SPIE Fellow Ravindra Behari Lal, Professor Emeritus at Alabama A&M University (AMMU), passed away July 23, 2019 at the age of 83.
Born in Agra, India on October 5, 1935, he received his PhD in Physics from Agra University in 1962 and married his wife, Usha, that same year. The couple moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1964, where they raised their son Amit.
Lal began his scientific career in the United States at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, helping develop new materials and technologies for the space program. He became a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at AMMU in 1975.
"Dr. Ravi Lal was a great friend and colleague whose impact on the physics department was most significant," said SPIE Fellow and Past President Barry Johnson, Senior Research Professor at AAMU. "He initiated the Masters and PhD degrees in physics with over 90 doctorial graduates so far. His guidance, teaching, and research will positively influence the department and our graduates for decades to come."
Lal was one of the pioneers who performed crystal growth experiments in microgravity aboard Spacelab-3 and the first International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-1) in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. With his Space Lab experiments, Lal brought AAMU into the limelight and secured millions of dollars of research funding from various federal agencies. In 1997, he initiated an annual Nobel Laureate Lecturer series, which has so far brought 20 Nobel Prize winners to AMMU to speak.
Throughout his career, Lal was the recipient of several major honors, including NASA's Public Service Achievement Award and two NASA awards for technology invention. He was named an Alabama A&M Eminent Scholar in 2005 and became a Fellow of SPIE in 2006.
"He was a trailblazer, an eminent scholar, and a wonderful ambassador and advocate for Alabama A&M University," said AAMU President Andrew Hugine, Jr., "I shall especially miss his involvement and work with our noteworthy Nobel Laureate program."