Prof. Gattamraju Ravindra Kumar, famously known as the 'Laser Physicist' of India, is well known for his research in plasma and optical physics focusing on the ultrashort pulse and warm dense matter. He is a Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, where he has been instrumental in setting up the Ultra-short Pulse High Intensity Laser Laboratory (UPHILL). The lab works in laser-matter interactions probing matter at extreme densities and temperature.
For his pioneering experimental contributions, he has been felicitated with the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award 2003 and the Infosys Prize 2015.
"There continues to be a lot of rote learning, which does not nurture creativity. The learning should become more exploratory, should be more problem-solving and innovative."
Prof. G. Ravindra Kumar obtained his B.E. (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering and M.Sc. (Hons) in Physics in 1983 from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He then joined the PhD program in Physics at IIT Kanpur and completed it in 1990. After a year-long postdoctoral work at the institute, he joined the Department of Atomic and Molecular Physics at TIFR, in the group now known as UPHILL. Currently, he is a Senior Professor at TIFR.
Prof. Kumar's research areas primarily include studies and interaction of intense, ultrashort pulses of light with single molecules; studies on the behavior of hot, dense plasmas created by intense, femtosecond light pulses; and search for better nonlinear optical materials. At TIFR, he has established a strong laboratory for studying the physics of hot dense matter produced by ultra-short laser pulses. Some of his noteworthy findings include the first demonstration of ultrashort, giant magnetic pulses in dense solid plasmas, enhancement of light coupling and hard X-ray emission from nanostructured surfaces.
He was one of the principal investigators of the experiment done at TIFR in collaboration with Rutherford Appleton Labs, U.K. which highlighted that femtosecond laser pulses kicked electrons to speeds faster than lights within a glass target. Prof. Kumar's research findings have significant implications for laboratory testing of astrophysical scenarios like supernova explosions and high energy particle production.
Prof. Kumar's work has won him numerous prestigious awards. On winning the Infosys Prize in Physical Sciences in 2015, he said, "Experimental science needs a lot of motivation, a can-do spirit, and passion. It needs a tremendous amount of patience and it needs an ability to interface with lots of things. And the biggest thing is persistence. If you don't do good experimental science, there is no good technology." He is also a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy (INSA); Member of the Optical Society of America; Life Member of the Indian Laser Association, Plasma Science Society of India, Indian Society of Atomic and Molecular Physics and Indian Society for Mass Spectrometry. He serves on the International Committee on Ultra-High Intensity Lasers of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. He is the recipient of the prestigious IITK Distinguished Alumnus Award 2018.