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Philanthropy’s Phenomenal Force

Professor teaching students at chalkboard
A renowned physicist establishes the Mani L. Bhaumik Institute for Theoretical Physics with a record-setting gift to UCLA Division of Physical Sciences.

Physics, of course, is the study of matter and its motion through time and space. No one knows that better than renowned physicist Mani Bhaumik, who also knows firsthand that when it comes to higher education, philanthropy matters.

Against All Odds

Bhaumik was born into extreme poverty in a remote village in West Bengal, India, during the Indian independence movement. “My family didn’t always know where our next meal would come from,” says Bhaumik. “As a child, I slept on rags in the thatched-roof mud hut I shared with my parents and six siblings.”

Despite all of his challenges, Bhaumik rose to become an esteemed scientist who played a key role in developing the laser technology that laid the groundwork for Lasik eye surgery. And with an eye toward giving back, he recently gave $11 million to UCLA Division of Physical Sciences — the largest gift ever to the division — to establish the Mani L. Bhaumik Institute for Theoretical Physics.

A Community Effort  

His dreams and determination led Bhaumik to earn a master’s degree at University of Calcutta and become the first student to earn a doctorate at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. In 1959, he received a Sloan Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, and the people of his village raised the airfare for him to come to UCLA. Of his time as a student at UCLA he says, “Everyone there was treated equally, not like back at home where the poor were treated like dirt.”

His gift will support graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty attempting to determine the action of the laws of nature through mathematical models. The core role of theoretical physicists is to formulate the laws that govern the natural world in which we live — a world that philanthropists like Bhaumik are improving.

Published September 2016

Mani Bhaumik headshot

Donor Mani Bhaumik

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