An academic and administrator of the highest calibre
Professor Rajaratnam Kumaravadivel retired from the university service on 05.05.2013 after forty-five years of service in two Universities in Sri Lanka, twelve years in Peradeniya and thirty three years in Jaffna.
Born on 03 February 1947 in Jaffna, Prof. Kumaravadivel entered the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in October 1965. He pursued a degree programme in General Science with Physics and Mathematics as subjects and obtained a First Class Honours in the General Degree examination held in 1968. Soon after, he was appointed as a Temporary Demonstrator in Physics at Peradeniya. He was promoted as a Temporary Assistant Lecturer in Physics in 1969. While he was serving as Assistant Lecturer in Physics, he pursued a special degree programme in Physics for two years. He passed the special degree examination in September 1970 with First Class Honours. He won the Coomarasamy Memorial Prize and the Hewavitharana Memorial Prize for achieving the highest competence at the General and Special Degree Examinations, respectively. He was made an Assistant Lecturer [now designated as Lecturer (Probationary)] in Physics at the University of Peradeniya in July 1971.
Prof. Kumaravadivel proceeded to the University of Bristol, UK in 1973 for postgraduate studies and was awarded a PhD in Theoretical Solid State Physics in November 1975. In 1976, when the Department of Physics at Peradeniya was in a ‘crisis’ situation with acute shortage of qualified teachers, Prof. Kumaravadivel returned to Peradeniya nine months earlier than scheduled, and organized and conducted lectures on all theoretical physics topics at Special Degree level. In 1977, he travelled to Jaffna from Peradeniya under difficult conditions to teach physics at the Jaffna Campus during weekends. He served as the Lecturer in Charge / Head of the Department of Physics, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka from January 1978 to January 1979. While in Peradeniya he served as an External Examiner for examinations in a number of topics in Physics conducted by the Jaffna Campus between 1977 and 1980 and also served as an External Examiner in Physics at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka.
Prof Kumaravadivel joined the department of Physics, University of Jaffna as a Senior Lecturer in April 1980 and worked tirelessly to upgrade and maintain the standard of the physics courses. He has always been admired by his students as an excellent and dedicated teacher. I am privileged to be one of his students in several classes. All his work was meticulously planned and carried out methodically. His students too have been trained by him to work in the same manner. Prof.Kumaravadivel has also made valuable contributions in drafting the Physics curriculum in the University of Peradeniya and the University of Jaffna. In March 1986, he was appointed as Professor of Theoretical Physics in University of Jaffna at the age of 39 years. Over the last forty-five years Prof. Kumaravadivel has trained hundreds of Physics graduates, many of whom are holding high positions in Universities, Research Institutions and Government Departments in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Prof. Kumaravadivel’s main research interest is in the theory of the structure and thermodynamic properties of liquid metals and liquid metal surfaces. His research abilities have been recognized internationally and his work has been commended as outstanding by many internationally well-known theoretical Physicists including Prof.J.M.Ziman,FRS (UK), Prof.J.E.Enderby (UK), Prof. W.H.Young (UK), Prof. Watabe (Japan) and Prof.M.Tosi (Italy).
The International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy, a prestigious institution founded by the Nobel Laureate Prof. Abdus Salam, and sponsored by UNESCO and IAEA appointed Prof. Kumaravadivel as an Associate of the Centre for two consecutive terms, 1982 - 1994. This is an appointment given to scientists living in the Third world countries and chosen by the Centre on the basis of proven ability. Although he was invited to visit the ICTP six times during this period, because of heavy teaching responsibilities and the war situation in Jaffna, he was able to make only two visits, during the tenure of the two terms, one in each term. He was awarded a Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship in 1991 to pursue research in ‘many body effects in Compton Scattering’ at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge and worked there for one year from January 1991 to December 1991 as a Visiting Pofessor. Considering the high quality of his contribution to research in Theoretical Solid State Physics he was appointed as a referee for research papers submitted to the Journal of Physics published by the Institute of Physics (London, UK). Prof. Kumaravadivel has made very significant contribution to the Theory of Liquid Metals. This could be gauged from the fact that his journal publications are extensively referred to in large number of research publications. Diagrams, tables and certain paragraphs from his publications have been reproduced in many review articles and books. He has the experience of working with a large number of eminent scientists of international calibre.
Besides being a skilled physicist, Prof. Kumaravadivel is also an able administrator. He involved himself enthusiastically in all activities for the development of the University of Jaffna. He was an active member of the Senate and the Council for several years and also served in several standing committees of these bodies. He was a lionhearted and very straight-forward person who was keen on his duties and responsibilities as a university academic and administrator. He served as head of the department of Physics for about ten years. He also served as the head of the Computer Unit for some time. The Faculty of Science had confidence in his ability as an effective administrator and elected him as its Dean four times. He served as Dean / Science for more than a decade and steered the faculty towards development during difficult periods. During his period as Dean, the faculty won a number of grants worth more than 200 million rupees from World Bank and other national funding agencies.
Prof. Kumaravadivel served as acting Vice - Chancellor of this University from June 2006 to December 2007 during one of the difficult periods in the history of this University. In spite of the many obstacles he had to face, he guided the university and faculty of science towards fulfilling their aim without compromising on standards, values and principles. Although he had been nominated three times by the Council of the University for the Post of Vice Chancellor, he was not appointed to the post because of his uncompromising and independent stance.
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.
His contribution to the development of the Sri Lankan universities especially to the university of Jaffna, Faculty of Science and to the department of Physics was immense and will always be remembered by them.