Prof. Asim Chakraborty obituary

Author and retired Professor, Dr. Ashim Kumar Chakravarty, 79, passed away from Covid related complications on May 17th, 2021. He is survived by his wife, Alo and children, Anindita and Anupam. His joie de vivre will remain a beacon of light for his family and others in the research community.

Dr. Ashim K. Chakravarty was an alumnus of Presidency College, Calcutta (Zoology, batch of 1961) and went on to complete his Masters as a gold medalist from the University of Calcutta. He secured a research assistantship from the National Science Foundation, USA to conduct PhD research in the effects of neonatal splenectomy on immune competence under the supervision of Prof. R. Auerbach at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1975). Prior to setting up his independent research program, Dr. Chakravarty served in various research capacities at UT Southwestern, Texas and the Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles. 

He joined the University of North Bengal, Siliguri in 1977 and retired as an UGC Emeritus Professor in 2009. In a lasting legacy spanning more than three decades, he established and nurtured several life science departments at NBU, including the Cell Biology Laboratory at the Centre for Life Sciences and the Department of Biotechnology. As a doyen of tumour immunology, his lab focused on the mechanism of T cell activation against tumour target cells, which led to 80 research publications. Among the 11 students who obtained their PhD under his supervision, he passed on his enthusiasm for critical thinking and the diligence that characterizes scientific research.

Prof. Chakravarty deeply enjoyed teaching. Besides NBU, he has taught at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Calcutta University, Burdwan University, Kalyani University, Visva-Bharati, North Eastern Hill University, Gauhati University, and Madurai Kamaraj University among others. He was a visiting professor and fellow at Vidyasagar University and Tripura University.

Prof. Chakravarty’s desire and ability to teach was not limited within the bounds of a classroom. He was a voracious writer and authored several text books on immunology and biotechnology, that are routinely used in undergraduate and postgraduate classrooms. In the late 90s, he authored a popular science book in Bengali titled Gene o Genetic Engineering. This book received the Satyendra Puraskar award in 1999, the highest individual honour for a popular science book in West Bengal. Prof. Chakravarty was a gifted storyteller and wrote prolifically beyond the realms of science as well. Many of his writings appeared in various periodicals over the years. In recent times, he published his memoirs detailing his perspective on experiencing the same geographical location across the arc of time when he visited the USA after several decades (Phire dekha America). A few examples of his interest in ancient Indian technology could be found in his blog. Credible India.

Dr. Chakravarty received several accolades during a long and illustrious career. In 1995, he was awarded the Prof. Sivatosh Mookerjee Gold Medal in recognition of his research contributions by the Zoological Society of India. In 2019, he received the Joy Gobind Law Memorial Medal from the Asiatic Society. He was a Fellow of the National Academy of Science, India and the West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology, and a Life Member of the All India Society of Cell Biology and the Indian Immunology Society. 

Beyond scientific research, Dr. Chakravarty loved to play the mouth organ, relished a good adda and was an avid photographer.

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