Eminent structural biologist M. Vijayan, DAE Homi Bhabha Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), passed away in Bengaluru on Sunday morning. Prof. Vijayan, who was instrumental in the development of macromolecular crystallography in India, was 80.
Born in Cherpu, Thrissur, in 1941, Prof. Vijayan graduated from the Kerala Varma College, and continued his studies in Allahabad University, before pursuing his PhD in X-ray Crystallography from IISc, Bangalore. His main research areas covered protein structures, lectins, and interactions of mycobacterial proteins.
“One of the foremost crystallographers of India, Prof. Vijayan successfully established & expanded macromolecular crystallography in the country. He also mentored several successful researchers in his laboratory at MBU, IISc. He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered forever,” the Molecular Biophysics Unit (MBU), IISc, tweeted on Sunday.
As a post-doctoral fellow in the U.K., he was a co-researcher with Prof. Dorothy Hodgkin, the 1964 Nobel laureate in Chemistry. On his return to India in 1971, he joined the MBU at IISc. He was the associate Director of IISc from 2000-2004. A recipient of the Padma Shri and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, Prof. Vijayan was the president of the Indian National Science Academy from 2007 to 2010.
Kerala paid rich tributes to the eminent scientist. Prof. Vijayan had played an instrumental role in the state’s higher education sector. He chaired the Higher Education Commission that designed the choice-based credit and semester system (CBCSS) in Kerala in 2010.
He was honoured by the State government twice by conferring him with lifetime achievement awards through the Kerala State Council of Science, Technology and Environment and the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC).
Prof. Vijayan was presented the first Kairali Global Lifetime Achievement Prize instituted by the state government in 2019.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who condoled the death, highlighted his invaluable contributions towards science. Higher Education Minister R. Bindu said his death was an irreplaceable loss for both Indian science as well as for Kerala. His contributions in the disciplines of crystallography and structural biology have brought global laurels for the country, she added.
KSHEC vice chairman Rajan Gurukkal, who had close acquaintance with Prof. Vijayan for over a decade, especially at the IISc, viewed him as a compassionate human being who upheld the high stature of an outstanding scientist and the political fire of a committed Marxist.
He said the physicist-turned-protein biologist continued to inspire his students and colleagues as a DBT (Department of Biotechnology) Distinguished Biotechnologist and subsequently as a DAE Homi Bhabha Professor despite the highly debilitating motor neuron disorder and the entailing physical and vocal disabilities that affected him in his late years.