by Panos Charitos. Published: 19 November 2012

Dinesh Kumar Srivastava
an eminent nuclear physicist took is the new director

Dinesh Kumar Srivastava, an eminent nuclear physicist, took over as director of the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), Kolkata, on 1 July, succeeding Rakesh Kumar Bhandari. VECC has a long association with CERN, and is a collaborating institute of the ALICE experiment. The centre, funded by the Department of Atomic Energy of India, carries out frontier research and development both in accelerator science and technology and in theoretical and experimental nuclear science, as well as in other areas such as material and computer science.

Was it a surprise for you? What did your think when you found out that you will be the new director?

I will not say that I was surprised being appointed the Director of VECC. It was in the air for some time. When the news came it gave me a great deal of satisfaction that hard work over decades had been recognized. There is something else which I should mention. I grew up in a quite remote village which has the dubious distinction of being among the 200 poorest villages of India. Starting from there and reaching one of the best laboratories of India and now given the responsibility of leading it fills me with a tremendous faith in the future of India where merit is recognized and nurtured. This job is a challenge but it also offers me tremendous opportunities.

When did your involvement with VECC start?

I joined VECC when it was in project stage in 1971 (the project started in 1969). Initially my job was to set up a library of fortran programs needed for the study of nuclear reactions.

A little later I started using this code to start theoretical study of nuclear reactions. Slowly I was allowed to build a modest group of theoreticians at VECC and in 1989-1990 I started working on the theory of quark gluon plasma.

I provided all the theoretical and teaching support needed for the team which built the Photon Multiplicity Detector for CERN SPS, RHIC, and LHC. Later as the Head of Physics Group, I supervised building of a large number of detectors for use with the super-conducting cyclotron, e.g., a large area modular barium fluoride array for the study of high energy gamma rays, a gamma multiplicity filter, a charged particle detector array, a neutron multiplicity detector etc. I was also in charge of all the research in nuclear physics at low and high energy as well as material sciences. A successful graduate school with slowly increasing number of Ph. D. students was also started during this period and now we have about 35 Ph. D. students and post-docs at VECC.

Which are the main challenges of your new position?

There are two immediate issues: Getting external beam from the super-conducting cyclotron and starting the construction of ANURIB, a national facility of rare ion beams. I would like that the room temperature (K130) cyclotron keeps working as it is a unique facility and we have some modification plans which will make it unique.

We have a project to produce radioactive Ions up to 1-2 MeV/A, which has made great progress, with the first production and acceleration of some radioactive ions. We need to complete it and get experiments started. We have made commitments to FAIR, CBM, and NUSTAR experiments, and we need to meet them. And finally I would like to start a Centre for Nuclear Theory at VECC. Of course while doing all this we need to maintain our place as a lab of excellence.

Inaugaration of the ALICE Centre for data monitoring and analysis in VECC, 2011

What are your plans regarding the collaboration between VECC and ALICE:

I think our collaboration with CERN has given us confidence, exposure, and most importantly a hunger to do better. It has inculcated a resolve to keep doing front line basic research. It also gave us exposure to detector building, modern management, modern computing, e.g., grid, etc. It has taught our colleagues a way to form a team where individual egos are subsumed into the activity of the group. The satisfaction of having participated in the discovery of the Quark Gluon Plasma and its properties cannot be over-emphasized.

I look forward to VECC participating in building of the forward calorimeter for ALICE and to have a GRID-I centre at VECC. I would like our students to continue to participate in the experiments an analysis of data at CERN. I also hope that our theory persons as well as students also get to work regularly at CERN as they are already doing a good job and interacting with the international community will help them get better. Specifically, regarding the physics of ALICE I should mention that we specialize in photons, jet-quenching, hydrodynamics, and heavy quark production and propagation, all that ALICE will continue to study.

Finally, I should mention that I find exciting the possibility that India might become an Associate Member of CERN. I am quite sure that we can make valuable contribution to ISOLDE, RD51, and a large number of accelerator activities.