Ramachandra R. Dasari

1932 - 2020

Dr. Ramachandra Dasari served MIT for over half a century. He was the associate director of the Spectroscopy Laboratory and director of the Laser Biomedical Research Center. His numerous contributions range from laser science to non-invasive biomedical diagnosis. He mentored several generations of MIT students and postdocs who are now leaders in academia and industry. Dr. Dasari was a dear friend and will be greatly missed.

Ramachandra Rao Dasari was born in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in India. He obtained his B.S. degree from Andhra University in 1954, his Master's degree from Benaras Hindu University in 1956, and his Ph.D. from Aligarh Muslim University in 1960, all in physics. Ramachandra joined the Physics faculty at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur in 1962. He came to MIT as a fellow for two years beginning in 1966 to work in the newly formed group of Charles Townes and Ali Javan. He subsequently returned to IIT Kanpur, where he collaborated with Putcha Venkateswarluto to establish one of the largest laser laboratories for university research in India. During his 17-year tenure at the IIT Kanpur, Ramachandra trained many Ph.D. students and established relationships between IIT Kanpur and several national and industrial laboratories. In 1978, Ramachandra, his wife Suhasini and his children moved to Canada, spending a year each at the National Research Council, Ottawa, and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. In 1980, he returned to MIT as a Visiting Professor in Physics for a few years. He continued as Principal Research Scientist in the Spectroscopy Laboratory. In 1992, he was appointed its Associate Director and continued to perform in this role until retirement.

Ramachandra's research contributions at IIT Kanpur include obtaining the first electronic spectrum of NSe and devising a new method for obtaining laser emission in copper vapor. His iodine vapor research foreshadowed laser emission in that molecule. As a physics panel member of India's University Grants Commission, he helped initiate new programs to improve undergraduate education, including teacher training workshops. IIT Kanpur has established the Dasari Ramachandra Rao distinguished lecture series in his honor.

In his work at MIT with Ali Javan, Ramachandra pursued the first measurements of laser frequencies in the far-infrared and, with Joel Parks, conducted a very high resolution study of N2 laser transitions. Working with Takashi Oka at the National Research Council, he observed Dicke narrowing of infrared transitions for the first time. Working with Michael Feld, his numerous contributions include development of novel laser optical pumping techniques including observation of single atom laser and, with Charles H. Holbrow and Daniel Murnick, studied to detect gamma ray anisotropy in optically pumped rubidium vapor. In the Laser Biomedical Research Center his major contributions include non-invasive glucose detection, instant cancer diagnosis, and quantitative phase imaging. He published nearly 400 journal articles with H-index 93. He is also largely responsible for development of the Spectroscopy Laboratory's Raman facilities for biomedical and physical science research. Additional details of his personality and publications can be found on his website at http://dasari.mit.edu.

Memories from the past