Thursday Dec 08, 2022
Ganapathy Baskaran on physics, biology, and global science
Ganapathy Baskaran is an acclaimed physicist known for his foundational contributions to condensed matter physics, strongly correlated quantum materials, and high-temperature superconductivity. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, India, and a Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at Perimeter. He is also a masterful storyteller who, in this episode, tells Lauren and Colin about his upbringing in India, the people who inspire him, and his time in the developing world. Baskaran reflects on a lifetime of exploring some of nature’s most fundamental mysteries, and discusses the similarities and differences that he sees between condensed matter physics and biology. View the episode transcript here.
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Conversations at the Perimeter is co-hosted by Perimeter Teaching Faculty member Lauren Hayward and journalist-turned-science communicator Colin Hunter. In each episode, they chat with a guest scientist about their research, the challenges they encounter, and the drive that keeps them searching for answers.
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Baskaran expresses deep gratitude for the people who helped him on his journey, like his high school math teacher, Mr. S.V. Savarimuthu, and his English teacher, Rev. Fr. K.S. Arulanandam, S.J. Baskaran also reached out after our recorded conversation to extend his thanks to others who have impacted his career, including Dr. Rajaram Nityananda, a contemporary graduate student (from National Aeronautical Laboratory, Bangalore) during his PhD days in Bangalore. “Rajaram is one of the most selfless persons I have ever met,” says Baskaran. It was Rajaram who introduced Baskaran to seminal work by P.W. Anderson, a later collaborator of Baskaran’s.
“In 1977, H.R. Krishnamurthy arrived from Cornell and explained to us the intricacies of the Kondo phenomenon, valence fluctuation, and how to understand them using the quantum RG approach (built on Anderson’s poor man’s scaling theory) that Krishnamurthy, Wilkinson, and Wilson had just developed. Anderson’s masterly role in modern condensed matter physics was manifest. Strong correlation physics, including Mott insulators, was in the air,” Baskaran says.
Later in his career, Baskaran worked with professors who played a “lifting role” in his life, including R. Rajaraman, G. Rajasekaran, and Erio Tosatti.
“I am thankful to my school, college, teachers, friends, my family, my mom Leelavathy, my dad Ganapathy, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, my wife Whiterose, my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren.”
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