Venigalla Purnachandra Rao earned the BSc and MSc from Andhra University, after which he joined National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa where he has been working on 'marine geology' till date. He carried out extensive studies (1980-88) on the mineralogy of the fine-grained sediments deposited along the continental margins of India and controlling factors for their distribution, and submitted the thesis to the Andhra University where he obtained PhD (1989) under the supervision of Professor M Subba Rao.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dr Rao investigated the genesis of apatite in phosphorites sampled from continental margins, ridges and seamounts. He was the first to report the occurrence of Quaternary phosphate stromatolites on the continental margin off Chennai in contradiction to the hitherto held view that there were no Quaternary/modern analogs of ancient phosphorites. His work on phosphorites from seamounts and oceanic ridges also demonstrated the influence of microbial activity in their formation. He discovered elemental sulphur exclusively formed by microbial processes in seamount phosphorites. He was the first to report the occurrence of verdine facies -- one of the largest such facies found in the world oceans -- from the western continental margin of India. He reported the existence and distribution of contemporary verdine, glaucony and phosphate facies at successive depths over the SW portion of the western continental margin and associated diverse depositional environments. His pioneering work revealed the occurrence of Halimeda bioherms from the Fifty Fathom Flat (a drowned carbonate platform on the northwestern shelf of India), that produced abundant aragonite muds fixed as aragonite faecal pellets by the deposit feeding Crustaceans. He worked extensively on terrestrial carbonates (paleosols) and carbonate deposits occurring along the western margin of India and showed evidences of paleo-shorelines and late Quaternary neo-tectonic activity in the northwestern margin of India. He also studied the estuarine sediments, and rock magnetic and geochemical properties of continental margin sediments for better understanding the early diagenesis. He has over 65 research articles to his credit and supervised three PhD students.
Awards and Honours: Dr Rao received the UNESCO/ROSTSCA Young Scientist Award (1989), CSIR Young Scientist Award (1990) and National Mineral Award (1994). He is also Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.