In Memorium: Prof Suresh R Patwardhan

It is with profound sorrow we came to know about the sudden demise of one of our esteemed colleague, Prof. Suresh R Patwardhan. Death descended on him peacefully in the early hours of 21 June 2014.

Prof. Patwardhan had a long and cherished association with the Chemical Engineering department and the Institute in various capacities. After completing his BTech from Nagpur University in 1963, he joined the MTech programme of the Chemical Engineering department opting for the newly opened elective stream Petroleum Refinery Engineering . His deep interest in academics prompted him to pursue PhD in the Department on the topic ‘Investigations on Asphaltene Biutmen fractions’.

Prof Patwardhan joined the Organic Process Group of the Chemical Engineering department as a faculty in Sep 1996. Over the next three decades and more, as a faculty he made significant contribution to the teaching programme of the department handing wide range of courses like kinetics, catalysis, reaction engineering and courses related to petroleum refining and petrochemicals. Though his initial research thrust was on kinetics of reactions related to petroleum cracking and petrochemical synthesis, the scope of his research expanded to include catalysis and adsorption. His catalyst developmental studies were on Zeolites and micro-porous materials. His group was the first in the department to start work on Carbon Molecular Sieves. He further extended his adsorption studies to carbon membranes, activated carbon and carbon nanotubes. Prof. Patwardhan was always looking forward to leverage the benefits collaborative research by working with faculty colleagues in the Organic and Inorganic Process group. Prof. Patwardhan was a hard core experimental researcher. He was critical of what he called as “borrow the data and simulate” approach. The strategy he advocated for his research was-“design, fabricate, experiment , generate the data and process it for modeling or presentation”. He was one who made very good use of the USSR made high pressure reactors in S1 bay for his research work. He was also able to update his research facilities in the later years through sponsored research grants from AICTE, ARDB, RDCIS (Ranchi) and TIFAC. For his contribution to teaching and research in the department, the title of Professor Emeritus was conferred on him in 2005.

Prof. Patwardhan spoke his mind freely and was unsparing in his criticism of anything he found amiss in the departmental affairs. He liked order and discipline and came down heavily on students lacking in these desirable traits. Beneath his disciplinary demeanor, he nursed a caring heart. He had often come to the aid of students who needed assistance to get ahead in their academics. He was always ready to help the department and the institute on any assignment that needed his special attention. One such was his tenure as the warden of Hostel 6 and Ladies hostel where he could systematically put the processes in place to provide a better living environment for the hostel residents.

Prof. Patwardhan had been of considerable help to MHRD and AICTE in their programmes to improve the quality of higher technical education in the country. Even after his superannuation from the institute in 2003, he continued his association with these two premier agencies. His interest in academics also saw him take the stewardship of Singhad Institute of Technology and set its academic programmes in order.

Prof. Patwardhan personal life was one of simplicity and willingness to serve the community around him. After retirement, he took up residence in Anjaneya CHS, , Hiranandani, Powai . He was of considerable help in steering the Society through some difficult phases in its startup and subsequent emergence as a well managed entity. He was an avid walker and spent good number of hours in the morning and evening everyday around the jogger’s park near Anjaneya. Because of his gregarious nature , he developed a wide circle of friends among the regular walkers in the park. Even the day before his sad demise, some of the Anjaneya residents saw him returning to the building after his regular evening walk. Never did we realize that this is the last time we would see him alive.

On the personal front, I had the privilege of knowing him very closely ever since he entered the campus as a student. Besides Chemical Engineering, sports was another area of mutual interest especially during our student days. Prof. Patwardhan was a member of the IITB cricket team. We were both part of a formidable postgraduate class cricket team in those days . He started calling me “Peter” after watching me play for the postgraduate hockey team. This was the name by which he would often address me fondly.

Prof. Patwardhan had a larger than life presence not only in the campus but also in the community outside the campus. His demise is a great loss to the academic fraternity and to me personally. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife and two sons. May his soul rest in peace.