Indian-Americans shine in White House honors for rising stars in the world science and tech
The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States on “outstanding” scientists and engineers who show “exceptional promise” for leadership in science and technology.Updated: Jul 03, 2019 12:34 IST
Almost two dozen Indian Americans, including some alumni of leading Indian universities, were among those named Tuesday by the White House as winners of the highest US award for rising stars of the world of science and technology, at the frontiers of new research and ideas.
Many of them them were so surprised, they refused to believe. Padmini Rangamani, who is at the University of California, San Diego and is visiting India currently, said she thought it was a prank when reached for comments. Another person wrote back saying it was probably some one else with the same name.
The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States on “outstanding” scientists and engineers who are just getting started in their respective independent research careers and show “exceptional promise” for leadership in science and technology, according to the White House announcement. The awards were announced in the name of President Donald Trump, who will also present them at a later date as has been the practice.
Others named were Sanjay Basu, Stanford University; Shafali Jeste, University of California - Los Angeles; Suveen Mathaudhu, University of California - Riverside; Piya Pal, University of California - San Diego; Dhruv Batra, Georgia Institute of Technology; Subbian Panayampalli, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases; Vivek Agarwal, Idaho National Laboratory; Gaurav Bahl and Prashant Jain, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign; Anish Thomas, National Institutes of Health; Varun Verma, National Institute of Standards and Technology Physical Measurement Laboratory; Barna Saha and University of Massachusetts; Yogesh Surendranath, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bharat Jalan, University of Minnesota; Arvind Narayanan, Princeton University; Sandeep Mallipattu, Stony Brook School of Medicine; Priya Rajasethupathy, Rockefeller University; Neville Sanjana, New York Genome Center; Sohini Ramachandran, Brown University; Anita Shukla, Brown University; Meenakshi Madhur, Vanderbilt University; and Nitya Kallivayalil, University of Virginia.
There were in all more than 300 such super-achievers in the White house announcement. This appeared to be the largest batch of winners for this prestigious awards since being instituted in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, and so was, possibly, the number of those of Indian descent.
After the news had sunk in, Rangamani wrote she had been nominated some years ago and had not expected the announcement. She is associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and said her research focussed on “biomechanics and mechanobiology -- understanding how cells respond to forces. Her group, she added, uses “theoretical and computational models to study different cellular processes”.
Rangamani studied chemical engineering at the College of Technology, Osmania University and then headed for the United States as student, following a path taken by many Indians who came to the United States, then and now, to study and stay on.
Pya Pal, who is also at the University of California in San Diego, wrote about herself in an online search for research scholars, she went to IIT Kharagpur and her research is about “high dimensional statistical signal processing and big data analysis, energy-efficient sensing, high resolution imaging, and optimization techniques for solving inverse problems in signal processing with applications in radar and sonar signal processing, biomedical and molecular imaging, and machine learning”.
Dhruv Batra, of Georgia Institute of Technology who is also a a Research Scientist at Facebook AI Research went to IIT-BHU. “I am interested in artificial intelligence (AI). More specifically, my research lies at the intersection of machine learning and computer vision, with forays into natural language processing,” he wrote on his webpage.
A number of them have already been acclaimed for their achievement. Sanjay Basu of the University Stanford, for instance, was named by the Foreign Policy magazine to its “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2013. His university resume says he works on reducing mortality and morbidity due to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes “typically using methods from the fields of computer science, econometrics, and large-scale data analysis”.