Shyam Lal did his BSc and MSc degrees from Kanpur University. He obtained PhD (1982) from Gujarat University while working at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad. He was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Aeronomy (MPAE), where he worked on atmospheric trace gases related to ozone chemistry. After joining Faculty of the PRL in 1986, he continued working there and presently holds the position of Senior Professor. He has intensively collaborated with P Fabian at MPAE, P Crutzen at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, G Brasseur at the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, and their colleagues in Germany.
Academic and Research Achievements: Shyam Lal set up a gas chromatographic laboratory for measurements of various trace gases of importance in atmosphere. Jointly with ISRO, Bangalore, he contributed to the indigenous development of a balloon-borne cryogenic air sampler that has been used to collect air samples from stratospheric heights from the TIFR Balloon Facility at Hyderabad. These air samples have been used to measure vertical distribution of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) containing Cl and Br gases, which are known to cause depletion of ozone, and other greenhouse gases. These studies have yielded important results for the tropical atmosphere. He observed a steep increase in the abundance of one of the Br containing trace gases (CFC12B1) in the atmosphere over southern Europe. This sampler has also been used for the astrobiology experiments from Hyderabad. Later, he examined climate sensitive tropospheric ozone and related trace gases and impact of anthropogenic emissions on their distributions. He demonstrated that the chemistry of these gases is different in India as compared to that in the developed countries like US and Europe due to differences in the chemical nature of air. He has published over 70 research articles and guided five PhD students.
Other Contributions: Professor Lal conceived and coordinated two major campaigns to study levels and transport of pollutants (aerosols and trace gases) over the south and central India and over the Indo Gangetic Plain under ISRO Geosphere Biosphere Program (ISRO-GBP) involving scientists from many institutes and universities in India. He is now Project Director for initiation of Environmental Laboratories for research in atmospheric chemistry in India under ISRO-GBP. He has been Member of the Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (CACGP), International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project, International Ozone Commission (IOC), and several committees on Atmospheric sciences under ISRO, CSIR, DST, etc.
Awards and Honours: Professor Lal received the Astronautical Society of India Award in Space Science (2005). He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.