Shrinivas Kulkarni

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Shrinivas R. Kulkarni
Shrinivas Kulkarni 2016 portrait crop.jpg
Kulkarni in 2016
Born (1956-10-04) 4 October 1956 (age 63)
Alma mater
  • FRS[1] (2001)
  • US NAS (2003)
  • Indian Academy of Sciences (2012)
  • Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016)
  • Helen B. Warner Prize (1991)
  • NSF Waterman Prize (1992)
  • Jansky prize (2002)
  • Dan David Prize (2017)
Scientific career
  • Interstellar Medium
  • Pulsars
  • Millisecond Pulsars,
  • Brown Dwarf
  • Soft Gamma-ray Repeaters
  • Gamma-ray Bursts
  • Optical Transients
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisor

Shrinivas Ramchandra Kulkarni (born 4 October 1956) is a US-based astronomer born and raised in India.[2] He is currently a professor of astronomy and planetary science at California Institute of Technology,[3] and he serves as director of Caltech Optical Observatory (COO) at California Institute of Technology, in which capacity he oversees the Palomar and Keck among other telescopes.[3] He is the recipient of a number of awards and honours.

Kulkarni is the brother of Sudha Murthy and brother-in-law of Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys. He has been the Jury Chair for the Infosys Prize for the discipline of Physical Sciences since 2009.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Shrinivas Ramchandra Kulkarni was born on 4 October 1956 in the small town of Kurundwad in Maharashtra, into a Kannada speaking Madhwa Brahmin family. His father, Dr. R. H. Kulkarni, was a surgeon based in Hubballi and his mother, Vimala Kulkarni, was a devoted home-maker. He is one of four children and has three sisters, namely Sunanda Kulkarni, Sudha Murthy (wife of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy) and Jaishree Deshpande (wife of Gururaj Deshpande).[5][6][7]

Kulkarni and his sisters grew up in Hubballi, Karnataka, and received their schooling at local schools there.[2][5][8][6] He obtained his MS in Physics (integrated master's course) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi in 1978 and his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1983.[3]


In 1987, Kulkarni obtained a position as faculty at the California Institute of Technology.[3] According to his website, he has mentored 64 young scholars by the end of 2016.

Kulkarni is known for making key discoveries that open new sub-fields within astronomy, using wide range of wavelength in observation. ADS shows that his papers cover following fields: (1) HI absorption studies of Milky Way Galaxy, (2) pulsars, millisecond pulsars, and globular cluster pulsars, (3) brown dwarfs and other sub-stellar objects, (4) soft gamma-ray repeaters, (5) gamma-ray bursts, and (6) optical transients. He made significant contributions in these sub-fields of astronomy.

Key discoveries[edit]

Kulkarni started off his career as a radio astronomer. He studied Milky Way Galaxy using HI absorption under the guidance of his advisor Carl Heiles, and observed its four arms.[9] The review articles he wrote with Carl Heiles have been highly cited in the field of interstellar medium.[10][11]

He discovered the first millisecond pulsar called PSR B1937+21[12] with Donald Backer and colleagues, while he was a graduate student. In 1986, he found the first optical counterpart of binary pulsars,[13] while he was a Millikan Fellow at California Institute of Technology. He was instrumental in discovery of the first globular cluster pulsar in 1987[14] using a supercomputer.

With Dale Frail at NRAO and Toshio Murakami and his colleagues at ISAS (predecessor of JAXA that was led by Yasuo Tanaka at that time) Kulkarni showed that soft gamma-ray repeaters are neutron stars associated with supernova remnants.[15][16] This discovery eventually led to the understanding that neutron stars with extremely high magnetic field called magnetars are the soft gamma-ray repeaters.[17]

Caltech-NRAO team which he led showed in 1997 that gamma-ray bursts came from extra-galactic sources,[18] and identified optical counterparts.[19] Their research initiated the detailed studies of the sources of gamma-ray bursts along with the European team led by Jan van Paradijs.

He was also a member of the Caltech team that observed the first irrefutable brown dwarf in 1994 that orbited around a star called Gliese 229.[20]

His recent work involved Palomar Transient Factory which has succeeded in identifying the new groups of optical transients such as superluminous supernova,[21] calcium-rich supernova,[22] and luminous red nova.[23][24]

The success of his astronomical research is evident by 63 Nature Letters, 7 Science Letters, and total of 479 refereed scientific articles that bear his name by the end of 2015, according to ADS. Recognizing his contribution to astronomy, he was awarded the Dan David Prize in 2017.[25]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kulkarni has received many awards and honours, including the NSF's Alan T. Waterman Award in 1992,[26] the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 1991,[27] the Jansky Prize in 2002[28] and the Dan David Prize in 2017.[29][30] In 2015, he received an honorary doctorate from Radboud University in the Netherlands.[31]

Services to the field[edit]

Kulkarni has been the Jury Chair for the Infosys Prize for the discipline of Physical Sciences since 2009.[32] The prize is awarded by the Infosys Foundation, whose founder in Kulkarni's brother-in-law, Narayana Murthy.

Kulkarni is a member of as many as four national academies around the globe. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, London, in 2001,[1][33] a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2003,[34] an honorary fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences in 2012,[35] and a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences on 12 September 2016.[36][37]


