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Brief Profile of the Awardee


Dr Nissim Kanekar

  • 2017
  • Physical Sciences
  • 11/09/1973
  • Astronomy
Award Citation:

Dr Kanekar has made outstanding contributions to astrophysics including the establishment of stringent observational bounds on the evolution of the electron proton mass ratio and the fine structure constant over cosmological time scales.

Academic Qualifications:
SNODegreeSubjectCGP/MarksYearUniversityAdditional Particular
1B.Sc.Physics71%1993University of Mumbai 
2M.Sc.Physics73.4%1995Pune University 
Thesis and Guide details:
SNOTitle of Ph.D. ThesisName of Guide
1The Large-scale Structure of the UniverseKandaswamy Subramanian
Details of CSIR Fellowship/ Associateship held, if any or from other sources/ agencies.
Significant foreign assignments:
(a) Significant contributions to science and/ or technology development by the nominee based on the work done in India during most part of last 5 years:
Over the last five years, Kanekar has used methanol lines to obtain the most stringent constraints on changes in proton-electron mass ratio on timescales of 9 billion years (Kanekar et al. 2015, MNRAS, 448, L104). He has used hydroxyl and atomic hydrogen lines to also obtain stringent constraints on changes in the fine structure constant over the last ten billion years (Kanekar et al. 2012, ApJL, 746, L16). In the field of galaxy evolution, he has shown that normal galaxies at high redshifts have very different interstellar media from nearby galaxies, with larger amounts of warm gas than in the Milky Way or nearby disk galaxies; he has also detected an anticorrelation between gas spin temperature and gas metallicity at high redshifts (Kanekar et al. 2014, MNRAS, 438, 2131). He has obtained the first detections of gas emission from an important class of high-redshift galaxies (damped Lyman-alpha systems) at intermediate and very high redshifts, via ionized carbon and carbon monoxide emission (Neeleman, Kanekar et al. 2017, Science, in press); he has shown, for the first time, that these galaxies must be very large systems. He has developed new techniques to find molecular absorption via blind radio absorption surveys (Kanekar et al. 2014, ApJ, 782, 56). He has shown that the atomic gas mass of star-forming galaxies in the epoch of galaxy assembly is significantly lower than their stellar mass and that massive galaxies do not dominate the cosmological mass density of the Universe at these redshifts (Kanekar et al. 2016, ApJL, 818, L28). In studies of the interstellar medium, he has shown that a significant amount of the warm neutral medium is in the thermally unstable phase (Roy, Kanekar & Chengalur 2013, MNRAS, 436, 2366). He has also obtained the first constraints on the molecular oxygen abundance in external galaxies, finding that the O2 abundance is very low at high redshifts, similar to that in the Milky Way (Kanekar & Meier 2015, ApJL, 811, L23). He has shown that the neutral hydrogen content in the vicinity of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) depends on either redshift or AGN luminosity, with lower neutral gas present at high redshifts and high luminosities (Aditya, Kanekar & Kurapati 2016, MNRAS, 455, 4000). He has also come up with an explanation for the lack of detected pulsars in the Galactic Centre of the Milky Way, that the pulsar population here is dominated by milli-second pulsars, which would have been missed by current searches, and has argued for high-frequency searches being the best way to address the missing-pulsar problem (Macquart & Kanekar 2015, ApJ, 805, 172).
(b) Impact of the contributions in the field concerned:
Within the last five years, Kanekar has obtained the most sensitive constraints on changes in two fundamental constants of physics, the fine structure constant and the proton-electron mass ratio. These results have had important implications for probing physics beyond the standard model of particle physics. Kanekar has also detected ionized carbon emission from the host galaxies of damped Lyman-alpha absorbers at very high redshifts, z~4, showing that the absorbers are large, massive galaxies, and thus finally addressing a thirty-yearold problem on the nature of the galaxies that give rise to the absorbers. He has also obtained the first detections of carbon monoxide emission in damped absorbers at lower redshifts, z~0.7, again showing that the absorbers are massive galaxies. His work on the spin temperature of high redshift damped Lyman-alpha systems has also had a significant impact on the field; indeed, he has led this aspect of the field for the last decade.
Places where work of last 5 years has been referred/ cited in Books, Reviews:
(i). Paper Cited
(ii). Book Cited
Names of the industries in which the technology (ies) has (have) been used :
The achievements already been recognised by Awards by any learned body:
The Awardee a fellow of the Indian National Science Academy/Indian Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Sciences/Others:
The Awardee delivered invited lecture(s) in India/abroad and/or chaired any scientific Internatiional Conference Symposium:
List of Awardee's 10 most significant publications.
List of Awardee's 5 most significant publications during the last 5 years
List of Awardee's 5 most significant publications from out of work done in India during the last five years:
Complete list of publications in standard refereed journals:
Complete list of publications with foreign collaborators (indicating your status as author):
List of papers published in Conferences /Symposia/ Seminars, etc:
List of the most outstanding Technical Reports/ Review Articles:
Statement regarding collaboration with scientists abroad:
List of Patents taken
Total number of patents granted in last five years.
Details of Books published:

Contact Details

  • National Centre for Radio Astrophysics
    Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
    Pune University Campus Ganeshkhind
    Pune - 411007
    Maharashtra INDIA
  • 020 2571 9246
  • 20 2569 2149
  • nkanekar[at]ncra[dot]tifr[dot]res[dot]in
23 Oct 2017, http://ssbprize.gov.in/Content/Detail.aspx?AID=534