Arnab Rai Choudhuri
Department of Physics
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore 560 012, India
Email: arnab[at]
Phone: 080-2360-3481 (Off), 080-2360-3664 (Res.)
Fax: 080-2360-2602

Brief World Line :

After completing my BSc from Presidency College, Kolkata, in 1978 and my MSc from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, in 1980, I went to University of Chicago for my graduate studies and completed my PhD in 1985 under the supervision of Prof. E.N. Parker. I returned to India in 1987 to take up a faculty position at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. While Bangalore has been my home turf for many years, I have spent some extended periods in visiting postions at various organizations around the world. More details of my world line are given down below in this webpage.

Research Interests :

I am a theoretical astrophysicist working on MHD problems in astrophysics--primarily related to the Sun, although I have worked on other astrophysical systems (AGNs, jets, accretion, pulsars) as well. I am also interested in history of science.

I have a Google Scholar Page listing my publications and their citations. The generation of solar magnetic fields by the dynamo process and the formation of sunspots by the buoyant rise of flux tubes are the two subjects on which I have written the maximum number of papers.

To read a non-technical account about some of the research being done in our group, click here.

My Books :
The first two of these books are graduate level textbooks, whereas the third one is a popular science book. By clicking on the titles of these books, you can go to the Amazon websites of these books. These websites give excerpts from the reviews of these books and also allow you to read a few pages for free.

The book The Physics of Fluids and Plasmas was released by Uriel Frisch. You can read his speech at the book release by clicking here.

Honours :

I am a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (elected 2005), the National Academy of Sciences of India (elected 2008), the Indian National Science Academy (elected 2011) and The World Academy of Sciences, TWAS (elected 2016).

I was a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (1994 -- 1995, 2002) and am at present a recipient of the J C Bose Fellowship (for the period 2010 -- 2020).

Two papers from our group (Choudhuri, Chatterjee and Jiang 2007, PRL 98, 131103; Choudhuri and Karak 2012, PRL 109, 171103) have been selected as "Editors' suggestion" in Physical Review Letters -- one of the world's highest honours for a physics paper. My book Astophysics for Physicists was selected as an "Outstanding Academic Title of 2010" by Choice, the magazine of the American Library Association.

After receiving the National Science Talent Search (NSTS) Scholarship during my undergradute years (1974 -- 1980), I received the Shirley Farr Fellowship (1980 -- 1981) for my graduate studies at the University of Chicago and won the Valentine Telegdi Prize for topping the physics candidacy examination there (in 1981). I have received the Rustom Choksi Award for Excellence in Research from the Indian Institute of Science (in 2012).

Services for the Scientific Community :

I am an elected member of the Steering Committee, Division E Sun and Heliosphere, Intenational Astronomical Union, for two terms (2012 -- 2015, 2015 -- 2018).

I played a key role in running the Joint Astronomy Programme, the graduate programme which produced many of India's best astrophysicits, and was the Convenor of this Programme during 2000 -- 2007.

I have taken keen interest in increasing scientific co-operation in solar physics within the Asia-Pacific region. I was one of the main organizers of the First Asia-Pacific Solar Physics Meeting and edited its Proceedings (with Dipankar Banerjee). I have been a member of the founding Editorial Board of the journal Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics established in this region in 2009 and am currently a Co-Executive Editor.

The Solar Dynamo and Our Code Surya :

The solar dynamo theory explains the origin of the sunspot cycle. Although it has the reputation of being a difficult subject, any person with a good background of mathematical physics at an advanced undergraduate level can actually learn it quite easily! In a Winter School in Kodaikanal during December 2006, I delivered a series of lectures giving a pedagogical introduction to solar dynamo theory. You can see my lecture notes by clicking here.

I and my students have developed a code named Surya (a Sanskrit word meaning the Sun) for solving the basic equations of solar dynamo theory. I have prepared a guide for using this code and made it public in 2005. If you are interested in using the code Surya, send a request to me through e-mail.

