College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Professor Rituparno Goswami.

Gravitating Towards the Mysteries of Gravity

Professor Rituparno Goswami, Academic Leader of Research in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, has been inaugurated into UKZN’s professoriate.

Goswami used the occasion of his Inaugural Lecture to discuss aspects of gravitation theories that have continued to puzzle scientists through three-and-a-half centuries, following Newton obtaining his first results on the universal theory of gravitation. These included the phenomena of spacetime singularities, cosmic censorship, gravitational waves and modified theories of gravity.

‘How are black holes exactly formed?’ said Goswami. ‘Can we have a sneak peek near the point where the whole star collapses into? What is the energy of gravitation? Do we realise that high and low tides in the sea are actually a form of gravitational waves from the moon? Is Einstein’s Theory of Gravity ultimate or is it a part of a bigger theory?’

In introducing Goswami, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Fhatuwani Mudau said, ‘Inaugural lectures are a longstanding rite of passage that provides an opportunity for public celebration of an important personal and career milestone, and that inaugurands, their colleagues, families and friends look forward to.’

Goswami received his BSc Honours and MSc degrees in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT – Kharagpur), and his PhD in Gravitational Physics from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR-Mumbai). This was followed by postdoctoral training from the University of Alberta, Canada, and the University of Cape Town from 2006 to 2012.

Since the onset of his research career in 2002, Goswami has conducted ground-breaking research in the fields of Astrophysics, Gravitation and Cosmology. He has 77 peer-reviewed publications in high impact international peer-reviewed journals to date, with a citation count of 2 271 and an h-index of 25. Goswami holds a C1 rating from the National Research Foundation and was inaugurated as a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in 2022.

Since 2017, he has chaired the Academic Subcommittee of the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP), and from 2018 has acted as national coordinator of the South African Mathematics Team Competition (SAMTC). He is the UKZN node leader for the University Capacity Development Programme, National Collaborative Project (UCDP-NCP), NGA-MaSS and also the Centre of Excellence, Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, CoE-MaSS.

Goswami is committed to advancing science education. Apart from organising the interprovincial Mathematics Olympiad, he assists UKZN students by setting problems and organising workshops, seminar series and popular talks within the School. He also participates actively in UKZN Science outreach programmes.

In paying tribute to his ‘excellent, brilliant, very hardworking students,’ Goswami said, ‘Many have decided to continue in the academia, making it richer. The future is bright.’

In conclusion, Goswami quoted a poem from the Indian master, Rabindranath Tagore, as ‘poets can visualise truth much earlier than anyone else’:

Through the unlimited sky
Universe is flowing like thousands of streams
Dragging my entire self with them.

These flows intertwined together
Creates heavenly tunes
Make me sway with them.

This inherent dance in the heart of the world
Keeps me awake evermore.

As the primitive joys and sorrows
Appear and disappear
I know the timeless eyes watching them forever.

I pray that I have the vision of those eyes.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied