Rao is Linus Pauling research professor and Hon. president, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. After obtaining his PhD at Purdue U. and completing postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley, he returned to India in 1959 and has since worked in various capacities at the Ind. Inst. of Science and other institutions. His honours include: 77 honorary causa doctorates; Hughes and Royal Medals of the Royal Society, London; Einstein Gold Medal, UNESCO; India Science Prize; Dan David Prize; Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize; dist. research professor, U. of Cambridge; laureate, Khwarizmi Intl. Award, Iran; Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, by Emperor of Japan, Order of Friendship of Russia, Chevalier De La Legion D'Honneur of France. He was conferred the highest award for materials research, the von Hippel award by the Materials Society in 2017. He is a member of 27 science academies including the Royal Society, US National Academy of Sciences, and Pontifical, Australian, Canadian, Russian, Brazilian, French and Japan academies. He is the recipient of the highest civilian honour of India, Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India).