Kankan Bhattacharyya studied in Presidency, Kolkata and Calcutta University. In 1978, he joined Mihir Chowdhury's laboratory at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata to work on nanosecond laser spectroscopy and studied nanosecond dynamics, two photon absorption and high-resolution spectroscopy in Spholskii matrix at low temperature to obtain his PhD degree (1984). He then joined Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory, USA, to work with PK Das on nanosecond laser flash photolysis and photochemistry. In 1986, he moved to Columbia University to learn the novel surface second harmonic generation (SSHG) technique from KB Eisenthal. Bhattacharyya returned to India (1987) and joined IACS.
Academic and Research Achievements: At Columbia, Bhattacharyya studied absolute orientation of organic molecules at the water surface from the measurement of the phase of SSHG light and also showed that acid-base properties at the water surface is markedly different from that in bulk. At IACS, he built a SSHG set-up, a picosecond TCSPC set-up, a femtosecond up-conversion set-up and most recently, a confocal microscope. His primary research interest is in femtosecond laser spectroscopy, particularly, directed towards unravelling dynamics in organized and biological systems. His studies span solvation dynamics, proton/electron transfer, energy transfer (FRET) and anisotropy decay. The systems range from proteins and surfactant assemblies to cyclodextrin, polymer, and nano-porous solids (zeolites, sol-gel glass). His most significant discovery is that water molecules, confined in a nanocavity, display an ultraslow component of solvation dynamics which is 100-1000 times slower compared to bulk water. He has demonstrated that one can selectively study dynamics in different regions of an organized assembly (i.e. spatially resolve) through variation of excitation wavelength. He also showed that proton transfer in nano-confined systems is substantially slower compared to that in bulk water. Dr Bhattacharyya has guided 16 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Since 2008, Bhattacharyya is a senior Editor of Journal of Physical Chemistry. He is also a Council Member of INSA (2007-09).
Awards and Honours: Dr Bhattacharyya has received several awards and honours that include BC Dev Prize of ISCA (1997), SS Bhatnagar Prize (1997), CSIR New Millennium Science Medal (2000); CRSI Silver Medal (2006); and TWAS Prize in Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (2007). He is a Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1997) and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (2007).