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Celebrating the Life of Prof. Raghavan


Ramaswamy (Raju) Raghavan, professor of physics in the College of Science passed away October 20, 2011. He was the beloved husband, brother, uncle, teacher, and colleague of many from all around the world.

Ramaswamy S (Raju) Raghavan started his research career in nuclear physics as a graduate student at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India and continued his studies at Purdue University, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1964 with post-parity beta decay experiments under Rolf Steffen. He then spent several years at the Technical University Munich in the institutes of Paul Kienle and Rudolf Moessbauer. He returned to the U. S. in 1972 and spent the next 32 years at Bell Laboratories, where he became Distinguished Member in 1989. He had a unique career there as one of the few who pursued nuclear and neutrino interests far from the main Bell Labs interests in solid state physics, and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1984. When the basic research programs in Bell Labs were terminated in 2004 he moved to Virginia Tech where he was Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute for Particle, Nuclear and Astronomical Sciences.

His main interest at Bell Labs began with studies of hyperfine interactions of nuclei with radioactivity as well as pulsed nuclear beams from the Rutgers' Bell tandem accelerator (as an associate of the Rutgers Graduate Faculty), discovering numerous isomeric nuclei and applying them for solid state physics as well as measurements of nuclear moments. However he soon turned his attention to low energy neutrino science which became and continues to be his lifelong passion and developed several "ultra" technologies for frontier astroparticle physics experiments. He founded the Borexino Experiment in the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy in 1988 which successfully measured the 7Be solar neutrinos (indeed with 5% precision) as well detecting geophysical neutrinos from the earth's crust. He invented a unique direct counting technique for the spectroscopy of the fundamental proton-proton solar neutrinos which is being developed (as the LENS experiment) at Virginia Tech. He has served in the committees of most of the international conferences of Hyperfine Physics as well as low energy Neutrino Science.

"Dr. Raghavan is no doubt one of the distinguished scientists and leaders in the world neutrino physics community," according to Atsuto Suzuki, Director General The High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Japan (KEK). Allesandro Bettini, Director of the Canfranc Laboratory in Spain noted "Raju is one of the most creative physicists I ever met. His ideas are out of the mainstream. His thinking is unconventional, something that is unfortunately becoming rarer and rarer." Art McDonald, Director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, also commented that "Raju Raghavan is internationally recognized as a leader of the field of neutrino physics and an innovator whose ideas and development work have resulted in many contributions to the field."

"Raju was truly passionate about physics, and especially neutrino physics," said Beate Schmittmann, professor of physics and head of the physics department. "He generated an immense range of creative and innovative ideas, many of which were far ahead of the times."

His wisdom and passion for life and science has inspired many young people, both here at Virginia Tech, as well as India, his spiritual home, where he was most recently advising senior Indian government and laboratory directors on their new INO project, and exploring possibilities for collaborating on the LENS project – an experiment he dedicated the last several years to advance – with real success at Virginia Tech.


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