Deepak Dhar is an Indian theoretical physicist who is known for his research on statistical physics and stochastic processes. In 2022, he became the first ever Indian scientist to be chosen for the Boltzmann Medal which is the highest recognition in statistical physics awarded once every three years by IUPAP, for exceptional contributions to the subject.
Deepak Dhar was born on Tuesday, 30 October 1951 (age 71 years; as of 2022) in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. His zodiac sign is Scorpio. He did his graduation in science from the University of Allahabad in 1970. He was a National Science Talent Search (NSTS) scholar when he joined Allahabad University. In 1972, he pursued a master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He moved to the US in 1978 and enrolled for his doctoral studies under the guidance of Jon Mathews at the California Institute of Technology. He was inspired by reading the textbook by Reif where he was attracted by the logical structure of Physics. His interest in science started because his father used to bring home popular science books and asked him to read them. When he was in college, his NSTS advisor Vipin Kumar Agrawal used to encourage him to read science books other than textbooks. He used to participate in the ‘summer camps’ conducted for NSTS scholars. There used to be lectures conducted by eminent scientists and professors. When he joined IIT Kanpur, he met fellow students who were interested in pursuing an academic career. In an interview, he said that the environment at IIT was different from that of Allahabad where everyone was interested in Indian Administrative Services. When he was at IIT, he got a chance to interact with lecturers such as HS Mani, DC Khan and Kalyan Banerji. After he went on to pursue further studies in the US, he was picked up by a local host arranged by the student welfare office at Caltech because new students had to stay with the local hosts at their house for two-three days. In an interview, he said that he struggled a lot with the American accents of the professors. As a college student, he enjoyed solving simple math problems he saw in magazines. His recreational mathematical problems were published in the Sunday supplement pages of magazines.
Height (approx.): 5′ 5″
Hair Colour: Grey (Semi-Bald)
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Murli Dhar and his mother’s name is Rama Gupta.
Wife & Children
Dhar is married to Manju. Together they have two children.
After pursuing his PhD, he returned to India to start his career as a research fellow at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). In 1980, after two years of research, he became a full-time fellow and worked till 1986. In 1986, he was promoted as the reader. Before getting retired from the service, he held various positions at TIFR such as an associate professor (1991) and professor grades from G to J (1995–2008). He had a one-year sabbatical at the University of Paris as a visiting scientist from 1984 to 1985. In May 2006, he had a month-long stint at Isaac Newton Institute as a Rothschild Professor. He was also a distinguished professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. He worked on the statistical mechanics and kinetics of random lattices and his work understands statistical physics and stochastic processes. He takes credit to introduce the spectral dimension concept in the studies of fractals and contributed to developing a methodology for determining their critical phenomena using real-space renormalization group techniques which was the first time the mathematical apparatus was used for calculations on nontrivial critical exponents on fractals. He developed a new model the Dhar-Ramaswamy model by working with Ramakrishna Ramaswamy to solve the Abelian sandpile model of self-organized criticality. He proposed the evolution operator which has since been subjected to studies by other researchers as Dhar directed-site animals-enumeration problem by working on the directed-site animals-enumeration problem using the Bethe ansatz method. He also demonstrated the predominance of slow flipping of isolated unfrustrated clusters in auto-correlation functions and proposed models of metastable glassy states in stochastic evolution. Around 113 of his studies have been documented in articles by the online article repository of the Indian Academy of Sciences. He works as an associate editor of the Journal of Statistical Physics, a Springer publication since 2005, where he worked on the editorial board from 1993 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2002. He is an editorial board member of the Indian Journal of Pure and Applied Physics (IJPAP) of the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR). He is a former editorial adviser to Physica A, an Elsevier science journal, and has been associated with journals such as the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, Physical Review E and Pramana as an editorial board member. He was a member of the Commission on Statistical Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics from 1992 to 1995 and a member of the program committee of the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences. On 19 October 2016, he delivered invited speeches and a special lecture on The Curious Relationship Between Physics and Mathematics at the University of Mumbai.
He held the E. P. Anthony fellowship (1972–73) and R. P. Feynman fellowship (1974–76) during his doctoral days at Caltech. In 1990, he was elected as a fellow by the Indian Academy of Sciences. In 1995, he became an elected fellow of the Indian National Science Academy. In 1999, he was elected as a fellow by the National Academy of Sciences. In 2006, he was elected fellow of the World Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected for the J. C. Bose National Fellowship of the Science and Engineering Research Board.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- 1983: Young Scientist Medal of the Indian National Science Academy
- 1991: Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
- 1993: J. Robert Schrieffer Prize by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics
- 2001: Satyendranath Bose Medal by Indian National Science Academy
- 2002: TWAS Prize of The World Academy of Sciences
- 2022: Boltzmann Medal
- 2023: Padma Bhushan
- He was elected fellow of all three major Indian science academies – the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy and the National Academy of Sciences, India. Currently, he is a distinguished professor at the Department of Physics of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune.
- In 2022, he became the first Indian to receive Boltzmann Medal. The prize was shared with John Hopfield.
- After completing his studies, he worked on a model of 3D solid melting, which he later realized was not applicable.
- When he was at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, he discovered a fellow scientist and friend in Prof. Mustansir Barma with whom he published several papers. He did not have any mentor there but his fellows helped him to lead his own research.
- He was part of the TIFR for four decades where he witnessed many changes. In an interview, he said that the money spent on science is more huge now than it was 40 years ago. He further added that people nowadays read much less and write much more, which he thought was not always a good thing.
- In 1990, he solved the sandpile model introduced by three physicists, namely Per Bak, Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld in a 1987 paper.
- While working at TIFR, Dhar was able to break down complex concepts into very simple terms. He was famous for training and influencing a large number of students and colleagues in pursuing the style of theoretical statistical physics.
- In an interview, one of his colleagues said that his desk was always a mess. She further added that only he could find the papers on his table. His wife used to come to the office and re-arranged the table but after some time the table would mess up.
- When he was a professor while giving grades, he used to give marks with decimal digits. He would give an 8.2 or an 8.53 instead of 8.
- Many of the students taught by him started working as a part of the ICTS (International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bengaluru). His students became the best researchers in the field of theoretical physics.
- In an interview, when asked about the effect of the education system in India at the school level, he said,
Yes, I have personally experienced this when I was a child, and later when my daughters were going to school. In fact, in our schools, we do not seem to enable the students to think for themselves and grow. Even practical training like writing essays, that should be aimed at developing the ability of expressing one’s thoughts in words, are converted to mindless essays on “The Cow”: The cow is a domestic animal. It has two eyes, four feet,….”. The student is often punished (the marks are cut) if he/she says anything slightly different. I did find a few teachers that were different, but the vast majority were not.”