View of India: Award-Winning Solutions Benefiting Society

The 2021 Infosys Prize winners have been announced, recognizing their outstanding contributions to science and research. The work of this year’s laureates addresses some of the greatest challenges of our time, such as the effect of climate change on fragile ecosystems and contributing to effective conservation strategies.

The Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) award includes a pure gold medal, citation and a scholarship of USD 100,000, excluding taxes in India. The winners were chosen from six fields: engineering and computer science, humanities, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physical sciences and social sciences.

Many of the winning initiatives are interdisciplinary. “Climate change is a big area. This requires research in the areas of battery-energy-grid physics and computing AI, ”said Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder of Infosys Limited, expressing virtually during the ISF function.

Other areas of focus include designing a robust platform for rapid testing of deadly diseases like Covid-19 and tuberculosis (tuberculosis) and understanding nuclear force to harness nuclear power for the benefit of humanity. “Right now we have a few cases of Omicron, the new strain of the virus. We must continue to maintain a social distance and avoid congregating in large crowds, ”warned NR Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys.

The aim of the award is to recognize and reward the work done by researchers and to create icons for the younger generation. An event of this magnitude aims to encourage many more people to pursue innovative thinking. “The Infosys Science Foundation has recognized excellence over the past 13 years. By recognizing and celebrating the creativity and innovation of these remarkable people, we hope to inspire and encourage others and society as a whole. Although the results are not always immediately apparent, we must remember that the long arc of knowledge, discovery and invention will benefit humanity in unexpected ways, as we have seen with vaccines at MRNA during this Covid crisis, ”said Kris Gopalakrishnan, president of Infosys Science. Foundation. “With the Infosys Prize, we are recognizing not only the apparent breakthroughs, but also the far-reaching potential of the work of these stellar researchers and scholars.”

The winners

> Engineering and IT award winner Dr Chandrasekhar Nair has a new point-of-care testing platform for PCR-based medical diagnostics. Dr Nair, CTO of Molbio Diagnostics, came up with a rugged, field-usable, battery-operated PCR device called TrueNat. Acronym for Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR-based assays allow genes (human or infectious agents) to be tested directly from patient samples. Testing, which is otherwise an expensive process, is now quite affordable and the device can be deployed on a large scale. What’s worth it is that it enables point-of-care testing for the early detection of disease in a world dominated by pandemics.

> How imperialism and colonial history can influence culture and religion caught the attention of Dr Ângela Barreto Xavier. Dr Xavier, from the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal, focused on Goa. Located on the west coast of India, Goa was a Portuguese colony from 1510 to 1961. It was an important trading hub for the oriental spice trade. The Portuguese influence on Goa can be seen in its architecture, gastronomy and cultural norms. The medley of influences drove Dr. Xavier. His analysis and research into the conversion of Goa and its people has been insightful. This made her a winner in the Humanities section.

> Professor Mahesh Sankaran of the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) was awarded in the Life Sciences category. The tropical savannah ecosystem of the Western Ghats, which he studied, has given rise to many revelations. His expertise on the subject has influenced various conservation strategies and shaped a rational conservation policy. Professor Sankaran’s work has also led him to international reports on climate change. Incidentally, the Western Ghats, which is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world, is home to over 30 percent of all species of plants, fish, herpetofauna, birds and mammals found in India. . In this lush context, Professor Sankaran has done pioneering work on the Western Ghats and their biodiversity.

> Transport, security and Internet access are among the applications of algorithms, but this requires an understanding of their limits, their intrinsic qualities and their operational efficiency. The work of Dr. Neeraj Kayal of the Microsoft Research Lab on complexity theory provides mathematical tools for understanding the efficiency and limitations of algorithms. Dr. Kayal’s contribution to computational complexity stems from his understanding of algebraic calculus. This can be understood in terms of the development of deep lower bound techniques proving the limitations of this natural model, as well as the design of efficient algorithms for the reconstruction and equivalence of such algebraic circuits. Naturally, he won in the Mathematical Sciences category.

> Nuclear forces require a fine understanding in order to harness nuclear energy, highly energetic processes and the cosmos. Without proper knowledge, it could have devastating consequences. Professor Bedangadas Mohanty of the National Institute for Scientific Education and Research in Bhubaneswar realized this and investigated the nuclear force. Even when he was at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research, he determined the transition temperature from quark-gluon plasma to hadronic matter. The physics laureate had also observed heavy antimatter nuclei, nuclear spin-orbital angular momentum interactions and other effects in quark-gluon plasma. When we look at the big picture, humanity is preparing to venture beyond the solar system and experience many wonders of the universe firsthand. Professor Mohanty’s work helps us prepare for adventure. Currently, Prof. Mohanty’s beneficiaries include astronomers, nuclear chemists, physicists and individuals who use nuclear energy.

> Dr Pratiksha Baxi from the Center for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, New Delhi won the Social Sciences Award. Dr Baxi is credited for his work on sexual violence and case law. Her ethnographic research and careful analyzes reveal how gender violence is reproduced in legal practice. A combination of legal studies, sociology and anthropology has resulted in such a vast work. Not only that, but Dr. Baxi influenced a growing field of inquiry into the social life of law.

Following the winners, it is hoped that research-oriented work will evolve into solutions to tackle cybersecurity and food scarcity, among other pressing issues. Maybe a combination of basic and applied research could help find some sort of solution. “Over the past several centuries, and certainly in the future, the history of the world has been and will be shaped by the countries which conduct science and intellectual exploration. For any nation and society, cutting-edge science is a matter of prestige and a contribution to excellence in the country and in the world, ”said Professor Gagandeep Kang, FRS, professor at CMC Vellore, and congratulated the winners. .

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