Kesavan obtained his BSc (Hon) in Agriculture from Delhi University, MSc from Madras University and PhD from the Post-graduate School, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. He held faculty positions at the University of Calgary, Dalhousie University (Canada), and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; was Director of Bioscience Group of BARC, Department of Atomic Energy, Mumbai. He occupied Homi Bhabha Chair and was Honorary Executive Director as well as Distinguished Fellow of MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai. He had been Visiting Professor/Scientist at the University of Texas at Austin; Manchester University, UK; Justus-Liebig Universitat in Giessen, Germany; and at Strahlenzentrum in Leiden University, The Netherlands. He represented India at the United Nations Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiations (UNSCEAR), Vienna (1994-98).
Academic and Research Achievements: Kesavan started his teaching and research career initially at the Calgary University, Alberta, and then at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada. He returned to New Delhi in 1970 to start the School of Life Sciences of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He was the first faculty to join the newly formed School of Life Sciences of the JNU and taught genetics, cell biology and radiation biology. He elucidated (i) mechanisms of radioprotection by caffeine, (ii) radio adaptive response and (iii) genetic toxicological evaluation of irradiated food materials and unequivocally demonstrated their safety for human consumption. His pioneering research on the scavenging of oxygen-reactive free radicals and reactive oxygen species by caffeine has led to investigations on the healthful effects of coffee. Subsequently it has been observed that coffee drinking reduces risk of diabetes type 2, and cancers of pancreas, liver, lung etc. as reported by several studies carried out by the Harvard Medical School, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch and Japanese research groups. Around 40 students obtained MPhil/PhD degrees under his supervision.
Other Contributions: After the 26 December 2004 tsunami, Professor PC Kesavan led an interdisciplinary team to the devastated Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, assessed the unsustainable activities which enhance vulnerability to extreme natural disasters and submitted a report "Action Plan for Development of Post-tsunami New Andamans" to the Government of India (Planning Commission and the Prime Minister's Office) and the Andaman and Nicobar Administration. It deals comprehensively with linking the rich biodiversity with sustainable livelihoods, welfare of the most endangered primitive tribes and sustainable development of the vast resources of fisheries. He played a major role in obtaining the clearance of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Government of India, for trade in irradiated foods within India for export. He has also served in Kesavan-Sukhatme Committee to study and report on the safety of irradiated wheat for human consumption. He is serving on Natural Committee on Mangroves and Corals of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Awards and Honours: Kesavan received JC Bose Medal of Indian Science Congress (2008). He is also a National Science Foundation (USA) Fellow and a Member of Advisory Committee, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, USA and China State Leading Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Beijing. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad; the Agricultural Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics, London.