Names of 11 scientists declared for India’s highest science award
The names of 11 scientists, who received the country’s highest science award Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for science and technology 2021, were announced during the 80th foundation day of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Sunday.
The prize is given to Indian scientists below the age of 45 for outstanding research in seven fields—Biology, Chemistry, Environment Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics.
For Biological Sciences, Dr Amit Singh, department of microbiology and cell biology, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and Dr Arun Kumar Shukla, department of biological sciences and bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, were awarded. An expert in microbiology, Singh worked on deciphering the role of genes involved in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) pathogenesis during his PhD. Shukla is an Indian structural biologist (cell scientist), who has been working at IIT Kanpur since 2014.
In chemical sciences, two researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, Dr Kanishka Biswas from the International Centre of Materials Science and Dr T Govindaraju, from the Bio-organic Chemistry Laboratory, announced as recipients. While Biswas’ research field includes thermoelectric materials and devices that utilize the waste heat to generate electricity, Govindaraju’s work focuses on chemical biology and is engaged in solving challenging problems related to human health and society.
For Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Dr Binoy Kumar Saikia from Coal and Energy Research Group, CSIR North East Institute of Science and Technology, Jorhat, was named recipient. The coal and energy group is one of the excellent research groups working in the area of coal sciences and technology and energy-environment interface in India and abroad.
Dr Debdeep Mukhopadhyay, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, received the award under the engineering sciences category. At IIT Kharagpur, he initiated the Secured Embedded Architecture Laboratory (SEAL), with a focus on embedded security and side-channel attacks.
In the mathematical sciences category, Dr Anish Ghosh, school of mathematics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and Dr Saket Saurabh, The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, were announced winners. Ghosh works at the interface of ergodic theory, Lie groups, and number theory. Fundamental to statistical mechanics is an ergodic theory, which offers a mathematical means to study the long-term average behaviour of complex systems, such as the behaviour of molecules in a gas or the interactions of vibrating atoms in a crystal. Saket has been performing research of the highest quality in multiple areas of algorithms.
The award for medical sciences went to Dr Jeemon Panniyammakal, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, and Dr Rohit Srivastava, department of biosciences and bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Panniyammakal is a trained epidemiologist with at least a decade of experience in observational epidemiological studies and clinical trials, and Srivastava’s research interest includes fluorescent biosensors, nanoengineered sensors, and photothermal therapy for breast cancer.
Dr Kanak Saha, from Pune’s Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, received the award for physical sciences. Saha’s primary research is focused on galaxies: their structure, formation and evolution.
During the ceremony, vice president M Venkaiah Naidu advised CSIR to reinvent itself and turn futuristic while pursuing the science of the highest order.
“In a country as vast and as diverse as ours, challenges are many and institutions like CSIR need to gear up to address any sudden and unexpected problem. Each laboratory of the CSIR must come out with a clear roadmap on the new research projects that seek to address various challenges and contribute to the larger good of humanity,” said Naidu at the event.
Naidu also asked CSIR laboratories and institutes to address challenges that require long-term scientific and technological solutions. In particular, he asked the researchers to pay greater attention to agricultural research and come out with innovations, techniques and solutions to address the problems faced by farmers.
Among some of the challenges that need the focus of the scientific community, Naidu cited climate change, drug resistance, pollution, epidemic and pandemic outbreaks.
Union minister of state for science and technology, Jitendra Singh, also asked CSIR and all the science departments to explore science and technology innovations needed in the next 10 years to make India globally competitive.
“We should not restrict our ambition to be best in India but be best in the world as India is blessed with the demographic dividend of youth and they can take up any challenge with the right training and motivation,” he said.