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Praveen Chaudhari, former Brookhaven Lab director, dead at 72

By training, Praveen Chaudhari was a materials scientist. But as director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, he often displayed other abilities, Peter Paul remembered Friday.

In 2006, months before he stepped down as director, Chaudhari rolled up his sleeves to raise money from the private sector, helping the lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility through a serious budget crisis, Paul said.

"He was a great administrator and an even greater scientist," said Paul, who was the lab's deputy director under Chaudhari.

Chaudhari, 72, of Briarcliff Manor, died Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer, according to his family.

Paul, a research professor at Stony Brook University, worked at Brookhaven from 1998 to 2004. He quickly learned that Chaudhari, director from 2003 to 2006, was a "leadership personality."

Lab director Sam Aronson agreed, saying in a statement to employees that Chaudhari helped guide Brookhaven through some challenging times with pride and integrity.

"He is largely responsible for putting the laboratory on a path that led directly to the vision we're following today - one that has resulted in numerous successes," Aronson said.

The lab's release on Chaudhari's death said he "shepherded the laboratory through a period of significant funding challenges."

Chaudhari was born in Ludhiana, India, and earned a bachelor's of science degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1961. He then received his master of science and doctorate of science degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining IBM's Research Division in Yorktown in 1966.

In 36 years with IBM, Chaudhari grew to become director and vice president of the company's science programs. Under his watch, IBM scientists won consecutive Nobel Prizes in 1986 and 1987.

Chaudhari published more than 150 technical papers and holds more than 20 patents.

He won numerous awards, including the American Physical Society's George E. Pake Award in 1987 for his personal contributions to science and science management.

Paul said he last saw his former boss in 2007 and did not know he was ill. "I was unaware he had any health problems; he was vigorous when I saw him," he said.

Chaudhari is survived by his wife, Karin; son, Ashok; and daughter, Pia.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 25 at Scarborough Presbyterian Church, Scarborough.

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