Heart of a lion, mind of a champion, a towering personality in academia, Padma Shri Prof K L Chopra is no more. Never afraid to debate on controversial issues, fearless even if it meant ruffling a few feathers, Prof Chopra was unique in his qualities and capabilities. In academic circles, he was the rarest of the rare. After migrating from Gujrawala Pakistan, Prof Chopra obtained Masters in Physics from Delhi University, PhD from University of British Columbia, and worked in R&D positions for 17 long years in different institutions across the globe. He joined IIT Delhi as Senior Professor, established the thin film laboratory there, and served many institutions sincerely and honestly.
Prof. Chopra was an iconic figure in the country who embodied several personalities. An institution builder, a great educationist, a serious scientist and a good communicator all rolled into one. Persuaded by the HRD ministry of GOI to rejuvenate the very first IIT at Kharagpur , he served as its Director for two terms of 10 years in a unique precedent. Known globally for his numerous research publications, several books on Thin Film, patents and know-how transfers to industry, honoured by various academic institutions and professional societies, KLC was conferred the Padma Shri by the government of India. After retirement, he served IITD as IREDA Chair Prof in the area of Solar Energy and was a Distinguished Honorary Professor at several premier academic institutions and Advisor/ Consultant to several industries.
The book, “Battleground”, on him attributes several institutional changes to the personal leadership and working style of Prof K.L. Chopra. The book highlights his qualities and working habits that were critical factors that shaped the 10 dynamic years he spent from 1987 to 1997 in IIT Kgp. His first book, Thin Film Phenomena, published in 1969 is still considered as the Bible for students.
He was given the Life Time Contribution Award in Engineering by Indian National Academy of Engineering and the ISI (USA) Citation Laureate award for being one of the 8 “most highly cited” scientists of India. He was elected as Fellow of all Science and Engineering Academies of India. Prof Chopra will always be remembered for his never ending energy and for being a role model for many of his students, colleagues and disciples.
He inspired many generations of scientists. His invaluable contribution in nurturing Indian science at all levels, including shaping Indian science policy, is deeply responsible for the significance of Indian science in recent times.
At the age of 75, he was active as ever, chairing expert committee meetings, answering research scholars’ queries and doing a host of other academic things – all with equal ease. He developed a unique style of experiencing science and believed that it was more important to invent a thing yourself than to produce it. NIT Srinagar shall remember his contribution for extending support to organising INSPIRE and Internal Conferences. He was known for his conviviality. He showed excellent professional performance with an extraordinary attitude. Many including Prof Rajat Gupta (Director NIT Mizoram), Prof Rakesh Sehgal (Director NIT Srinagar) and Dr M J Zarabi (Former Chairperson NIT Srinagar) lost their friend and we (me and Prof Kamal K Kar) lost a well wisher and mentor-like father figure.
The writer is Associate Professor at PG Department of Physics, National Institute of Technology Srinagar. [email protected]