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Bikash Sinha (1945 – 2023)

Bikash Sinha at CERN

Bikash Sinha at CERN

Bikash Sinha, influential Indian scientist and pioneer in quark–gluon plasma and the early Universe, passed away on 11 August at the age of 78. As one of the ALICE experiment’s early visionaries and architects, his impact on heavy-ion physics is unmistakable.

Bikash Sinha was born on 16 June 1945 in Kandi, Murshidabad, in the state of West Bengal, India. After graduating from Presidency College, Kolkata, with a degree in physics in 1964, he went on to obtain the Tripos in Natural Sciences from King’s College, Cambridge, in 1967 and then a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of London in 1970. He returned to India at the invitation of nuclear physicist Raja Ramanna and joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 1976. In the early 1980s, he started working in high-energy physics, particularly in relativistic heavy-ion collisions and the formation of quark–gluon plasma. He was appointed Director of the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) in 1987 and was concurrently Director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) from 1992 to June 2009. His numerous awards and honours include the Padma Shri Award in 2001 and the prestigious Padma Bhusan Award (the third-highest civilian award in India) in 2010 for his significant contribution to science and technology. He was also a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India.

As director of two major institutes in Kolkata, his efforts put India on the map of nuclear and particle physics laboratories. He was a strong supporter of India’s engagement with the international scientific community via CERN’s programmes. His charismatic leadership and charming personality allowed him to successfully navigate the scientific bureaucracy surrounding a multi-agency funding model for the nascent ALICE collaboration. From modest beginnings at the CERN SPS in the early 1990s, armed with only a handful of collaborators, students and borrowed equipment, but with a grand vision and unbeatable spirit, he nourished and led the Indian team to become a major pillar of ALICE and a key player in heavy-ion physics.

Bikash was a synthesis of science, culture, philosophy and society. He initiated the creation of a medical cyclotron in Kolkata to diagnose and treat prostate cancer. Inspired by the great Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, he organised a one-of-a-kind international conference, MMAP (Microcosmos, Macrocosmos, Accelerator and Philosophy), in May 2022, combining elementary particles, the Universe, accelerator physics and philosophy through poetry and songs.

He initiated a successful series of international conferences on the physics and astrophysics of quark–gluon plasma (ICPAQGP) that have been held in India since 1988, and he organised and chaired the Quark Matter Conference in India in 2008. His efforts helped India to become a prominent CERN non-Member State, culminating in its accession to Associate Member State in 2016.

While Bikash’s passing leaves an undeniable void, his legacy is a vibrant and thriving team, primed to continue his journey. We will always remember him for his charismatic personality, great kindness, openness and generosity. We honour his memory and, with our deepest condolences, extend our sympathy to his family.

His friends and colleagues in the ALICE collaboration