Ramachandra Dasari, Associate Director of the Spectroscopy Laboratory, is the glue that binds the Laboratory together. Confidant to Spectroscopy Laboratory graduate students and professors, expert negotiator, project organizer and troubleshooter,Ramachandra is always there when he is needed. And when it comes to equipment purchases, Ramachandra always knows how to get those special discounts. Sometimes the equipment manufacturers often do him a favor for the privilege of placing their equipment in Spectroscopy Laboratory laboratories-at least it seems that way!

Ramachandra was born in a village, Lankapalli, of 50 houses or less in the in Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh in 1932. His parents owned a small farm. Neither his father nor his mother had any schooling, although his mother could read and write. His grandfather, a deeply religious man who lived in a neighboring village, Telugu Rao Paleam, had the strong belief that his family must start to become educated. Overcoming enormous difficulties, he built an elementary school in his village and selected Ramachandra as one of the students. Ramachandra moved to his grandfather's village where his grandfather raised him. Ramachandra did well and was sent on to SRYSP high school, in Challapalli, although this required walking a few miles each day without slippers. Ramachandra's early education was in Telugu, his mother tongue, and thus his English was weak until he entered college.

He is fond of his roots. He goes every alternate years to his village where he was raised and inititated several social projects. The most direct benefit was from a project installing a septic tank to each house. Another quick benefit was from a project to have eye examination to all in the village and to provide free glasses, and also support cataract operation in nearby hospitals. He had remodel physical structure of his elementary school and provided modern furnitures for students to sit and write. As a result of this, the school was renamed in his grandfather name "Guttikonda Kotaiah", who has originally built the school; later on this school was moved to a new location nearby where Harijans live. In his recent visit, he noticed students in the new location were sitting on the floor during classes, so he provided a chair to each student and a table for Four students. Also, at High School he provided clean drinking water facility to all students and staff. Other projects included building a library to which several monthly popular magazines and daily newspapers come. There was also a television set for people in the afternoon to watch. He also established special coaching for local school students to improve their grades, as well as development of teachers. Some finance was also given to local temple and veternary hospital.

Elementary school photographGrandfather photographHighschool photograph

His undergraduate studies were at Andhra University, 15 miles from his village. He received his Masters degree in 1956 from Benaras Hindu University and his Ph.D. degree in 1960 from Aligarh Muslim University, both national universities. Ramachandra's graduate research was on the electronic spectroscopy of simple molecules. After graduation, he worked as a postdoc associate in Physics Department of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT), a new university established in collaboration with nine US universities, led by MIT, where he became a faculty member in 1962. He was one of the first new faculty and one of the few faculty members with an all Indian education, more than 90% of the new faculty coming from the nine US universities.

Ramachandra's connection to MIT dates back to 1966, when he came for two years as a fellow under the US AID program with an allowance of $8 per day. For two years he worked in the research group of Professor Ali Javan, who had just arrived at MIT from Bell Laboratories after having invented the helium-neon laser. During this period Ramachandra gained valuable experience in fabricating lasers and conducting research based on the new laser spectroscopy. With this background, he returned to IIT and established one of the largest laser laboratories in India, and trained a large number of Ph.D. students in laser research. Graduate students were trained to fabricate then-novel and (then considered by some) esoteric lasers such as molecular nitrogen and argon ion, in addition to helium-neon. Few if any lasers could be purchased at that time, and there were no company reps. And besides, laser equipment, even if it did exist, would be beyond the tiny budget of a typical Indian university. So, as Ramachandra explains, building lasers became the way of life of his laboratory, and this provided excellent training for the graduate students. Ramachandra's laboratory was also noted for developing interactions with R&D laboratories throughout India. And using the home built lasers and classical sources, Ramachandra continued his studies in molecular spectroscopy, which led to the first observation of the electronic spectra of the NSe molecule.

He was promoted to full professor at IIT in 1973. As a member of the Physics Panel of the University Grants Commission, he introduced new initiatives for improving undergraduate education and organized workshops for training teachers. Ramachandra left IIT in 1978, and spent a year as a visiting Senior Research Officer at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa worked on Dicke narrowing in infrared transition, and another year as a visiting scientist at the Department of Physics, University of British Columbia, worked on nitrogen laser excited molecular iodine fluorescene, before coming to MIT in 1980 as a Visiting Professor of Physics.
Several milestones :

1. To join as a graduate student with Prof.Putcha Venkateswarlu at Alighar Muslim University without a fellowship leaving a lecturer job in a college as well as a fellowship offer from Benares Hindu university University.

