

In the past decade, Professor Ramachandra Rao's interests shifted to the synthesis of materials by following routes which are very similar to those practiced by living organisms. This new area of investigation aptly called biomimetics has the potential of avoiding environmental pollution and energy expenditure. Most methods operate at room temperature and ambient pressure. Prof. Ramachandra Rao and his students and colleagues have successfully synthesized calcium carmonate, calcium hydroxy apatite and some metallic nanocrystals through this route. The calcium hydroxy apatite has the potential for prosthetic applications. Animal studies involving rabbits have been conducted at the Banaras Hindu University. One of Dr. Ramachandra Rao's students has commercialized the apatite powders for dental applications.

Besides biomimetics he has also worked on ceramic materials and their production by self propagating high temperature synthesis (SHS). Other routes for nano material synthesis were also explored. Studies were also conducted on natural composite materials like bamboo and synthetic composites and steels.

Since retirement Dr. Ramachandra Rao had been pursuing theoretical studies involving the specific heats of about 11 metals which undergo the hexagonal to body centred cubic phase transformation. He and his associates had discovered some systematics in the thermodynamic properties of these metals but a real solution to the problem has evaded them for over 25 years.
Personal life
Dr. Rao had many special gifts apart from science. He played the mridangam, recited poems and drew cartoons including one of Linus Pauling Dr. Ramachandra Rao was married to Smt. Sudha Rao in 1966. In his own words, "she has been a great support to me and let me pursue my professional life without any worry of running the family. She was herself an employee of Andhra Bank. She joined the Bank when it opened a branch in Varanasi at the beginning of 1980 and rose to become an officer.

Positions Held
Professor, Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Coordinator School of Materials Science and Technology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Director, National Metallurgical Laboratory (CSIR), Jamshedpur.
Vice-Chancellor, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Vice-Chancellor, Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, Pune.
Emeritus Scientist and Raja Ramanna Fellow at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials, Hyderabad.

Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship, 1970-71.Universities Of Cambridge &Sussex ;
National Metallurgist’s Day Award, Min. of Steel & Mines, Govt of India, 1979 ;
Intercosmos Medal, USSR 1984;
Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, CSIR 1985 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Metallurgy Department, BHU 1994;
Distinguished Materials Scientist Award, IE(India) (1995) Indian National Science Academy Prize for Materials Science 1997 ;
VASVIK Award 1997 ;
Om Prakash Bhasin Award 1998 ;
Distinguished Engineer Award, IE(India) (1998) ;
Yalavarthi Nayudamma Award (1999) ;
Distinguished Lecturership Award, Materials Research Society of India, 1999-2001 ;
Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indian Institute of Science 2001;
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 1999-2000;
Nijhawan Award for Best Technical Paper Published from NML in the year 2001 ;
MRSI-ICSC Superconductivity & Materials Science Prize, MRSI, 2002 ;
Best Paper Award LERIG-2002 Prof. P. Banerjee Award for best technical paper (Ferrous) published in Indian Foundry Journal (2001-2002);
Loyola Ratna - Awarded by Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada 2003;
National Metallurgist Award, Min. of Steel & Mines, Govt of India, 2004 ;
MRSI-ICSC Superconductivity & Materials Science Sr. Award, MRSI, 2005 ;
Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Gold Medal, INSA, 2005 ;
Dr. Ramineni Foundation (USA) Vishishta Puraskar, 2007

Indian National Science Academy
The National Academy of Sciences
Indian Academy of Sciences
Indian National Academy of Engineering
The Institution of Engineers (India)
The Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (London) UK
Third World Academy of Sciences, Italy
Indian Institute of Metals Maharashtra Acadeny of Science

Honorary Positions Held
President, The Asia-Pacific Academy of Materials (APAM), India Chapter
President, Indian Institute of Metals
Vice President, Materials Research Society of India
Vice-President, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi.
Sectional President, Materials Science Section, Indian Science Congress
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