A career scientist, Roddam has contributed to some of India’s major scientific programmes, including Isro and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). He was Prof Satish Dhawan’s first student.
He remained active until the very end, working even in 2020 from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and IISc.
He obtained the equivalent of an ME in 1955 and an MSc by research in 1957 from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and his PhD from Caltech in 1961.
Returning from the US in 1962, he built an active research group at IISc in aerospace and atmospheric fluid dynamics.
“His major research interests are in transitional and turbulent flows, the design of aerodynamically efficient wings for turboprop aircraft, the flow within a shock wave, the atmospheric boundary layer in the Indian tropics, and the fluid dynamics of cumulus clouds,” a profile shared with TOI by JNCASR reads.
During 1978-83 Roddam led early conceptual studies of the LCA and, during his tenure at the National Aerospace Laboratories as Director (1984-93), led the Lab in playing a major role in designing carbon composite wings and flight control systems for the LCA, designing and using the first parallel computer in the country, and defining an Indian standard atmosphere.
In the space sector, he led early conceptual studies of the Indo-French satellite Megha-Tropiques and as Director, National institute of Advanced Studies (1997-2004), he led annual dialogues with the US National Academy of Science following the Pokhran II tests.
He also served on many policy-making bodies of the Government of India, including the Space Commission, the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Council, and the National Security Advisory Board.
For all his work, Roddam was recognized by many awards including the Bhatnagar Prize (1978), the AIAA Fluid Dynamics Award (2000), the Trieste Science Prize (2008), and election to all the academies of science and engineering in India, the Royal Society London, and the US National Academies of Engineering as well as of Science.
He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2013.