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Passing of Dr Rivendra Narain - Senior Lecturer, SMSCS

2020/04/22 11:49:27 PM

It is with deep sadness that we inform the university community of the passing of Dr Rivendra Narain.

Dr Narain passed away under tragic circumstances in the early hours of 22 April 2020 at his home in Tongaat. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Upasna, his young daughter Smriti, and members of his family.

Riven completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Natal. His BSc (Hons), MSc and PhD degrees were awarded by the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. During his studies he received awards for outstanding research. He then joined the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville, first as postdoctoral fellow and later as a lecturer. He was recently promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Mathematics. He was outgoing, friendly and helpful; this ensured that there was a warm relationship with both students and colleagues.

Riven loved teaching and interacting with students. As a postgraduate student in Wits he lectured in a number of undergraduate courses in Science and Engineering. This was a period in which he was working full time on his PhD degree. At UKZN he lectured to a range of students in Science, Engineering and Commerce. Riven treated teaching seriously, which was appreciated by students. He was the first to volunteer to assist the School with additional teaching support when colleagues were ill or in times of crisis. In addition, he was involved in outreach programmes involving the National Mathematics Olympiad, University Open Days, the Eskom Young Scientists Expo and NASSP. He believed that uplifting teacher qualifications was important in improving teaching in schools. Therefore he took part in several upliftment programmes including a project with teachers from the Northern Cape. His interest led to many students seeking his assistance as a mentor.

Riven had a number of postgraduate students at the MSc and PhD level. Several students graduated under his supervision. His research interests were wide and he was willing to tackle research projects in different fields. These include symmetries, conservation laws, differential equations, general relativity and astrophysics. At the national level he was appointed Focus Area Coordinator by the CoE-MaSS. In this capacity he was assisting in building a stronger base for the mathematical sciences across universities and institutes. He was the principal organiser for the International Symmetries Conference held in the Sani Pass in 2019.

Riven was a long-time member of NTEU and had been co-leading the UKZN branch since November last year. Anyone who met Riven knew him for his cheerful inquiring mind, and an honest commitment to education, science and his community. He was a true friend, an invaluable colleague and an outspoken defender of the rights of tertiary workers.

The loss of Dr Narain is a significant blow for the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, for the entire UKZN community and for NTEU at UKZN. Those who met him in person remember his strength of character and selfless leadership, whilst those who knew him only via online communications recall his commitment to disseminating useful and accurate information.

Riven was a dear colleague and had a deep bond with his students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. His absence will leave a major gap in our lives and he will certainly be missed. The impact of the loss on Dr Narain's family is massive and difficult to fathom. Our thoughts are with them.

A funeral service will take place on the afternoon of 23 April 2020, which owing to the current lockdown situation will be a family affair. His colleagues intend to hold a memorial service on the Westville Campus of UKZN in honour of Riven when the circumstances permit. We will circulate details of this event in due course.

Written by Prof Sunil Maharaj with contributions by Dr Gareth Amery on behalf of colleagues in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, UKZN. 

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