This year's Homi Bhabha lecture series

1 December 2016

I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited to be a part of the Homi Bhabha lecture series by the president of the IPA. The lecture series involves eminent physicists from India and the UK giving lectures in the host country in alternative years. I had not travelled to the UK since 1985 so it was a great excitement to return and have the opportunity to meet colleagues discuss the progress in nuclear physics in India and contribute to this esteemed lecture programme.

The first lecture took place at the University of Surrey where I discussed the importance of basic research. I explored the concept and consequences of research and emphasised that basic research is the highest form of human endeavour. Examples of basic research in physics, chemistry, medicine, biology, philology, archaeology, and technology were presented and their origin in curiosity and desire to understand the world around us. My presentation also described how research has led to the amelioration of sufferings of the masses, freedom from disease and hunger and elimination of poverty, drudgery, and exploitation. I also explored the enormous contributions by female scientists in the face of adversity. It was wonderful to see the presence of students from several disciplines and members of the public; I spoke to some attendees and was pleasantly surprised to find a keen interest in science.

My lecture at the University of Birmingham, Discovery of Quark Gluon Plasma, introduced the concept and the importance of studying this area of physics, its formation and its signatures. A detailed discussion followed about thermal photons, a subject which my group in Kolkata has pursued for several years. While in Birmingham I also had the opportunity to have more detailed discussions with students regarding their studies which was a great addition to my visit. A similar topic was covered at the University of Edinburgh regarding Quark Gluon Plasma with slight adaptations to be more suitable for undergraduate students. The concepts and the outlines of the most important results were discussed, emphasising the scope of future directions of research. While in Edinburgh I also had the opportunity to give a second lecture to describe my research facility, the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre in Kolkata and its future programmes.

My visit to the UK was valuable and enlightening and it was wonderful to see such a keen interest in physics amongst students, staff and the general public.

Dr Srivastava also gave an interview during his time in UK, find out more on the IOP website’s news pages.