Shashti Abda Poorti: Professor N Sekar turns sixty

Excerpt: Professor N Sekar turns 60 in the first week of July 2019, and he has 40 years of association with the Institute of Chemical Technology (the erstwhile University Department of Chemical Technology)

Professor N Sekar turns 60 in the first week of July 2019, and he has 40 years of association with the Institute of Chemical Technology (the erstwhile University Department of Chemical Technology). In the academic year 1979-1980, N. Sekar joined the University Department of Chemical Technology as a student of B. Sc. (Tech) (Intermediates and Dyes) which was a post-B. Sc. (Chemistry) course at that time. Immediately after completing his B.Sc. (Chemistry) from Sri Pushpam College, Poondi, Thanjavur District, he continued for M.Sc. in an illustrious St. Joseph's College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. He could stay in this course for little less than a semester and migrated to Mumbai for taking admission in B. Sc. (Tech). He says, in these four months he could learn the rudiments of quantum chemistry including a dedicated 4-credit course on “mathematics in quantum chemistry” which helped him subsequently when he started doing research in abinitio computations.

On completing the B. Sc. (Tech) examinations and before taking admission to M. Sc. (Tech) programme, again he spent four months in Binny Mills, a composite textile mill in Bangalore. On the advice of his research supervisor, Professor S. Seshadri his M. Sc. (Tech) registration was converted to Ph.D. (Tech) and he worked on “Heterocyclic Intermediate and Dyes” and submitted his thesis in November 1987. Later, he joined the Dyes Department as “Lecturer in Tinctorial Chemistry”, where he is at present a full Professor.

He has been teaching various courses on “Chemistry and Technology of Intermediates and Dyes” and pursuing his research in the field of colorants. He has guided about 25 Master's degree students and 40 Ph.D. students as on today. He is a consultant to many industries producing dyes and intermediates. He has spent almost 30 years of his life in UDCT (now called ICT) as a faculty member. However, he fondly recalls the four years of exposure to chemistry during his Pre-University Class (PUC) followed by B.Sc. in Sri Pushpam College. During the final year of B.Sc. one of his teachers, Dr. K. Kannan mentioned during his lectures that UDCT is a place to study if one wants to pursue advanced organic chemistry courses with a stint on industrial aspects, and at that time his elder brother was living in Bombay and thus it was possible for him to relocate to UDCT in 1979. He was inspired by Professor S. Seshadri's teaching of color chemistry and he says, that was the only reason to pursue his studies in the Dyes Department. Learning organic chemistry through Dyestuff chemistry is an experience in itself, and there cannot be a way better than this to approach color chemistry, according to him. He believes in teaching fundamentals. He always recollects Louis Pasteur,” there are no such things as applied sciences, only applications of science.”

An example he gives: Albert Einstein established in 1911 that only one photon is absorbed at a time by a metal to eject electron. Goepper Meier ten years later established that two photons can be absorbed simultaneously and she defined two-photon absorption cross section which were experimentally verified much later, after the discovery of lasers as coherent sources of light.

Incidentally Professor Sekar works extensively on the two-photon absorbing colorants – synthesis and DFT studies. It was fortunate that I was very much involved in a “computational color chemistry” project sponsored by University Grants Commission (New Delhi) – Tertiary Education Commission (Mauritius) under which I spent some time in the computational chemistry group of the Chemistry Department in University of Mauritius in the academic year 2011-2012. We are fortunate to be a part of early stages of setting-up new computational chemistry laboratory and learning new technology which is the key requirement of next generation scientific tools. During my tenure of doctoral studies, we could able to present our synthetic chemistry expertise with computation exploration and published many research papers in peer-reviewed international and national journal. I find him as a motivating and inspiring person.

His research interest includes all aspects of colored fluorescent organic molecules and their traditional and functional applications. He uses extensively DFT as computational tool.

Coming to Prof. N. Sekar's family life:

Nethi Sekar Nagaiyan was born on July 7, 1959 in Ammapet, Thanjavur District, Tamilnadu India to the illustrious parents Nethi Venkatachalapathy Nagaiyan and Nagammal Nagaiyan as the second son. His elder brother, an Engineer lives in US. He has four sisters younger to him, among them one lives in US. His wife, Mrs. Madhavi Sekar is a Gazetted officer (Service Tax). His daughter has completed M.Sc. (Physics), and his son is pursuing post-graduation in Statistics.

He grew in an atmosphere of congregational music as the family is highly involved in regular musical prayer sessions. He remembers his father telling that his great grandfather visiting Thanjavur regularly to learn Abhangs during the period of Maratha rulers there. This made him to get involved in music when he migrated to Mumbai for his studies. Today he holds M. Music degree of University of Madras. He is proficient in playing Veena.

(This note was prepared by the author based on the discussions he had with Professor N. Sekar at a several instances)

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