Alumnus Endows Bhakta Rath Research Award at Michigan Tech

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

When Bhakta B. Rath was earning his master’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering at Michigan Technological University in 1958, the US was an undisputed world leader in science and technology. Now he is the associate director of research and head of the Materials Science and Component Technology Directorate at the US Naval Research Laboratory, and Rath worries a lot about a declining interest in this country in studying science and technology.

So he and his wife, Sushama Rath, have endowed the Bhakta Rath Research Award to motivate Michigan Tech faculty and doctoral students to conduct the kind of research that will meet the nation’s needs and the challenges of emerging technologies. The annual award will be $2,000, split between a graduate student and his or her faculty advisor.

“This is a very strategic gift from an outstanding alumnus,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz. “It speaks to the fundamental objectives of the University and supports our strategy of growing and strengthening our Graduate School and research enterprise.”

Rath explained the cause for his concern about the future of science and technology in the US. “Recognizing the value of science and engineering education, countries such as China, South Korea, Singapore and India have not only adopted the US model of doctoral study, but have excelled in implementing it, surpassing the US,” he pointed out. “In 1975, South Korea produced 128 PhDs. By 2001, that number had risen to 2,065. China essentially produced no doctorates in 1985, and by 2001, they awarded 7,304.” 

During the same period, the US share of the world’s doctorates fell by 41 percent, Rath said. “This erosion will not only severely affect the nation’s economy, bur also will severely compromise issues relating to national security.”

Rath hopes the new award named in his honor will promote and reward research excellence in the physical and natural sciences and engineering.

“Michigan Technological University is one of the leading institutions for science and engineering curriculum and is rapidly emerging through its development of graduate education and research, which is an important and integral part of advanced studies,” Rath noted.   “We want to recognize the best research conducted by a doctoral student and his collaborating faculty member.”

The first Bhakta Rath Research Award will be presented later this year. 

Rath spoke at Michigan Tech’s 2007 Midyear Commencement, receiving an honorary doctorate at that time. He holds a PhD from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and he is a fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences, the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, the American Society for Materials-International, the Materials Research Society of India and the Institute of Materials of the United Kingdom.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.