At the time, science in India was hamstrung by poor facilities, inadequate funding, low salaries and bureaucratic roadblocks that made the purchase of equipment and supplies a slow and tedious process. Yet, Rao was determined to build a well-equipped laboratory for solid state and materials chemistry capable of competing with laboratories in developed countries.
Pursuing his dream, Rao returned to the IISc where he did indeed build a world-class laboratory and later served as director from 1984 to 1994. In 1989, he also became the founding president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, serving in that position until 1999. Since his retirement, he has continued to pursue an active research agenda.
Over the course of his long career, Rao has published 45 books, and more than 1,500 articles. More recently, he has written several children's books designed to spur interest in science among young people.
Rao has received more than 50 honorary degrees from universities in India and abroad. He is a fellow at the Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian National Science Academy, and a foreign member of numerous science academies worldwide, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society in the UK, the French Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Japan Academy, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
In terms of science policy, he has been a driving force behind the success of TWAS, first as one of the founding members in 1983 and then as president from 2000 to 2007. He remains active in the Academy's affairs to this day. Rao
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