My name is Liton Majumdar, and I am a faculty member in the new interdisciplinary School of Earth and Planetary Sciences (SEPS) at the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, where I lead the Star & Planetary Formation Group of SEPS, and a visiting scientist (formally appointed by the office of the chief scientist) at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL Homepage) in Pasadena, California, USA. My research interests are at the interfaces of Astrophysics, Astrochemistry/Cosmochemistry and Planetary Science- mostly focussed on understanding the physical and chemical origins of planetary systems such as our own. I hope this site provides you with all the information you need to know about (who I am), the courses I (teach) and the subject areas I (research) on.
My main research interests lie in the physics (e.g., kinematics, physical conditions) and chemistry (e.g., abundances and spatial distributions) of simple and complex organic molecules (ingredients for life) in space from interstellar clouds, the birthplaces of stars, through to protoplanetary disks. These organics eventually seed planetary surfaces and atmospheres and play a role in the "Origin of Life." I use numerical models, single dish telescope observations at (sub-) millimeter/centimeter wavelengths (e.g., NASA DSN, IRAM 30m, NRO 45m, ARO 12m, and GBT), interferometric observations at (sub-) millimeter wavelengths (e.g., ALMA, NOEMA), space telescope observations at near, mid and far-infrared wavelengths (e.g., JWST NIRSpec, JWST MIRI, Spitzer and Herschel science archive) along with SOFIA observations at Terahertz frequencies for my research. I use interferometric data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study the evolution of volatile molecules in protoplanetary disks with the goal of determining the amount of volatile carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen available to form planets and to compare with the exoplanetary atmospheric compositions derived either from atmospheric retrieval or photochemical kinetics for exoplanet atmospheres. I am also interested in linking disk models and observations to the origin of comets and have a strong desire to understand the source of the observed organics on them. I also have a deep interest in the future development (technology) and scientific capabilities of SPICA, OST, and HabEx mission (together with ground based facilities such as TMT and SKA) to revolutionize our understanding of planetary system formation and complete the census of the outer reaches of the Solar System. I am also the co-investigator of a Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program of NASA's next flagship astrophysics mission James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to study physics and chemistry of protostellar binaries in Perseus.
If you are interested in joining my group at NISER, you may consider doing your 5th year integrated M.Sc. Thesis or Ph.D. second semester projects with me. Right now, I am mostly working on some of the unique fundamental questions about star formation, planetary formation and exoplanets:
(a) What physical processes play a role in the formation of stars?
(b) How do planets grow from disks of gas and dust around young stars?
(c) What is the chemical evolution of interstellar material on its voyage from clouds to forming stars and ultimately to newborn planets? How common are the ingredients for life such as water, and do they naturally evolve as part of new planets?
(d) What is the inventory of organics and water in regions of planet formation, particularly in the habitable zone? Did delivery of exogenous organics and water enable the emergence and evolution of life? In short: Why is Earth wet and alive?
(e) How can we watch other solar systems form? What does the composition of the Earth and other Solar System objects tell us about how they formed?
(f) Can we find evidence for habitability elsewhere in the present day Solar System, and habitable environments in extra-solar planets? Would this evidence inform the delivery of exogenous prebiotic matter to Earth?
(g) How many Earth-like planets exist? Do they have atmospheres? In other words, is Earth unique?
The above interdisciplinary projects of my group aim at both fundamental theoretical understanding and practical observational applications. Students of backgrounds in Physics, Space Sciences (Astronomy, Astrophysics, Planetary Science), Chemistry (mostly Physical Chemistry), and/or Earth System Sciences (mostly astrogeology, planetary geophysics, atmospheric physics) are welcome to join my group at NISER.
As a scientist, I have always given priorities to research, teaching, mentoring and outreach activities. According to me, teaching, mentoring and outreach are extremely rewarding and constitute a fundamental part of my scientific career together with my research. Teaching is a great way to guide and motivate students to quench their curiosity and help them to develop their critical thinking abilities. Outreach gives me the opportunity to increase the awareness of astronomy and planetary science, ignite interest in science and inspire future scientists.
I am open to any scientific collaborations from theory, observational, or experimental research groups in astronomy and planetary sciences and instrumentalists as well.