Rajesh Gopakumar chosen for 23rd G.D. Birla Award for Scientific Research
New Delhi, March 21, 2014
The 23rd G.D.Birla Award for Scientific Research for 2013 has been given to theoretical physicist Rajesh Gopakumar of the Department of Physics at the Harish-Research Institute (HRI), Allahabad.
The award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 1.50 lakhs, was instituted in1991 by the K.K.Birla Foundation with the objective of accord recognition to high calibre scientific research undertaken by Indian scientists living and working in India.
At a time when there are several awards for top scientists in the country, the unique feature of this award is that is meant for scientists below the age of 50.
Three of the past recipients of the award -- Dr R A Mashelkar, Prof Ashoke Sen and Dr Goverdhan Mehta -- were much later elected as Fellows of the Royal Society, London, indicating the rigorous process of selection made by the Board headed by the President of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, which selects the awardees.
The Board includes some of the most eminent scientists of the country like Prof. Asis Datta, Distinguished Scientist, National Centre for Plant Genome Research Centre, New Delhi, Dr. Anupam Varma, National Professor, Indian Agricultural Resarch Institute, New Delhi, Prof. Goverdhan Mehta, National Professor, University of Hyderabad, Dr. Mustansir Barma, Director, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and Dr. Suresh Rituparna, Director of the Foundation, New Delhi.
Born on December 14, 1967, Prof. Gopakumar took his undergraduate degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and went on to do his doctoral work at Princeton University in the United States. He received his Ph.D. in 1997 under the supervision of Prof. David Gross. After a few years as a research associate at Harvard University, he joined HRI in 2001. He also held a visiting membership at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton from 2001-2004.
A press release from the K. K. Birla Foundation said Prof. Gopakumar has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of string theory, quantum field theory, and mathematics.
"The key theme of his work has been the relation between large N gauge theories and string theory. Gopakumar's path breaking work done in collaboration with Matthias Gaberdiel during the last three years has been the discovery of a duality between a class of two dimensional conformal field theories and higher spin theory in three dimensional anti de Sitter space. This is one of the very few non trivial examples known of a non super symmetric AdS/CFT duality. Furthermore since two dimensional conformal field theories are well studied this duality offers us a hope of gaining deeper understanding of AdS/CFT correspondence. For this reason this paper has already led to a splurge of activity in the field and has become one of the landmark papers in the subject," it said.
Since 2004, Prof Gopakumar has embarked on a program to understand how exactly open closed string duality is implemented in an arbitrary large N gauge theory.
"This is an extremely important problem since the conjectured duality between quantum field theories and string theories on AdS spaces proposed by Maldacena in 1997 has had major impact on many areas of physics but has not been proved. Gopakumar's work marks major progress towards proving this conjecture presenting an Opportunity to understand from first principles how quantum field theories can be dually described as string theories.
"Prof. Rajesh Gopakumar is clearly among the leading string theorists in his generation in the world. During the last several years the research of Rajesh Gopakumar has made India a leading center for research in string theory," the release said.
Prof. Gopakumar is also the recipient of the 2004 B. M. Birla Science Prize, the 2006 ICTP Prize (given by the Abdus Salam centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste), the 2006 Swarnajayanthi Fellowship of the Department of Science & Technology, the S. S. Bhatnagar Award in 2009 and the TWAS (The World Academy of Sciences) award in Physical Sciences, 2013.
He was also elected a member of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 2009 and the Indian National Science Academy in 2010.