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India must concentrate on pure research: scientist

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Rajendran Raja
Rajendran Raja

Staff Reporter

Universities have to create a situation to nourish researchers

To take up issue of collaboration with India with Fermilab directorJoint research activities on de-zero experiment onMIPP experiment being done with participation of two Indians

KOZHIKODE: India needs to focus more on pure research in addition to giving emphasis to applied research such as Information Technology if major scientific breakthroughs are to be made in the future, according to Rajendran Raja, India-born U.S. scientist of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Illinois.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu here recently, Dr. Raja said the Indian mind was too much software and theory oriented, while most developed nations were concentrating on pure research. "Pure research is where science grows. It has given rise to applications right from the transistor to the World Wide Web. Indian universities have to create a situation to nourish their talented researchers so that they can be employed in the universities to reverse the brain drain," said Dr. Raja, one of the scientists who discovered the "top quark," which is one of the six sub-structures of protons.

Quarks are fundamental matter particles, which are constituents of protons, neutrons and hadrons. The other five quarks are "up," "down," "charm," "strange" and "bottom." Dr. Raja was here after attending the ninth workshop on `High Energy Physics Phenomenology' at Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, from January 3 to 14. He is the son of late P.K.S. Raja of the Zamorin family. Dr. Raja said a major topic of discussion at the workshop was the proposal to set up an Indian Neutrino Observatory. It would be on the lines of the Super Kamioka in Japan and the Canadian Experiment - Subbury Neutrino Observatory at Ontario. One of the possible sites of the underground observatory was near Udhagamandalam (Ooty) in Tamil Nadu. "The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is taking the lead in the project. The observatory will have a 50-kiloton detector. The cost will come up to $150 million."

Dr. Raja is also the spokesman of the Main Injector Particle Production (MIPP) experiment at Fermilab. He said the establishment of the observatory would enable Indian scientists to participate in world class experiments performed in India. It would also require international cooperation.

Neutrino observatories are built underground to shield the cosmic rays. Besides, they do not need accelerators. Developed nations began to focus on research based on neutrinos after the discovery of neutro oscillations in 1998 by Japanese and U.S. collaborators. The Nobel Prize for this effort was awarded to Ray Davis and Toshi Koshiba.

Dr. Raja, who will be leaving for the U.S. on January 24, will take up the issue on the need for Indian universities to collaborate with Fermilab with its director Pier Oddone. "We need to carry on the dialogue with Indian physicists and see whether we can engage students for research. It will be a win-win situation for both New Delhi and Washington, " he said.

The Fermilab was carrying forward the research activities on de-zero experiment with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Punjab University and Delhi University.

The proposed Large Hadron Collider at Cern, Geneva, which would begin to function in 2008, would be seven times more powerful than the Tavetron at Fermilab.

Dr. Raja has worked with renowned physicist Otto Robert Frisch, who derived the term nuclear fission in the early 1970s. They were then at the Trinity College, Cambridge.

He then went to Fermilab in 1975. He has published over 300 research papers .


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