Dr. Murali Ahobila
Prof. A. V. Murali (A Brief Biographical Sketch)
Murali did his B Sc (Hons) and M Sc., from Andhra University, Waltair and received Ph. D from the Center of Advanced Study in Geology, Saugor University, Sagar, M. P. After post graduation he conducted research at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Bombay specializing in geochemistry and Cosmo chemistry. While working as Scientific Officer at BARC, Dr. Murali completed his Ph. D thesis Entitled “Geochemical Evolution of the Girnar Igneous Complex, Gujarat, India”.
Prof. Roman Schmitt, Oregon State University, USA was the external examiner of Murali’s Ph. D thesis. He happened to be one of the famous geochemists that received Lunar samples and the funds from NASA to conduct the geochemical investigation of the lunar samples to decipher the origin and the evolution of the Moon. Prof. Schmitt was highly impressed by (a) the sophisticated analytical techniques Murali has developed and used in his research work and (b) the bold and far-reaching conclusion he made in his thesis. Prof. Schmitt directly wrote to Murali asking him to join as postdoc/co-investigator to conduct the lunar sample study in his laboratory. Murali accepted the offer and joined Prof. Schmitt. Thus, Murali has the rare distinction of (a) receiving the prestigious post-doctoral fellowship of the NASA project in USA without a Ph. D degree on-hand and (b) studying most of the lunar samples collected by Apollo (USA) and Luna (USSR) missions and contributing to our understanding of the origin and evolution of Moon! In fact, by the time Saugor University in India decided to conduct his viva voce (oral defense of his thesis), Murali was already author of a number of international publications quoted by peers in different countries. Hence, the university in India decided to give him a Ph. D without conducting viva voce of his thesis work in India.
Second time Dr. Murali came to USA after receiving the US National Research Council Senior Associate Ship (American Academy of Sciences) award. He received this award based on his 1-page proposal that he can decipher the causative factor for the extinction of Dinosaurs from the study of the geo/cosmochemical signatures of the samples from the Dinosaur exnction (K-T boundary) regions. He worked at NASA, Johnson Space Center and at the Lunar and Planetary Institute to study various K-T boundary samples to prove that an asteroid impact 65 million years ago caused the Dinosaur extinction.
Subsequently, Prof. Murali joined the Lunar Base Research Team at Lamar University to study the volatile inventory of the lunar samples and submitted a detailed report (Helium-3 content of the lunar soil as the future energy source for mankind) to NASA.
While at Lamar University, Dr. Murali focused on improving the science and math skills of the local school children and conceived/directed an innovative consortium project entitled Space Science and Technology Education Program (SSTEP). The consortium members of this mammoth project included the NASA and Lunar and Planetary science Scientists/Engineers, University Faculty from different Departments, Region V teachers/administrators, including the Director of the Texas Energy Museum. SSTEP developed the Space Science and Technology-based curriculum modules, and introduced them in the classrooms in Region V school District (~270, 000 students with majority underprivileged children). Dr. Murali received State and Federal Grants to conduct the SSTEP.
Under SSTEP, Prof. Murali built a mobile Planetary Rover Unit and the Mission Control Room facilities with audiovisual and communication link-up between the two referred to as the Planetary Rover Unit (PRU). The PRU was taken to different schools in the region to educate the school children about the lunar missions and planetary exploration through hands-on training to the school children selecting them as astronauts and mission control room personnel.
The PRU was exhibited as an innovative Space Science and Technology education tool in the US Russia Space Expo conducted at Astro Hall, Houston.
Prof. Murali has the distinction of collaborating with scientists from different countries and guiding a number of students. He is the author and coauthor of more than 100 publications in international journals, apart from a number of unpublished BARC and NASA reports to his credit. He received numerous awards and recognitions for his research/scholastic accomplishments and contributions to improve the science and math skills of the school students in USA.
Dr. Murali presently lives in Houston, TX with his wife and two children.