Ramanath Cowsik

​Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences
James S. McDonnell Professor of Space Sciences
PhD, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay University
MS, Karnatak University
BS, Mysore University
research interests:
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Cosmology
  • Non-accelerator Particle Physics
  • Dark Matter
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1105
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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​Professor Cowsik's scientific contributions span over several decades and are in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology and non-accelerator particle physics. He is interested in several problems in high energy astrophysics, dark matter, and cosmology.

He established the highest observatory in the world in Hanle, Ladakh, in the Himalayas, at an altitude of 15,000 ft, for astronomy in the optical and infrared wavelength bands. He has contributed significantly to the understanding of highly energetic phenomena in astrophysics such as cosmic rays, pulsars, supernova remnants, gamma-ray bursts, active- galactic nuclei and other such sources powered by accretion flows. He has studied both the diffuse non-thermal radiations that permeate all space and also the emission of such radiations from discrete astronomical sources. The 'leaky-box' and the 'nested-leaky box' models invented by him are extensively used to interpret the observations of cosmic rays.

Cowsik's current efforts are primarily directed towards building an extremely sensitive torsion balance to probe possible violations of the inverse square law of gravity at sub-millimeter scales that are predicted by 'string-motivated' theories. This is a follow up of his longstanding interest in constructing sensitive torsion balances and using them to study Einstein's equivalence principle and to search for new fundamental forces. He is also interested in several problems in high energy astrophysics, dark matter, and cosmology, and encourages students to join him in this exciting research enterprise.

Honors and Awards

  • National Academy of Sciences, USA (2004-F)
  • Fellow: Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Sciences-India, TWAS-The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World
  • Vikram Sarabhai Award for the Space Sciences
  • S. S. Bhatnagar Award for Physics
  • NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award
  • President's Medal - 4th Highest Civilian Award in India [Padma Shri]
  • Sir C. V. Raman Memorial Lecture Award
  • Physics Prize, TWAS-The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (Trieste, Italy)
  • Honorary Fellow, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

Professional History

  • Distinguished Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
  • Distinguished Professor and Director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics
  • James S. McDonnell Professor of Space Sciences
  • Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences

recent courses

X-ray & Gamma-ray Astrophysics (Physics 460/560)

The goal of this course is to provide an up to date coverage of X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, as an integral part of high-energy astrophysics. Generation and observational techniques of energetic particles and radiations from accreting neutron stars and black holes, supernova and supernova remnants, active galactic nuclei, interstellar and intergalactic matter, as well as related physics and model building will be discussed. The course will thus explore the most energetic phenomena in the universe and will also provide insight into diverse topics ranging from planetary exploration to dark matter and cosmology.

    Galactic Astrophysics (Physics 546)

    High-energy astrophysics is the study of energetic and non-thermal particles and radiations in the universe. We begin with a discussion of cosmic rays as their study is necessary for the understanding of the observations of radio, x-ray, gamma ray and neutrino astronomies, through which we probe to-day the most energetic events in the universe. During this semester we discuss the fields of cosmic-ray research, and radio and neutrino astronomy. The astrophysics of the interstellar medium, neutron stars, supernova remnants, black holes, active galactic nuclei and the big-bang will figure prominently during the discussions of the recent observations with ground-based and satellite-borne instruments like the Ice-Cube and Very Large Array on one hand and ACE-CRIS, PAMELA, FERMI and WMAP on the other.