The Scientist Who Surprised a Bank Manager


Dr Ashoke Sen (photo credit : Infosys Science Foundation)

In August, 2012, Dr. Sumathi Rao, wife of Dr. Ashoke Sen, a theoretical physicist,  got a franatic call from a startled bank manager at Bank of Baroda located on the Harish Chandra Institute campus, Jhusi, Allahabad. The Bank Manager asked for Dr. Sen. On being informed that Dr Sen was abroad to receive an award, the manager requested Dr Sumathi, herself a physicist,  if she would know the antecedents of a wire transfer of USD 3 million( Rs. 16 crores) which had been made to Dr Sen’s savings account that morning.

The USD 3 million was the prize money from the inaugural  Fundamental Physics prize started by Yuri Milner, the internet tycoon and part owner of Face book. The prize which is double of the Nobel Prize has as its stated objective of making heroes of scientists.

Dr Sen has made original contribution to the string theory and changed the course of global research in the subject. String theory is a complex mathematical model which tries to explain the unresolved aspects of the Standard Model in particle physics. In layman terms it postulates that a fundamental particle is not a point but a string and its characteristic property depends on its oscillation. However despite path breaking work, Dr Sen can never hope to win the Nobel Prize, which is only given for experimentally verified theories. The energy needed in the accelerator to study strings experimentally is quite some way off.

De Ashoke Sen, India’s most well known physicist in current times, got his Bsc in Physics from Presidency College, Kolkata (1975), Masters from IIT Kanpur and PhD from State University of New York, Stony Brook (1982). He has worked at Fermi lab and Stanford before returning to India, and is presently professor at the exclusive Harishchandra Research Institute, Allahabad.

In 1998 he was made the Fellow of the Royal Society, his name being nominated by none other than Stephen Hawking. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2013.

BBC quoted Prof Sen “there are no excuses for theoretical physicists not to perform and deliver’. Prof Sen has certainly delivered.

And for the Bank of Baroda, Jhusi branch, Prof Sen is more than a star scientist, he is their star customer.

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