Melethil Sankaran Gopinathan obtained his BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry from Kerala University and PhD (1972) from IIT, Kanpur, under the guidance of Professor PT Narasimhan. On being awarded the Bursary of the Royal Society London, he pursued research in Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Oxford with Professor CA Coulson (1973-74). He did his post-doctoral research at McGill University, Montreal with Professor MA Whitehead (1974-77). He then joined the Faculty of the Department of Chemistry, IIT Madras (1977) and served as the Head of the Department (1998-2001). He worked at the University of Hannover with Professor Karl Jug (1982-83), and at Technische Hochschule Darmstadt with Professor Alarich Weiss on Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. Currently, he is a Professor and Dean at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Thiruvananthapuram.
Academic and Research Contributions: At IIT Madras, Professor Gopinathan initiated teaching and research in theoretical and computational chemistry. He developed an ab initio local density method for atomic and molecular quantum mechanical calculations. His method incorporates electronic correlations and relativistic effects in a non-parametric and transparent way. He formulated a generalized quantum mechanical definition of chemical valency that could be fractional. His concept of the valency of molecular orbitals has led to the understanding of molecular shapes and chemical reactivity. He took up the study of nonlinear dynamical systems and made important contributions to the understanding of the chaotic dynamics of oscillating chemical reactions, human cardiac and brain systems and cell cycles. He showed that the unstable periodic orbits of these systems could serve as signatures of the ordered and chaotic dynamical states. Gopinathan has published over 75 research articles and written a book on Group Theory in Chemistry. He has mentored about 12 PhD scholars.
Others Contributions: As Professor and Dean, IISER, Gopinathan is engaged in teaching and curriculum development of this new Institute dedicated to basic sciences.
Awards and Honours: Gopinathan received Linus Pauling Lecture Award of Mahatma Gandhi University (2002); the Fellowship of the National Research Council, Canada (1974); and was elected a Fellow of the Sigma Chi of North America (1977). He is also a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1988).