Educational Background :

1974--1978             Bachelor's degree student, Presidency College, Calcutta University
            (B.Sc. with Physics Honours, 1978; First Division)
1978--1980             Master's degree student, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
            ( Physics, 1980; First Class with Distinction)
1980--1985             Doctoral degree student, University of Chicago
            (Ph.D. in Physics, 1985)
            Supervisor: Prof. E. N. Parker

Postdoctoral Job Experience :

1985--1987            Visiting Scientist, High Altitute Observatory,
            National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, U.S.A.

Faculty Job Experience :

1987--1990            Lecturer, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
1990--1996             Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
1996--2002            Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
2002--             Professor, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Visiting Positions :

Summer 1989 : Visiting Scientist, Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, USA.
Summer 1991 : Visiting Scientist, Department of Applied Mathematics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
August 1994--July 1995 (Sabbatical Leave) : Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Kiepenheuer Institut für Sonnenphysik, Freiburg, Germany.
Summer 2000 : Visiting Professor, Department of Physics, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Summer 2002 : Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, Lindau, Germany.
November--December 2004 : Visting Professor, Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge University, UK.
November--December 2004 : Visting Professor, Department of Astronomy, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary.
Summer 2006 : Visiting Professor, National Astronomical Observatories of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Summer 2012 : Visiting Professor, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan.

Research Supervision :

I supervised the doctoral work of the following students:
The following students did parts of their doctoral dissertations with me while enrolled in other place:

Here is a photograph of mine with some of my students.

My Teaching :

I have taught the following courses at the Indian Institute of Science over the years.

Undergraduate level course:
Graduate level basic physics courses:
Graduate level astrophysics courses:

My Papers :

I give below links to what are possibly my most significant papers. Anybody interested in judging me as a scientist should look at these particular papers.
My own perspective of solar dynamo theory is presented in the following reviews. The first two of these were invited papers in special journal issues to commemorate respectively the 100th birth anniversary of S. Chandrasekhar and the 125th birth anniversary of C.V. Raman.

My Interest in History of Science :

My interest in history, philosophy and sociology of science was kindled during my graduate student days at the University of Chicago, where I had the privilege of taking courses on this subject taught by several eminent scholars (Robert Richards, Joseph Ben-David, Edward Shils, Noel Swerdlow, David Malament). One instructor of a course (Robert Richards) liked my term paper and urged me to expand it into a full research paper, which appreared in the journal Social Studies of Science.
As my interest in this subject grew, it started interfering with my astrophysics research. I had a long conversation about this with my supervisor Gene Parker, who told me that he had to give up chess, the passion of his youth, to pursue astrophysics. If somebody had two serious academic interests, he argued that they should be pursued in different stages of life. Somebody trying to pursue two different interests simultaneously will excel in none. This conversation made a deep impression on me. As I grew more involved with astrophysics, I could spare no time for my other interest for three decades -- always thinking that I shall again come back to it at some later stage of life.

While recovering from cancer treatment in 2014, I realized that this was the time to return to my other interest if I wanted to return to it at all. From then onwards, I have been involved in a study of the beginnings of modern science in colonial India. The main difficulty in carrying on this study is that most organizations in India did not make much efforts to preserve historically important documents. It is extremely difficult to get primary source materials to carry on such a historical study. I have discussed this problem in my invited paper for the centenary of Calcutta University Science College.
In spite of this difficulty, I am pursuing this study as best as I can. I shall be glad to hear from anybody who can provide any help with source materials for this study.

