R Jayaraman obtained his BSc degree (1957) from Madras University and joined the Biology Division of Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (now BARC) as a research student. He earned his MSc (Biochemistry) degree (1962) by research from the Bombay University. After a brief stint at the CIBA Research Centre, Mumbai and at the Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, he joined the Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA and obtained his PhD (1970) in Molecular Biology under the guidance of Professor Edward Goldberg. He was a Damon Runyon Memorial Post-doctoral Fellow (1970-72) at the Harvard Biological Laboratories, Cambridge, MA, USA under the supervision of James D Watson. He joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) as a Fellow in the Molecular Biology Unit (1972) and moved to Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), Madurai, Tamil Nadu (1974) as a Reader in Molecular Biology. He remained at MKU till his superannuation (1998) as Professor, Head, and Coordinator, School of Biological Sciences. He was an INSA Senior Scientist and INSA Honorary Scientist at MKU till 2003 and a Guest Faculty at IIT-Madras (2006-07).
Academic and Research Achievements: At Tufts, Jayaraman developed a genetic assay for gene-specific mRNAs of bacteriophage T4, which was highly applauded and quoted in the textbooks and other monographs of that period. At Harvard he showed that some genes of phage T4 could be expressed by a read-through mechanism, while some others needed specific initiation factor(s) for expression. At TIFR his studies revealed that RNA polymerase of E. coli exists in heterogeneous forms in vivo by association with protein factors (different forms exhibiting different physical and catalytic properties). At Madurai, he began working on the genetics of transcription in E. coli. His group isolated two temperature-sensitive, transcription defective mutants in E. coli. Using these, he extensively studied genetic, physiological and molecular mechanisms of the control of transcription in E coli. Jayaraman has also done pioneering work on the mutability of E. coli in the stationary phase of growth and showed that the leakiness of mutant alleles determines their susceptibility to reversion under selection pressure. The susceptibility could be modulated genetically through a mutation in a particular gene and phenotypically by antibiotics like streptomycin. Twelve students have received their PhD degree under his guidance.
Other Contributions: Jayaraman has been an inspiring teacher of bacterial genetics and is recognized as a leading bacterial geneticist of the country. He has served in several Project Advisory Committees of CSIR, DST and DBT. He has also served on the Editorial Boards of many journals and was in the Sectional Committees of the Academies of Sciences.
Awards and Honours: Jayaraman has received several awards and honours. Notable among these are: SS Bhatnagar Prize (1982); UGC National Professorship; Dr Radhakrishnan Award (Best Teacher Award) of the Tamil Nadu Government; Professor GN Ramachandran 60th Birthday Commemoration Medal (1997) of INSA; and JC Ray Memorial Medal of IICB, Kolkota. He is a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.