A doctoral student from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) will soon be part of the Harvard Society of Fellows, an elite group of ten scholars selected from across the world every year. The society’s alumni include linguist Noam Chomsky, philosopher Martha Nussbaum and economist Paul Samuelson.
Sayan Chakraborti, 27, the PhD student from TIFR’s astrophysics department, will work in his area of specialisation for a three-year period and get an opportunity to live at Harvard. Chakraborti, who got his offer from the university two days ago, said, “It is an offer you can't refuse.”
Students are usually nominated by senior academics before Harvard invites some of them to send in applications and conducts interviews. Chakraborti, who will complete his PhD next year, found out three months ago that his name had been proposed.
Chakraborti’s area of research is supernovae explosions, which involves studying the activity when stars, ten times the mass of the sun, burst and collapse, releasing energy that blows them apart. He studies the effects of these explosions, which take place in galaxies far away -about millions of light years away from the earth.
“It’s like forensics. I study the effect of explosions soon after they occur,” said Chakraborti, who finished his BSc in Physics from St Xavier’s College in Kolkata before moving to TIFR in 2006 for the integrated PhD programme. “I thought of doing astrophysics because it sounded fun. It’s also challenging. You can't do your own experiments the way you do in a laboratory.”
If he accepts, Chakraborti will begin working at Harvard next August and will continue until 2015. Other Indians who have been selected as Fellows in the past include Shiraz Minwalla (physics), Ayesha Ramachandran (English literature), Aqil Shah (political science) and Amit Choudhary (chemical biology).