Distinguished visiting professor Ram Rao was awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize for his research in material chemistry.
Rao shares the prestigious award with Harvard University chemist George Whitesides and chemical engineer Robert Langer of MIT. The Dan David Prize, sponsored by the Dan David Foundation in association with Tel Aviv University in Israel, is an international award given to scientists who conduct research on cutting edge technologies.
“Its just like the Nobel Prize, its the same value,” Rao said. “The prize is awarded to research that has promise in the future.”
Rao said he will use the stipend, which he received in late February, to continue his research on material chemistry – his specialty field.
“My work deals with materials, inventing and creating new types of materials with various behavioral properties,” Rao said. “For example, if there is a need for new kinds of superconductors or new kinds of porous materials, I create them.”
Rao is one of the world’s leading scientists in the field of nanotechnology, which is the study of small materials – invisible to the naked eye – used in many of the latest electronics.
“I make very tiny particles or thin wires that are only two or three nanometers in diameter, so the properties of these materials are completely different,” Rao said. “Nanotechnology has a great future. Computers are going to become smaller and smaller in time and you will need to use nanomaterials, so we work with these new technologies.”
A native of India, Rao is also quite influential in his home country. He received the $70,000 Indian Science Award for his accomplishments as the nation’s chair of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister on Feb. 28, the same date he received the Dan David Award.
“You don’t get many days like that in one life where you win two awards in one day,” Rao said.
This is the first year the Indian Science Award has been given and Rao said he is pleased to be the first person to receive it.
“Its a highly prestigious award because the Indian government only honored one scientist who has made the greatest contribution to the country, and this is the first time they have done it,” Rao said.
He is also the Linus Pauling research professor and honorary president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India. Besides his accomplishments in India and the U.S., Rao is also a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, president of the Third World Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Although he has responsibilities around the world, Rao said he is able to balance his time between countries.
“I work in India often, and I am there on average 20 days a month,” Rao said. “The rest of the time I am here, and I occasionally will spend a few days in Europe a month; it’s not hard.”
Rao said out of all his experiences with scientific institutions, UCSB tops his list.
“I consider UC Santa Barbara as one of the top schools in the country,” Rao said. “It is the world’s best in materials research in the world today, that’s why I came here.”