Physicist's $3-million prize dilemma | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Physicist's $3-million prize dilemma

Star Indian physicist Ashoke Sen has a new dream and faces an unusual challenge. The string theorist who was on Tuesday awarded the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize (FPP) is hoping that the biggest monetary prize in the world of academia injects fresh interest in basic research - often seen as an unglamorous profession. Charu Sudan Kasturi reports. Life of a science star

delhi Updated: Aug 02, 2012 03:44 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

Star Indian physicist Ashoke Sen has a new dream and faces an unusual challenge.

The string theorist who was on Tuesday awarded the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize (FPP) is hoping that the biggest monetary prize in the world of academia injects fresh interest in basic research - often seen as an unglamorous profession.

Sen, arguably India's best known physicist on the world stage, was awarded the FPP in recognition of his pioneering work on string theory - a model that if proven could help reconcile the most fundamental forces of nature.

"People should join science because they love it and are passionate about it, but I hope this award sends the message to young scientists that research isn't as non-lucrative as it is often perceived," Sen told HT in an interview from Allahabad, where he is a distinguished professor at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute (HRI).

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With his thick, soda-bottle glasses and soft speech, Sen has emerged as one of the most respected physicists in string theory at conferences across the world over the past two decades, as HT had written recently.

But the big question the physicist is struggling with right now has nothing to do with string theory.

"I'm not sure what to do with this money," Sen said.

The scientist, used to his standard government research laboratory salary, said he hopes to "figure out" what to do with the award money over the coming few days.

The FPP was launched this year by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and consists of an annual prize of $27 million awarded to nine physicists. Seven of the other eight physicists are American while the eighth is French.

Sen received an email from the FPP organizers a few days earlier, asking him when he was free to talk, but not sharing any details.

"It was a complete surprise," Sen said.

"I was intrigued," Sen said.

The physicist fixed a time and went to his hotel room to receive the call that informed him of his win.