My Writings in Bengali :

My mother tongue is Bengali and I had a traditional Bengali upbringing -- growing up with the great works of Bengali literature. I always had a desire of writing on scientific topics in Bengali. The pressure of making a scientific career in astrophysics left me very little time to do that. For those who read Bengali, here are some samples of my rare writings in Bengali.
[1] was written with two of my college classmates when I was 20 years old, on the occasion of the re-union of Presidency College Physics Department held in December 1976. We compiled the first history of this department, with which such luminaries of Indian science as J.C. Bose, P.C. Mahalanobis and A.K. Raychaudhuri had been associated. [2] was written in 2001 when not many bright students in India were coming to study basic sciences. It explained what is involved in making a scientific career. It was published in the literary magazine Disha, got some attention and was reprinted several times. What is linked is the reprint in the e-magazine Maskabari. [3] argues that it is important for Indian physicists to write about scientific themes for common readers in their mother tongue and was written for the 2014 re-union of Presidency College Physics Department.

Perhaps after my retirement in a few years (our retirement age is 65), I can do more writing in Bengali. Hopefully there will be publishers willing to publish my writings and readers willing to read them!

My only other connection with Bengali literature is the translation of a powerful anti-nuclear poem by the poet Jay Goswami, written immediately after the Pokhran II nuclear test conducted by the Government of India (on 11 May 1998). I had some friends in an anti-nulcear activist group and translated the poem at their request. A Bit of My Personal Life :

I was born on 9 Novmeber 1956 and grew up in the bustling city of Kolkata. My father Sunil Rai Choudhuri (3 October 1926 -- 30 June 2009) was a professor of political science and retired as the Pricipal of Presidency College, Kolkata. My mother Sulekha (1 February 1927 -- 16 August 2006) was a homemaker. They were classmates in Presidency College soon after it had been converted to a co-educational college from a boys' college. Their marriage was the first marriage between classmates in the history of that college!

I have a sister Aparna (b. 29 February 1964). I got married to Mahua Ghosh (b. 23 April 1962) on 4 January 1990. She is a physics teacher at Mount Carmel College in Bangalore. We have two sons -- Arka (b. 19 May 1992) and Mukul (b. 16 January 1997).

I am a cancer suvivor -- having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2013 and treated with chemo- and radio-therapies. It is amazing to think that chemotherapy drugs for treating Hodgkin's lymphoma started being developed only from the 1960s. Even at the time when I was born, the only path ahead of a Hodgkin's lymphoma patient was a painful death. While I seem to have survived (thanks to the tremendous support from many family members and friends, in addition to the advances in medical science), this brush with death has given me a new perspective of life. Also, because of my uncertain health conditions for some time after the cancer treatment, I decided that it will not be correct for me to take any more PhD students. I have tremedously enjoyed working with my students and whatever little I achieved in solar physics would have been impossible without the assistance from my students. The decision of not taking students made it clear that I have to choose academic activities that I can carry on without students.

Outside of physics, my interests are philosophy, history, literature and art, as well as travelling, to learn about different lands and cultures. In order to make a career in astrophysics, I had to sacrifice my many other interests. In spite of my fascination with Sanskrit literature on the basis of my incomplete knowledge of Sanskrit, I never managed to have time to learn Sanskrit better (we unfortunately live in a troublesome time when it becomes important to emphasize that my interest in Sanskrit is purely academic and has nothing to do with Hindu fundamentalism). Although I enjoyed painting as a kid, I could never follow it up after high school. After crossing the age of 60 and surviving cancer, now I feel that I should try to spare more time for my other interests. I am, of course, deeply involved in the study of history of physics already and plan to phase out my solar physics research by 2018 (after my last PhD student graduates) to devote my full time as an academic to this new study. Since I have enjoyed working on solar physics so tremendously, I realize more and more that it is not easy to part ways with my mistress of nearly four decades!

If I am lucky to have a few more years of healthy life, then, apart from doing serious research on history of science, I want to pursue my several other interests which I could not pursue due to the pressure of making a career in astrophysics -- studying philosophy (serious analytical philosophy, not spiritualism) in some depth, writing on scientific themes in Bengali, learning Sanskrit well, perhaps taking up painting again. Well, this is an ambitious wish list and I shall see. . .

My CV :

You can see my CV by clicking here.