Physics professor Asok Ray had a strong passion for his research, but his heart was with his students, colleagues and students said.
Physics doctoral student Prabath Wanaguru worked directly under Ray for his doctoral degree the past two years.
“He gave the motivation behind my work,” Wanaguru said. “He’s like the immense strength behind you. He doesn’t discourage anything you do as a researcher.”
Ray, 65, died from cardiac problems Friday evening at Arlington Memorial Hospital with his wife, library assistant Swati Ray, family, students, faculty and friends by his side, physics department chairman Alex Weiss said.
Ray went to the hospital on Tuesday after teaching a class the same day.
“Its hard to believe and to think that I saw him walking around here and there, and now he’s no more,” Wanaguru said. “It’s hard to believe, you know. I was thinking at the time he will be okay. He will be okay. He’s going to make it. ”
Ray never rested when it came to research, Wanaguru said, and his determination moved his students forward.
“I am so amazed about his passion for research,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing about him. He’s so driven — that passion drives us.”
Ray graduated assistant physics professor Muhammad Huda with his doctoral degree in 2004. Huda worked closely with Ray during his graduate and doctoral years and knew Ray since 1999.
“He was my mentor in not only research, but also personal life,” Huda said. “He guided me through all kinds of trouble I had.”
Ray was the graduate adviser for the Department of Physics for more than 10 years, graduated one of the highest numbers of physics doctoral students, and worked with Weiss in forming the physics doctoral program, Weiss said. Ray graduated more than 20 doctoral students.
“He was one of the most active in faculty with graduating Ph.D students and creating a relationship with them,” Weiss said.
Ray took a strong interest in his students’ research development, self-development and in helping them find careers, Weiss said.
“Dr. Ray treated students as his family,” Huda said. “He does not have any kids.”
Huda said when he talked to Ray it was almost always about his students, their research or Ray’s research. Ray took care of his students on a personal and professional level, he said. Ray advised Huda in times of crisis, he said.
Ray was a senior member of the department’s Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics Group along with late physics professor Nail Fazleev. Ray had several research interests in physics. Huda said Ray was the kind of person who loved his work.
“My research mainly came from him,” Huda said. “The way I saw him working day and night made me want to work as hard as him. His inspiration of work and to do more was most influential for me.”
Ray first came to UTA in 1982 as a visiting professor and became a faculty member in 1984. He authored one book and co-authored or authored almost 200 referred research publications. Several of his publications were for presentation at international and national conferences, Greg Pederson, College of Science communications specialist, said in an email to the College of Science. Ray brought millions of dollars to the department to support graduate students and research, Pederson said in the email. Weiss said Ray supported a good fraction of graduate student research assistantships and found programs to support graduate students.
Ray was awarded the UT Arlington Award for Distinguished Record of Research or Creative Activity in 2011, Pederson said in an email. Ray earned one doctoral degree and two master’s degrees in physics and mathematics. He earned two bachelor degrees in physics and technology in radio-physics and electronics. He came to the United States after he earned his first bachelor degree in 1967 in India.
A private ceremony and burial for Ray is scheduled for today.
“He’s a caring, hardworking man with a warm personality,” Wanaguru said. “An excellent researcher and mentor.”