Apophyllite ‘Disco Ball’, Jalgaon, Maharashra, India  (Credit: L. Welzenbach)

EEPS is honored with a donation of minerals from Abhaya (Ajay) Ramachandra Badachhape, BA ’82. Among more than 250 specimens are very fine examples of zeolites from India, many collected by Ajay himself. The collection was brought to the department by Ajay’s family and Rice alumni Sutapa Sur, BA ’83, and  Andrew Badachhape, BSE ’13, as a tribute to the department that nurtured his passion for geology.

Ajay Badachhape (credit: Ky Photography)
Ajay as a teenager sitting in front of the mountains near his birthplace of Jalgaon, India where he collected many of the zeolites. Image courtesy of Sutapa Sur and Andrew Badachhape.

Ajay was born in Jalgaon, India and then emigrated to the U.S. with his family shortly thereafter. Even as he grew accustomed to his new home, something kept calling him back to Jalgaon.

When he went back to India, he was drawn to the mountains and the mineral wealth that surrounded the town of his birth. Treasures awaited in the abundant basalt fields of the Deccan Traps. He marveled at the hardened, mottled exterior of rock that cradled delicate, sparkling crystals that seemed out-of-this-world. He was mesmerized by mineral specimens with perfect pyramidal terminations that occurred next to others that flaked apart like a leaf. Later he learned that most of the spiny jewels with their vast arrays of multi-hued crystals were a mineral called apophyllite.

Ajay was determined to unlock the secrets that the minerals were whispering to him. 

Back home in America, he studied the geology behind the minerals, the initial wonder of which became a passion and ultimately a career. His dedication and excellent academic record led him to study geology at Rice University. Professors Anderson, Clark, Ave. Lallemant, Oldow and De Bremaeker nurtured that passion, expanded and shaped his knowledge about understanding of the earth, but also showed him how to address modern problems such as energy equity, sustainability and climate change. In particular, Dr. De Bremaeker opened Ajay’s eyes to the important role of physics in unlocking the rich deposits hidden in the Earth. From that point on Ajay dedicated his professional career to the study of geophysics.

Ajay Badachhape in New Mexico, Rice Earth Science field trip, 1981.  Image courtesy of Sutapa Sur and Andrew Badachhape.

A gifted geophysicist, Ajay pioneered many advances in the field of seismic inversion.  He pursued numerous endeavors to help further America’s energy independence and strove to provide a foundation for a more equitable society. In his spare time, he continued to collect and study mineral specimens, many acquired during his travels around the world, trying to unlock their origins and potential for advancing civilization.


Scolecite, Jalgaon District, Maharashtra, India. The zeolite collection from the land of his birth not only sparked the flame for a career in exploration, but always held a special place in Ajay’s heart.  (Credit: L. Welzenbach)

The zeolite samples are a very welcome addition to EEPS mineral collection which is being used to develop a museum. EEPS Museum of the Earth, slated to open in 2022, will provide both physical and digital exhibitions that focus on concepts that fall in line with Ajay’s interests in Geology and Society. The breadth and quality of the zeolites provide a unique opportunity that not only supports the museum theme, but also have the potential to facilitate classroom and research activities.


“Ajay’s family is grateful to Rice University for featuring his specimens, particularly the zeolites from India. From the classrooms where he attended lectures, the labs that offered him the opportunity to experiment, to the stairs that carried him to class. This building, this hall, this University will forever be a part of the fabric of his quest for knowledge and the desire to solve the biggest challenges facing our beautiful earth.”

-Sutapa Sur and Andrew Badachhape