2. To join as a post-doctoral associate at IIT Kanpur, leaving a faculty position at IIT, Bombay.

3.Long term association with Prof.Venkateswarlu at IITK from 1961 -78; Followed every advice from Prof.venkateswarlu, including the best of all to go to MIT to work with Towens and Javan with 8 dollar allowance/day leaving visiting assistant professorship with a salary of $14,000/year at Ohio State University; The working at MIT for two years, 1966-68; has transformed him from a scientist with poor or no experimental skills to a mature laser physicist. Other major associations include : Influenced by Takeshi Oka at NRC, Canada 1978-79, to see how a scientist works entirely by himself without assistance from a student or technician and how to enjoy learning leisurely physics and philosophy from Bill Dalby, at UBC, Canada, 1979-80 (still unable to practice). finally, longest association with Prof.Michael Feld, as a dearest friend and colleague from 1980-2010; very likely, this may the only case that two scientists working so closely for so long publishing 85 co-authored journal publications.

He has been a Principal Research Scientist in the Spectroscopy Laboratory since 1981, and continues till today. He was appointed Assistant Director of the Spectroscopy Laboratory in 1984 and promoted to Associate Director in 1992. Ramachandra has played a major role in the Spectroscopy Laboratory over the past three decades. He oversees project coordination and facility development of the NIH-supported Laser Biomedical Research Center, and coordinates research programs of the physical science-based MIT Laser Research Facility. Ramachandra's research has covered a wide range. His early studies include classical high-resolution spectroscopy of simple molecules, atomic and molecular collisions, vibrational-rotational relaxation, laser frequency measurements in the far infrared, and laser spectroscopy of rare-earth ions in single crystals. He then progressed to study Dicke narrowing in infrared transitions, multiphoton ionization, laser-nuclear studies, molecular collisions and dynamics, cavity-QED, the single atom laser, and surface-enhanced Raman scattering.

More recently, his research emphasis has switched to laser biomedical studies, where he has pursued spectral diagnosis of atherosclerosis and early-stage cancer in various organs of the body using light scattering, reflectance, fluorescence, and Raman spectroscopy. His most recent research is in the field of low coherence interferometry for detecting nanometer motions in red blood cells and nerves. He has given numerous lectures at universities in the US, Canada and India. His research publications, which number well over 340, have appeared in most of the major physics and chemistry journals. Under his guidance, twelve MIT students have received Ph.D. degrees, and several others Masters degrees.

On February 28, 2005, the Center for Laser Technology/Laser Technology Program at IIT, Kanpur created a distinguished annual symposium to honor Ramachandra. (February 28 is National Science day in India, as well as C.V. Raman's birthday.) Each symposium is centered on a presentation from a distinguished scientist from India or abroad. The inaugural symposium was a day-long program of talks from professors and senior scientists who were former IIT graduates, and a poster session from current IIT students. At first symposium, Ramachandra spoke on "Spectroscopy for diagnosis of disease." Michael Feld was the inaugural lecturer. Also, MIT spectroscopy laboratory has established the Dasari lecture series, an annual event sponsored by the Laser Biomedical Research Center to honor a scientist associated with the Spectroscopy Laboratory or its staff who has made important contributions to the field of spectroscopy. Thank to the Dasari family, Coherent, Princeton Instruments, as well as many friends and colleagues of Ramachandra for their generous contributions to the endowment fund.

FAMILY : Ramachandra has been happily married for over 6 decades to Suhasini Dasari, following typical Indian tradition they married young, in 1951, when he was 18 and she was 15. Suhasini had worked at the MIT Medical Department until 2007. Many believe that much of Ramachandra's wisdom actually emanates from Suhasini. They have two children, a son, Satish, who is a physician in pain management, Indiana, and a daughter, Lakshmi, M.S. in computer sciences who taught high school mathematics in Seattle US, France, Spain, England. Now she has settled down in Vermont, teaches online mathematics and continues her interests in music and sports. Daughter-in-law: Praveena is a lawyer in Indiana and two grand children: Sidarth, Medical student of Indiana U and Vivek, MS in Computer science and molecular Biology; Now working in Brood Institute of MIT.

Ramachandra is semi-retiring since summer 2007. But he continues to oversee the Spectroscopy Laboratory's research and strategic activities. So we won't be saying adieu, only au revoir.

Thursday, 23-Feb-2017 17:46:45 EST