In a virtual ceremony, the Infosys Science Foundation announced six winners of the Infosys Prize for the year 2020. The annual prize, announced in six categories, recognises individuals with outstanding contributions to science and research. The prize consists of a pure gold medal, a citation and a purse of USD 100,000.
Prof Hari Balakrishnan from Massachusetts Institute of Technology was recognised in the Engineering and Computer Science category for his broad contributions to computer networking, and mobile and wireless systems. Balakrishnan’s commercial use of mobile telematics improves driver behaviour and makes roads safer.
In the Humanities category, Dr Prachi Deshpande from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata, for her nuanced and sophisticated treatment of South Asian historiography. In her book, Creative Pasts and her many articles, she provides fine insights into the evolution of modern history-writing in Maharashtra from the Maratha period onwards, and offers a novel perspective on the history of Western India.
Dr Rajan Sankaranarayanan from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, was awarded in the Life Sciences category for his contributions towards understanding one of the most basic mechanisms in biology, the error-free translation of the genetic code to make protein molecules. Dr Sankaranarayanan's work has potential applications in the design of drugs such as antibiotics and immunosuppressants.
The Infosys Prize 2020 in Mathematical Sciences is awarded to Prof Sourav Chatterjee from Stanford University for his groundbreaking work in probability and statistical physics. Prof Chatterjee’s collaborative work has played a critical role in areas such as the emerging body of work on large deviations for random graphs.
Prof Arindam Ghosh from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, was recognised in the Physical Sciences category for the development of atomically thin two-dimensional semiconductors to build a new generation of functional electronic, thermoelectric, and optoelectronic devices. Prof Ghosh’s creation of a new platform for light-matter interaction impacts quantum technologies and sensing in a fundamental way. Some of his research work can be found here.
In the Social Sciences category, Prof Raj Chetty from Harvard University for his pioneering research in identifying barriers to economic opportunity, and for developing solutions that help people escape poverty towards improved life outcomes. Prof Chetty’s research and extraordinary ability to discern patterns in large data have the potential to induce major shifts in the discipline of Economics.
The chairs of the jury were Prof Arvind (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for Engineering and Computer Science, Prof Kaushik Basu (Cornell University and former SVP, World Bank) for Social Sciences, Prof Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University) for Humanities, Prof Chandrashekhar Khare (University of California, Los Angeles) for Mathematical Sciences, Prof Shrinivas Kulkarni (California Institute of Technology) for Physical Sciences, and Prof Mriganka Sur (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for Life Sciences.
Editor's note: The article has been updated for formatting errors. The error is regretted.