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Kembhavi to head astronomy, astrophysics centre in Pune

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Ajit Keshav Kembhavi
Ajit Keshav Kembhavi

Science Correspondent

He was the key person behind setting up of UGC-INFONET

New Delhi: Ajit Keshav Kembhavi has been named the next director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.

The IUCAA is one of the five inter-university research centres of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Professor Kembhavi, who will be the third director of the reputed institute, will take charge on September 1 when the term of the present director, Naresh Dadhich, who superannuates on August 31, ends.

Professor Dadhich succeeded Jayant Narlikar in July 2003.

The UGC-appointed search committee for Professor Dadhich’s successor was headed by Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and it included Professor Narlikar, currently Emeritus Professor at the IUCAA, and N. Mukunda, well-known physicist formerly with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

Founding member

One of the founding members of the IUCAA, Professor Kembhavi (59) has been on the faculty of the centre since its founding in 1988 when Professor Narlikar and Yash Pal, the then UGC Chairman, conceptualised the creation of IUCAA as a common research and resource centre for university scientists from across the country.

At present, Professor Kembhavi is a Distinguished Professor and Dean, Visitor Academic Programme at the centre.

A 1972 postgraduate in physics from Bombay University, Professor Kembhavi obtained his Ph.D. from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, in 1979 in Gravitation Theory under the guidance of Professor Narlikar. He was at the TIFR till 1980, after which he spent two years at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, as a post-doctoral fellow. He returned to the TIFR in 1982 and remained there till 1988.

Professor Kembhavi’s subsequent research interests included quasars and other active galaxies, low to intermediate red-shift galaxies, galaxy morphology, tidal capture binary stars in globular clusters, pulsars, astronomical data bases and the Virtual Observatory (VO).

He established the VO-India Project and continues to lead it. VO-India mirrors very large astronomical data bases of the world and enables their access to Indian astronomers. Working with software professionals, Professor Kembhavi has developed products for the management, visualisation and statistical analysis of large quantities of data. The products developed under VO-India are now used worldwide.

He has been deeply involved in developing astronomy research capabilities in Indian universities and colleges. He has been the key person behind the establishment of the UGC-INFONET, which has brought high-speed connectivity, and consequent benefits of information and communication technology, to Indian universities.

“After 20 years it is perhaps time for IUCAA think in terms of new directions while at the same time consolidating the work done with the universities,” says Professor Kembhavi, who is a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, and the National Academy of Sciences , Allahabad. He received the UGC-Hari Om Award in 2005.


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