College of Arts & Sciences Chemist Travels the Globe as Ambassador of Science and UM

Professor V. Ramamurthy Spent Two Months in Japan as JSPS International Fellow, Heading to India for Four Months as Fulbright-Nehru Senior Fellow

V. Ramamurthy, professor and former chair of chemistry in the UM College of Arts & Sciences, has barely gotten over his jetlag. He recently returned from a two-month stay in Japan, where he was a Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

Dr. V. Ramamurthy with the research group of
Dr. Haruo Inoue, Project Leader of AN APPLE,
Japan.

But he’s already busy preparing for his next overseas adventure. Early next month, Ramamurthy will travel to India as a 2014 Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair. This program, administered by the U.S. Department of State and the India-based United States India Educational Foundation, offers just four scholars nationwide an opportunity to spend four months in India to teach graduate-level classes, deliver guest lectures, participate in conferences, and assist with program development/curriculum design. He plans to give lectures at 30 institutions and four international conferences while in India, where he will be traveling extensively.

Researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University applied to JSPS to bring Ramamurthy to campus for the fellowship, due to his expertise in photochemistry.

“In Japan, there is a major thrust to invent new sources of energy,” he said. “Japan is putting significant resources into this program.”

Dr. V. Ramamurthy receiving the Elsevier Award
from Japanese Photochemistry Association
President Dr. Hiroaki Misawa.

He added that waning supplies of natural energy resources (oil and coal), and risks associated with nuclear power, led to the creation of the All Nippon Artificial Photosynthesis Project for Living Earth (AN APPLE). This initiative is aimed at creating cost-effective solar energy solutions.

 “This is a major applied project in Japan,” Ramamurthy said. “Finding a new source of energy is as important as extending life expectancy by finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. The AN Apple project is clearly a goal-oriented one; the sponsors are looking for products, not papers.”

AN APPLE researchers are investigating “how plants absorb sunlight and produce chemicals, using energy from light,” Ramamurthy said. Ramamurthy served as an advisor to the project, conducting outreach and sharing his experiences in the lab and beyond.

He also traveled to seven laboratories (from Sapporo to Hiroshima) in Japan, where research sponsored by AN APPLE is being carried out.

Although he has been to Japan numerous times, this was Ramamurthy’s longest visit to the country. He enjoyed his time among the “very conscientious and hard-working” colleagues there. “They do not waste any time and their mindset is different from ours,” he said.

During his fellowship, Ramamurthy received the inaugural Elsevier award from the Japanese Photochemical Society. “It is meant for a photochemist who has advanced the field,” he said.

Ramamurthy is on sabbatical this year, allowing him to take advantage of the two international fellowship programs. “It is good to go away and build relationships with scientists outside the USA,” he said. “I am gaining an international perspective on how science is done and what is important.”

Ramamurthy earned his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in 1974, and did postdoctoral work at both the University of Western Ontario and Columbia University.

He gained experience in the private sector, spending seven years working at The DuPont Company. He came to UM from Tulane University, where he was Bernard-Baus Professor of Chemistry for 10 years.

November 18, 2014