Alak K. Ray

Theoretical Astrophysics Group
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Tel: +91 22 2278-2485
Homi Bhabha Road Fax: +91 22 2280 4510
Bombay 400 005, India Web:

Academic Positions

  • Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay, (Present Position) 1999--
  • NAS/NRC Senior Research Associate, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, 1996--1998
  • Associate Professor, Reader, Fellow, Visiting Fellow, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, 1981--1999
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Univ of California, Irvine, 1979--1981
  • Faculty Fellow, Columbia University, New York, 1973--1979
  • Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Delaware, Newark, 1971--1973


  • Ph.D. Physics, Columbia University, 1979
    • Thesis Title: ``Thermal conduction and cooling of young neutron stars; Evolution of pulsar magnetic fields''
    • Research Advisor: Professor Malvin Ruderman
  • M.A. Biological Sciences, Columbia University, 1975
    • Research Advisor: Late Professor Cyrus Levinthal
  • M.S. Physics, University of Delaware, 1973
    • Thesis Title: ``Optical absorption in graded band-gap amorphous semiconductors''
    • Research Advisor: Late Professor Ferd Williams
  • B.Sc. Physics (Honours), Presidency College, Calcutta University, (First Class), 1970

Research Interests

  • Supernovae and their interactions with circumstellar matter
  • Electron pre-acceleration in supernovae; cosmic ray acceleration; relation between supernovae and SN Remnants
  • Radio and X-ray studies of supernovae
  • Nuclear & particle astrophysics of supernovae & presupernova stars; evolution of massive stars (singles & binaries)
  • Theory of pulsar radiation and multiband studies of isolated pulsars
  • Theory and low frequency radio observations of the Double Neutron Star binary PSR J0737-3039
  • Formation and evolution of binary or millisecond pulsars and Cataclysmic Variables in globular clusters

Scientific Publications

See list at:

Scientific accomplishments

  • Investigation of the tidal capture of a neutron star in a globular cluster and the role of coupling of orbital energy with tidal oscillations, their dissipation and the overall effect on the structure of the non-compact star and binary evolution, 1984--1986
  • Demonstration of filled neutron-shell unblocking of electron capture in stellar collapse and the development of a stellar collapse computational code, 1983--1984
  • Calculation of weak-interaction reactions in presupernova stars at high temperature and density; development of a computer code for reaction rates, 1989--1999
  • Computation of the neutrino spectrum from a stellar collapse and what terrestrial neutrino detectors may see in the event of a nearby galactic supernova, 1995--1999
  • The conjecture and the development of its consequences of an evolutionary link between AM Herculis and Intermediate Polars class of magnetic Cataclysmic Variables namely that the asynchronous IPs are the progenitor of the synchronous AM Her systems and suggesting a dividing line between synchronous (AM Her) and asynchronous systems (IPs), 1983--1984
  • Observational and theoretical investigations of X-ray, optical and high energy emission of rotation powered pulsars, including millisecond pulsars, 1996--2003
  • Investigations on the nature of the exploding stars based on optical, X-ray, and radio emission from core collapse Supernovae and their interactions with the surrounding medium. Identification of the binary nature of the progenitor of SN 1993J. Discovery of a synchrotron break in its radio spectrum, and implications for the ionized plasma in the shock-surrounding medium interaction region and acceleration of electrons, 1993--2007
  • Detection of a radio counterpart of the giant outburst from SGR 1806-20 on 27 Dec 2004 and the argument for the rapidly decaying radio emission being inconsistent with the afterglow model for gamma-ray bursts, which instead arises from the debris ejected during the explosion, 2005

Professional Society Memberships

  • International Astronomical Union (member Commission 35: Stellar Constitution) 1985--
  • Astronomical Society of India 2001--

Fellowships and Research Grants

  • NAS-NRC Senior Research Associate at NASA/GSFC, 1996--1998
  • PI and Co-PI of Theoretical Astrophysics grants to TIFR by Govt. of India under four Five Year Plans, 1992-2012
  • Co-investigator: U.S. National Science Foundation project under the India-US Science Cooperation Program between Tata Institute and Univ of Chicago, 1987--1992
    • Investigations on Supernova Physics
    • Cray Supercomputer time at NCSA, UIUC for above project
  • International Astronomical Union (I.A.U.) Travel Fellowship under Exchange of Astronomers Program, 1986
  • National Science Talent Search Scholarship (Govt of India), 1967-1971
  • National Scholarship -- Certificate of Merit (Govt of India), 1967

Telescope Time Allocations (Peer reviewed)

  • PI and Co-investigator of Guest Observer programs for projects on supernovae and pulsars , 1996-2007 with
    • Chandra X-ray Observatory
    • XMM-Newton Observatory
    • ESO 8.2m Very Large Telescope
    • Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope
    • Ooty Radio Telescope
    • Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer
    • Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA)

Supervision of Postdoctoral & Doctoral Researchers & M.Sc. Students

  • Postdoctoral:
    • Dr. Manjari Bagchi (Postdoctoral Scholar @TIFR) Ph.D. (Jadavpur Univ) 2007
  • Ph.D.:
    • N. Rathnasree (Director, Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi) Ph.D. (T.I.F.R.) 1992
    • Firoza Sutaria (Reader, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore; formerly Humboldt Fellow, TU Munich, Germany) Ph.D. (T.I.F.R.) 1997
    • Poonam Chandra (Jansky Postdoctoral Fellow of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Univ Virginia, USA) Ph.D. (I.I.Sc.) 2005
  • Summer Students (VSRP: Visiting Students Research Program):
    • Vinita Ramachandran (M.Sc. Physics), University of Madras, 1987
    • Ranjit Gadgil (M.Sc. Physics), Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, 1992
    • Roshan Kamat (B.E. Electrical Engg) Bombay University 1995
    • Shweta Sundararajan (M.Sc. Physics), IIT Madras, 2001 (Currently Ph.D. student at Univ Illinois, Urbana, Astronomy)

