A Brief History of the Department
When the University of Jaffna was established as a Campus of the University of Sri Lanka in 1974 the government acquired the buildings, books and equipment of the undergraduate section of Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai for the temporary use of the Faculty of Science. The Department of Physics started functioning at Vaddukoddai soon after the assumption of duties of Dr.K.Kunaratnam as the Founder Professor and Head of the Department in April 1975. Two Probationary Assistant Lecturers, Miss W.M.F Vincent and Mr.K.Kandasamy, were recruited to the permanent academic staff in the same year. Both of them were sent abroad on leave for postgraduate studies two years later, one to the University of Queensland, Australia and the other to the University of Keele, UK. Two more Probationary Assistant Lecturers, Messers M.Ravichandran and M.Chelvayogan were added to the academic staff and Mr.A.Mahendrasingam was recruited as a permanent Instructor. They too went abroad for postgraduate studies soon and the academic programmes in the department were conducted by the Head with the assistance of temporary staff. The Technical staff consisted of Mr.K.Sivapragasam, Mr.M.Manoharan and Mr N.Kohuladas who were transferred from the Colombo and Peradeniya campuses of the University of Sri Lanka.
Foundation Stone for a new Physics building was laid in May 1977 in the main Campus of the University at Thirunelvely. The Natural Science Block for which the foundation was laid earlier was completed in 1979 and the Faculty of Science shifted to the main Campus in the same year. The Physics Department occupied a temporary building constructed by the Maintenance Department of the University adjacent to the Parameswara Temple .Part of this building is presently used as a Senior Common room and as Department of Law. The Department shifted to the new Physics building in early 1980 soon after the building was completed.
Initially the Department conducted only courses at the General Degree level of three years duration. From 1979 the Department started offering courses at the Special Degree Level lasting two more years for those students whose performance at the General degree level was very good. Dr.V.Ramachandran from the Colombo campus and Dr.R.Kumaravadivel from the Peradeniya Campus assisted the Department in conducting these courses. Later both of them joined the Department as permanent Lecturers. Staff from the Colombo and Peradeniya Campuses acted as our external examiners for the General degree Examination in Physics. Prof. Watson Fuller of the University of Keele served as the External Examiner for our Special Degree Examination in Physics. After the retirement of Prof. Watson Fuller, Dr.D.A.Greenwood of the University of Bristol served as the external examiner for our special degree examination.
Admission for the Special Degree courses is now made at the end of the second year of the General Degree and the total duration of the Special Degree is now four years. Presently the external examiner for the Special Degree Examination is Dr.Vincent Smith of the University of Bristol. We have been able to maintain standards that are acceptable internationally. Over forty of our Special Degree graduates have obtained PhDs from foreign universities and a number of others are presently pursuing higher studies abroad.
One of the first recruits to the Department as Probationary Assistant Lecturer, Dr.K.Kandasamy returned to the Department in 1980 after successfully completing his postgraduate studies and has continued to serve the University in several capacities. A number of other Probationary Assistant Lecturers did not return after their postgraduate studies even though there was a contractual agreement for their return. A few returned to the Department and rendered valuable service but resigned from their posts after completing the obligatory period of service.
The research abilities of the staff in the Department have been recognized nationally and internationally. Three dons of the Department namely, Prof.Kunaratnam, Prof.Kumaravadivel and Prof.Kandasamy were appointed as Associates of the prestigious International Centre for theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy. Prof Kandasamy and Prof.Ravirajan received Presidential awards for excellence in research on more than one occasion. However, there were several impediments for organized research at postgraduate level. Tension prevailed in the Jaffna Peninsula most of the time due to the ethnic conflict and the atmosphere was not conducive for research. The continued resignations of qualified staff put additional burden on the remaining staff and prevented them from engaging in research. Also funds were not forthcoming for projects requiring expensive equipment. Further, the Department lost very valuable teaching and research equipment in 1984, 1987 and 1995. Under these conditions, students too were unwilling to register for a postgraduate degree in the Department fearing that they may not be able to complete the degree on time. Even the few who enrolled for postgraduate degrees gave up half way through. As a result only small research projects at undergraduate level were undertaken. Whatever research that was done was due to individual effort and most of the research papers published were based on work done abroad.
However, funds and equipment are now not a major problem. Thanks to the efforts of Dr.L.Jeyanathan, a former Senior Lecturer, and Prof.P.Ravirajan, the Department has been able to obtain grants worth several million rupees from local and foreign sources and purchase research equipment. Opportunities for postgraduate research especially in Material Physics are now bright and the comparatively calmer atmosphere that prevails now is conducive for research activities. The Department feels confident that a viable postgraduate research programme is now possible. In fact one student is about to complete a research degree under Prof.Ravirajan and a few more will be enrolled soon as research students.
Besides conducting the academic programmes in the department, the department staff has contributed immensely in the administrative and other activities of the University. Prof.K.Kunaratnam served as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Vice Chancellor of the University. He also served the University as an elected Council member for a number of years and as a member of a number of University and University Grants Commission Committees.
Prof.R.Kumaravadivel served as Dean of the Faculty of Science for over three terms and as Council member and member of various University Committees. He was also a Council nominee for the post of Vice Chancellor three times and acting Vice Chancellor for over a year. Based on the confidence on Prof.Kumaravadivel’s administrative capability and his track record on academic and research career, His Excellency the President appointed him for a period of five years from May 2015 as one of the members of the University Grants Commission, which is the apex body of the sixteen Universities in the country.
Prof.K.Kandasamy served as the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate studies and the Dean of the Faculty of Science. He too has been serving as member of a number of important national level committees and as one of the members of National Research Council (NRC) since 1999.
Prof.P.Ravirajan, the present Head of the Department is an active researcher and is involved in a number of University activities such as Director/Staff Development Centre, Member/University Research Committee and Elected council member from the senate.
Dr.K.Vignarooban, a recently joined Senior Lecturer after his PhD and Post-Doctoral works in USA, has published around ten papers in Science Citation Indexed (SCI) journals during the past one-and-a-half years of his tenure in our department. This includes a couple of review articles and a book chapter in "Springer". He is also working as a student counsellor and academic counsellor in Physics