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Indian scientist named new Director, ICTP, Italy

Pune: Renowned Indian scientist Atish Shripad Dabholkar will take over as the new Director of the prestigious Abdul Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy’s Trieste, his cousin Hamid Dabholkar said here on Thursday.

The Kolhapur-born Dabholkar, 55, is the nephew of the well-known rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013.

“We all, including his family members in Satara, are extremely proud that Atish has made it to this important position,” Hamid Dabholkar told IANS from Pune.

“The ICTP is pleased to announce the appointment of Atish Dabholkar, a theoretical physicist from India, as its next Director! He will succeed Fernando Quevedo, who has led the centre since 2009,” the ICTP had announced two days back.

Presently, heading the ICTP’s High Energy, Cosmology & Astroparticle Physics section, Dabholkar will take over his new assignment in November.

“It’s a great honour and responsibility to be chosen as ICTP’s next Director. It is a dynamic organisation with a very high level of research and a unique global mission for international cooperation through science,” Dabholkar said in his initial reaction to his appointment.

The ICTP, founded in 1964 by Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Abdus Salam, is an international research institute for physical and mathematical sciences operating under an agreement with the Italian government, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It was envisioned as an international hub for excellence in science and as an anchor for building scientific capacity and a scientific culture around the globe.

“This vision remains valid today, more than 55 years since its founding, but requires flexibility to meet changing realities and priorities,” said Dabholkar.

Born in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, Dabholkar is a graduate of IIT-Kanpur and later earned his doctorate in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University, besides other post-doctoral and research positions at Rutgers University, Harvard University and California Institute of Technology.

Till 2010, he served as Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai besides being a Visiting Scientist at CERN and a Visiting Professor at Stanford University.

Earning fame for his research on String Theory and Quantum Black Holes, including investigations that built on Salam’s 1979 Nobel Prize-winning work on Electroweak Unification, Dabholkar joined the ICTP in 2014 on secondment from Sorbonne University and the National Centre for Scientific Research where he was a research director since 2007.

Not unknown to the Indian scientific community, he has been conferred the India’s coveted ‘Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award’ (2006) “for outstanding contributions for establishing how quantum theory modifies the entropy of Black Holes and his pioneering studies of Supersymmetric Solitons in String Theory.

“Directing ICTP is a once in a lifetime opportunity due to its unique mission and its big impact in developing countries. I am glad that when I leave in November the institute will be in very good hands,” outgoing Director Quevedo said.

Dabholkar’s appointment comes at a time when the ICTP is in expansion and recently increased its presence in the developing world by opening four partner institutes in Brazil, China, Mexico and Rwanda.

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