Teaching Experience

Graduate courses at T.I.F.R. and the Joint Astronomy Program (Ph.D.) of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the M.Sc. (Physics) course of of T.I.F.R. and that of Bombay Univ. with Astronomy specialization in the following subjects, 1985--
  • Electrodynamics
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • High Energy Astrophysics
  • Nuclear Astrophysics
  • Electricity & Magnetism (M.Sc.)
Invited Lectures at Advanced Schools for doctoral students e.g., under the Science and Engineering Research Council, Govt of India:
  • Workshop on Physics and Astrophysics of Hardrons and Hadronic Matter, at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, Nov 2006
  • School on Low Energy Nuclear Astrophysics at Saha Inst., Calcutta, Jan 2006
  • Einstein Symposium, Department of Physics, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, Jan 2006
  • 5th SERC School on Nuclear Physics at Panjab Univ, Chandigarh, 2003
  • SERC School on Stellar Astrophysics at Vainu Bappu Observatory, Indian Inst. Astrophys., 1994
  • Several Workshops organized by the Inter University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA)

Organization of Professional Meetings & Conferences

  • Member, Scientific Organising Committee ``Supernova 1987A: Twenty Years After: SNe and GRBs", Aspen, Colorado, USA, Feb 2007
  • Organized the International Workshop on Supernovae, Pulsars, and GRBs at Bombay; Co-Chair with R. McCray, Jan 2004 (Edited this Workshop Proceedings in web format & CD media, 2005)
  • Organized the School & Workshop on Supernovae & Stellar Evolution at Goa: (with T. Velusamy), Feb 1989 (Edited the Proceedings of Goa Workshop, World Scientific 1991)

Other Professional Activities and Organisational Experience

  • Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Physics Ph.D. program at T.I.F.R., 2003--2005.

  • Member, Subject Board of Physics (oversees the instructional program of T.I.F.R. as a Deemed University), 2005--2006.

    This Board deals with all academic issues of Graduate Studies, e.g. admission, course-work, syllabus, research evaluation, examinations, etc.

  • Member, search committee for Faculty recruitment (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics), TIFR, 2003--2006.

  • Member, nominating committee for the Executive Council of the Astronomical Society of India, 2003--2006.

    Technical Experience

    I have written, maintained and updated computer codes using Fortran (several thousand lines of instructions) to simulate stellar collapse and neutrino matter interactions and other weak-interaction processes in supernova explosions.

    I have extensive experience with computing systems running different genres of UNIX.

    I have some experience of analyzing data from X-ray astronomy satellites.

    Professional Visits and Invited Talks

    • Oxford University, Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics, Mar 2007
    • Queen Mary College, University of London, Dept. of Mathematics, Mar 2007
    • Queen's University Belfast, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Mar 2007
    • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Mar 2007
    • Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Newport News, Virginia, Mar 2007
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville, Virginia, Mar 2007
    • Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics & Cosmology and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Feb 2007
    • Univ. of Oklahoma, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Norman, Oklahoma, Feb 2007
    • Aspen Center for Physics, Workshop on Supernova 1987A: 20 years later; Aspen, Colorado, Feb 2007
    • Joint Inst. of Laboratory Astrophysics, Univ of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, Feb 2007
    • Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, May 2006
    • Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta, Jan 2006
    • Physics Dept, Visva Bharati (University), Santiniketan, Jan, Nov 2006
    • Padua University, Astronomical Observatory, May 2003
    • Oxford University, Dept. of Astrophysics, Apr 2003
    • Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen, Colorado, Aug 1999
    • Inst. for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara (Supernova Prog.) Oct-Nov 1997
    • Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Berkeley Oct 1997
    • Istituto Fisica di Cosmica del CNR, Milano, Apr 1998
    • Physics Dept., Kansas State University, Apr 1997
    • Institute for Nuclear Theory, Univ of Washington, Seattle, Aug 1996
    • Nanjing Normal University, China, the First Sino-Indian School on High Energy Astrophysics, Apr 1995
    • Institute for Astrophysics, University of Bonn, Germany, Aug 1994
    • Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre, Warsaw, Poland, Jul - Sep 1992
    • Inst. for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, ``Neutron stars in binary systems" Jun 1991
    • National Centre for Supercomputer Applications, UIUC, Aug - Sep 1990
    • Univ of California at Santa Cruz (Lick Observatory) Jul- Aug 1989
    • Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen, Colorado, Jun 1989
    • California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Dec 1986
    • Univ of British Columbia & Dominion Astrophys Observatory, Canada, Dec 1986
    • Univ of Washington, Dept of Astronomy, Seattle, Nov, Dec 1986
    • Univ of Illinois, Urbana, Oct, Nov 1986
    • Univ of Virginia, Charlottesville, Sep 1986

    Public Understanding of Science and Scientific Issues

    • ``Bombs at the edge of galaxy'', May 8, 2005, The Sunday Statesman, Calcutta, Sunday Magazine section, p. 7;
    • Interview in the TV Channel `Sahara Samay' about the December 2004 outburst of SGR 1806-20, May 14, 2005
    • ``New stars and cosmic explosions early in the last millennium'' in ``Mother India", Monthly Review of Culture, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, Sept and Oct issues, p 741 and p 814 (2000). See website:
    • ``Nuclear Winter: the Ultimate Catastrophe'' in ``Economic Scene", p. 62, Nov 1984

    Personal Information

    Family status: married with one child (15 years); Nationality: Citizen of India

    Alak K. Ray 06-June-2007