IISc prof wins Infosys Prize for Physical Sciences

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) professor Arindam Ghosh won the prestigious Infosys Science Foundation Prize for Physical Sciences, said the not-for-profit arm of the global IT major on Wednesday.

“Ghosh has been awarded the Infosys Prize 2020 in Physical Sciences for developing atomically thin two-dimensional semiconductors to build a new generation of functional electronic, thermoelectric and optoelectronic devices,” said the Foundation in a statement here.

Ghosh’s creation of a new platform for light-matter interaction impacts quantum technologies and sensing in a fundamental way.

The prize consists of a gold medal, a citation and $1 lakh (Rs 74-lakh) purse.

Ghosh is among the 6 winners of the Foundation’s Prizes in different sciences, mathematics and humanities in its 12th edition.

The other laureates are US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Hari Balakrishnan in Engineering and Computer Science for his contribution to computer networking and seminal work on mobile and wireless system.

“Balakrishnan’s commercial use of mobile telematics improves driver behaviour and make roads safer,” said the statement.

Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology professor Rajan Sankaranarayanan in Life Sciences for his contribution to the error-free translation of the genetic code to make protein molecules, which is the most basic mechanisms in biology.

“Sankaranarayanan’s work has potential applications in the design of drugs such as antibiotics and immunosuppressants,” said the statement.

US-based Stanford University professor Sourav Chatterjee in Mathematical Sciences for his ground-breaking work in probability and statistical physics.

“Chatterjee’s collaborative work has played a critical role in the emerging body of work on large deviations for random graphs,” said the statement.

US-based Harvard University professor Raj Chetty in Social Sciences for his pioneering research in identifying barriers to economic opportunity and for developing solutions that help people escape poverty towards improved life outcomes.

“Chetty’s research and extraordinary ability to discern patterns in large data have the potential to induce major shifts in the discipline of economics,” said the statement.

Kolkata-based Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS) professor Prachi Deshpande won the prize in Humanities category for her nuanced and sophisticated treatment of South Asian historiography.

“Deshpande’s book ‘Creative Pasts’ and many articles provide fine insight into the evolution of modern history writing in Maharashtra from the Maratha period onwards and offer a novel perspective on the history of Western India,” noted the statement.

The winners were felicitated by professor S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan in a virtual event held in this tech city, due to Covid-induced restrictions to prevent the pandemic spread.

US-based Vardhan is an Abel Prize winner and professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in New York.

The winners were selected from 257 nominations by a jury comprising MIT professor Arvind, Cornell University professor and former World Bank senior vice-president Kaushik Basu, Columbia University professor Akeel Bilgrami, University of California professor Chandrashekhar Khare, California Institute of Technology professor Shrinivas Kulkarni and MIT professor Mriganka Sur.

“By recognising their outstanding researchers and celebrating their achievements in the applied and theoretical domains, the Infosys Prize aims to create role models who will encourage young minds to explore science and research as career options,” the statement pointed out.

Set up in 2009 by Infosys co-founders N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nanda Nilekani, S. Gopalakrishnan, S.D. Shibulal and Dinesh, and former Infosys directors T.V. Mohandas Pi and Srinath Batni, the Foundation promotes interest in science and research in the country.

“The Foundation trustees dream of an India where the poorest children can have reasonable access to nutrition, education, healthcare, shelter and confidence in a better future. For that, we need well thought out and impactful ideas that are executed without corruption,” said Murthy on the occasion.

Noting that developed countries succeeded by improving higher education and research systems, Murthy said the Prize contributed to the mission in India by honouring the best scientists and researchers, whose work has the potential to improve the world.