Arvind Kumar

Arvind Kumar (b.1943) did his Ph.D. in physics (1969) at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. After two years of post-doctoral research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva (1969-70) and Westfield College (University of London) (1970-71), he taught for 12 years at the University Department of Physics, Mumbai (1971-83). In 1984, he joined the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), a National Centre of TIFR, and was Director (HBCSE) from 1994 till his retirement in 2008.  

Post-retirement, he was Raja Ramanna Fellow at HBCSE till 2013, and has been a Visiting Faculty at the Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences (CEBS), Mumbai till 2020.  He continues to be involved in R&D work at HBCSE, teaching at orientation camps and expository talks. 

His main research interests are theoretical physics and physics education. He has researched in a broad range of areas of theoretical physics: particle theory, quantum black hole physics, atomic and optical physics, and decoherence theory.  In education, he first worked in the area of mathematical modeling and later in the new field of Physics Education Research.  He has research publications in reputed national and International Journals in each of these diverse fields and he has supervised a number of Ph.D. Theses in theoretical physics as well as science education, besides several student research projects at the B.Sc. and M.Sc. levels.

His teaching has been mostly centered around courses in theoretical physics, but his general educational work is wide ranging, spanning across university, college and high school (secondary and higher secondary) stages.  In his four decades of teaching physics at the graduate and undergraduate level (that includes about 15 years of teaching at a weekly Study Circle for physics undergraduates), he has taught nearly every core course of physics theory and a number of specialized courses (Quantum Field Theory, General Relativity, Nuclear and Particle Physics) several times.  At the HBCSE Graduate School in Science Education, he extended his intellectual interests and taught courses on ‘Philosophy of Science’, ‘Learning Theories’ and ‘Cognitive development’ for a few years.   He has more than two decades of experience of teacher orientation and student nurture at the grassroots school level throughout the country in different settings: urban, rural and tribal. 

He has authored/co-authored several curricular, co-curricular and expository books and materials at different levels. A notable effort was his designing of a large number of instructive problems in the national physics textbooks at the senior secondary level brought out by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in the 1990s, which continued through successive editions of the books.  His popular science book, “Chaos, Fractals and Self-Organization” (National Book Trust, 1996) has been translated in Bengali and Marathi.  He co-authored (with Savita Ladage) an undergraduate level book (Basics of Chemical Thermodynamics) in 2019, under HBCSE’s programme of bringing out open-source electronic instructional material for free access.

As part of the Centre's science dissemination effort, he guided and co-scripted a comprehensive exhibition on history of science: "Science-A Human Saga" in the 1990s. Earlier, he wrote and devised two radio programmes: " A Grain of Sand " on Albert Einstein (1981), and "Compliments to Complementarity" on Niels Bohr (1985) for All India Radio, Mumbai.

During his tenure at HBCSE, he chaired or was a member of several apex committees in the country in the areas of education and science communication.  He was a member of the National Steering Committee for National Curriculum Frame-work (2005), wherein he chaired the Focus Group on Teaching of Science set up as part of the effort.  Earlier, he had participated in the design of UGC (University Grants Commission) curriculum for B.Sc. (1991).

He played a central role in launching the Science Olympiad Programme in India in 1998. Under his leadership, HBCSE soon became the nodal Centre of the country for academic Olympiads in basic sciences, including astronomy. He chaired the organization of International Olympiads hosted by India in Chemistry (2001), Astronomy (2006) and Biology (2008).  He also contributed significantly to the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (a talent search programme at the high school stage) of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore for many years from its inception.   

In 2004, he initiated a major new programme at HBCSE:  National Initiative on Undergraduate Science (NIUS) aimed at motivating science undergraduates towards research. He was also involved in a number of other national initiatives aimed at attracting meritorious students to science. In particular, he played a key academic role (design of entrance test and curriculum) in the initial phase of the setting up of the CEBS in 2007-2008.  

He helped establish a unique Ph.D. School in Science Education at HBCSE, as part of the Graduate Studies at TIFR (A Deemed University).  In 2001, he initiated the organization of the periodic International Conference ‘EPISTEME’ by HBCSE to encourage the growth of this field in the country and enhance professional contact with scholars in the field abroad.  

He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India.  He received the Indian National Science Academy’s INSA Teacher award (2014) for college/university education, the Third World Academy of Sciences’ TWAS Regional Prize for work in school education (2009) and the Indian Nuclear Society’s INS Science Communication award (2003).  He also received the prestigious Godavari Gaurav award from Kusumagraj Pratishthan (a prominent cultural organization in Maharashtra) in 2006. He was President of the 41st Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Vidnyan Adhiveshan, Vani in 2006.

In 2010, he was awarded ‘Padma Shri’ by the Hon’ble President of India ‘for distinguished service in the field of education’. 

November 2021