  1. ^ a b "Shrinivas Kulkarni". The Royal Society. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b Kembhavi, Ajit (2001). "An accomplished observer". Frontline.
  3. ^ a b c d "Shrinivas R. (Shri) Kulkarni". Caltech Geology and Planetary Science. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Jury Chairs 2009". Infosys Science Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Karnataka Online Teachers Data Base". Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences Karnataka. 2012.
  6. ^ a b Kamala Bhatt (15 July 2002). "What Went Wrong?".
  7. ^ "Two daughters who made India proud". 9 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  8. ^ "A star called Kulkarni". 19 August 2003.
  9. ^ Kulkarni, Shrinivas R. (1983). Studies of galactica HI in 21-centimeter absorption (PhD Thesis: UC Berkeley). Berkeley, California. Bibcode:1984PhDT.........4K.
  10. ^ Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.; Heiles, Carl (1988). Verschuur, G. L.; Kellerman, K.I. (eds.). Neutral hydrogen and the diffuse interstellar medium. in Galactic and Extragalactic Radio Astronomy. New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 95–153.
  11. ^ Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.; Heiles, Carl (1987). "The Atomic Component". The atomic component. in Interstellar Processes; Proceedings of the Symposium, Grand Teton National Park, WY, July 1-7,1986. Astrophysics and Space Science Library. 134. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co. pp. 87–122. Bibcode:1987ASSL..134...87K. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-3861-8_5. ISBN 978-90-277-2485-4.
  12. ^ Backer, D. C.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Heiles, C.; Davis, M. M.; Goss, W. M. (1982), "A millisecond pulsar", Nature, 300 (5893): 615–618, Bibcode:1982Natur.300..615B, doi:10.1038/300615a0
  13. ^ Kulkarni, S. R. (1986), "Optical Identification of Binary Pulsars - Implication for Magnetic Field Decay in Neutron Stars" (PDF), Astrophysical Journal, 306: L85, Bibcode:1986ApJ...306L..85K, doi:10.1086/184711
  14. ^ Lyne, A. G.; Brinklow, A.; Middleditch, J.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Backer, D. C.; Clifton, T. R. (1987), "The Discovery of a Millisecond Pulsar in the Globular Cluster M28)", Nature, 328 (6129): 399–401, Bibcode:1987Natur.328..399L, doi:10.1038/328399a0
  15. ^ Kulkarni, S. R.; Frail, D. A. (1993), "Identification of a supernova remnant coincident with the soft gamma-ray repeater SGR 1806-20", Nature, 365 (6441): 33–35, Bibcode:1993Natur.365...33K, doi:10.1038/365033a0
  16. ^ Murakami, T.; Tanaka, Y.; Kulkarni, S. R.; et al. (1994), "X-ray dentification of a supernova the soft gamma-ray repeater 1806-20", Nature, 368 (6467): 127–129, Bibcode:1994Natur.368..127K, doi:10.1038/368127a0
  17. ^ Kulkarni, S. R.; Thompson, Christopher (1998), "Neutron Stars: A star powered by magnetism", Nature, 393 (6682): 215–216, Bibcode:1998Natur.393..215K, doi:10.1038/30357
  18. ^ Metzgar, M. R.; Djorgovski, S. G.; Kulkarni, S. R.; et al. (1997), "Spectral constraints on the redshift of the optical counterpart to the gamma-ray burst of 8 May 1997", Nature, 387 (6636): 878–880, Bibcode:1997Natur.387..878M, doi:10.1038/43132
  19. ^ Djorgovski, S. G.; Metzgar, M. R.; Kulkarni, S. R.; et al. (1997), "The optical counterpart to the gamma-ray burst GRB970508", Nature, 387 (6636): 876–878, Bibcode:1997Natur.387..876D, doi:10.1038/43126
  20. ^ Nakajima, T.; Oppenheimer, B. R.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Golimowski, D. A.; Matthews, K.; Durrance, S. (1995), "Discovery of a Cool Brown Dwarf", Nature, 378 (6556): 463–465, Bibcode:1995Natur.378..463N, doi:10.1038/378463a0
  21. ^ Quimby, R. M.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Kasliwal, M. M.; et al. (2011), "Hydrogen-poor super luminous stellar explosions", Nature, 474 (7352): 487–489, arXiv:0910.0059, Bibcode:2011Natur.474..487Q, doi:10.1038/nature10095, PMID 21654747
  22. ^ Kasliwal, M. M.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Arcavi, I.; et al. (2012), "Calcium-Rich Transients in the Remote Outskerts of Galaxies", Astrophysical Journal, 755 (2): 161, arXiv:1111.6109, Bibcode:2012ApJ...755..161K, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/755/2/161
  23. ^ Rau, A.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Ofek, E. O.; Yan, L. (2007), "Spitzer Observations of the New Luminous Red Nova M85 OT2006-1", Astrophysical Journal, 659 (2): 1536–1540, arXiv:astro-ph/0612161, Bibcode:2007ApJ...659.1539R, doi:10.1086/512672
  24. ^ Kasliwal, M. M.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Arcavi, I.; et al. (2011), "PTF 10fqs: A Luminous Red Nova in the Spiral Galaxy Messier 99", Nature, 730 (2): 134, arXiv:1111.6109, Bibcode:2012ApJ...755..161K, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/755/2/161
  25. ^ "Indian scientist Shrinivas Kulkarni wins Dan David Prize". The Hindu. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  26. ^ "Alan T. Waterman Award Recipients, 1976 - present". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 2 March 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Shrinivas Kulkarni received the 1991 Helen B. Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society.", Physics Today, 44 (6): f129, 1991, Bibcode:1991PhT....44f.129., doi:10.1063/1.2810153
  28. ^ "Jansky Lectureship". 24 August 2016.
  29. ^ "Caltech Astronomer Receives 2017 Dan David Prize". 10 February 2017.
  30. ^ "Laureates 2017". Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  31. ^ "Honorary Doctorate for astronomer Shrinivas Kulkarni". Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  32. ^ "Jury Chairs 2009". Infosys Science Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  33. ^ "The Royal Society inducts Shrinivas Kulkarni". 2001.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "Member Directory". National Academy of Science, US. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Indian Academy of Science. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  36. ^ "KNAW kiest zestien nieuwe leden" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  37. ^ "Shrnivas Kulkarni". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2017.

External links[edit]