by Elton Gomes
A total of 13 scientists from various institutions across India have been chosen for the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize for 2018. The prestigious prize has been awarded to Dr. Ganesh Nagaraju; Dr. Ambarish Ghosh; Dr. Amit Agarwal; Dr. Ashwin Anil Gumaste; Dr. Rahul Banerjee; Dr. Swadhin Kumar Mandal; Dr. Nitin Saxena; Dr. Amit Kumar; Dr. Thomas Pucadyil; Dr. Parthasarathi Chakraborty; Dr. Madineni Venkat Ratnam; Dr. Ganesan Venkatasubramanian; and Dr. Aditi Sen De.
The names were announced by Professor Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology and Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the occasion of CSIR Foundation Day on Wednesday.
What is the prize about?
The award has been named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) India, the late Dr (Sir) Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar and is known as the ‘Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Prize for Science and Technology’. The Prize is given out every year for outstanding contributions to science and technology.
Who is eligible to win, and what is the prize money?
Any India citizen who is engaged in research in any field of science and technology is eligible. A citizen should be 45 years as reckoned on 31st December in the year preceding the year of the Prize. Overseas citizen of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) working in India are also eligible for the prize.
The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize is valued at Rs 5 lakh, and is awarded within the following disciplines: (i) Biological Sciences, (ii) Chemical Sciences, (iii) Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, (iv) Engineering Sciences, (v) Mathematical Sciences, (vi) Medical Sciences, and (vii) Physical Sciences.
This year’s winners
Biological Sciences. Ganesh Nagaraju from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and Thomas Pucadyil from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune were named as winners of the prize.
Nagaraju, has been an alumnus of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and is involved in the study of biochemistry in saving lives from cancer, fanconi anemia, and other genetic diseases.
Pucadyil is a cell biologist, and has been researching the recreation of cell membrane systems and how they split. Pucadyil was the only Indian scientist to receive a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2017.
Chemical Science. Rahul Banerjee and Swadhin Kumar Mandal of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, were the recipients of the award in this category. Mandal’s work is aimed at developing non-toxic catalysts for various industrially important processes, and how they can be effectively used in pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Planetary Sciences. Dr Madineni Venkat Ratnam of the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Tirupati, and Parthasarathi Chakraborty of CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, were awarded the prize under the Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Planetary Sciences category.
Dr Chakraborty’s work revolves around understanding how metal in the marine ecosystem affects its carbon cycles. Dr Ratnam studies the middle-atmospheric structures and the sun-earth interactions, and is also part of an ISRO-NASA project that studies the dense blanket of pollutants hanging 13 to 18 km above Asia.
Engineering Sciences. Amit Agarwal and Ashwin Anil Gumaste from IIT Bombay won the prize in engineering. Gumaste, an associate professor working in the telecommunications sector, said: “India is growing in leaps and bounds in terms of technology development especially as we seek to move up the value chain. We are seeing that the Make in India initiative is actively converting outlays into outcomes and finally into output that is tangible for the nation,” the Indian Express reported.
Mathematical Sciences. Amit Kumar and Nitin Saxena, from IIT Delhi and IIT Kanpur, respectively, were recipients of the prize. Saxena won for algebraic complexity, and Kumar won for combinatorial optimisation and graph theoretic algorithms.
Medical Sciences. Dr Ganesan Venkatasubramanian of NIMHANS, Bengaluru, won the award in the Medical Sciences category. Venkatasubramanian has been working hard to comprehend psychiatric disorders through the lens of evolutionary biology of the human brain. Over the past decade, his research on schizophrenia has suggested a link between systemic immune-metabolic aberrations and brain deficits.
Physical Sciences. Dr Aditi Sen De from the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, and Dr Ambarish Ghosh from IISc, Bengaluru, have been awarded under the Physical Sciences category.
Dr Sen De said that quantum information and computation is a science at the crossroads of physics, computer science, mathematics, and information theory. She added, “We work closely with the Armed Forces. Say, there are two camps and messages have to be transmitted securely between them, for this quantum mechanical networks can be used,” Bangalore Mirror reported.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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