The Infosys Science Foundation Awards honours the cream of the crop among researchers across the country, shedding light on those who made exceptional contributions in their respective fields. At a ceremony held in their newly inaugurated office in Bangalore, the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) recognised academic and professional excellence by announcing the winners of the Infosys Prize of the year 2022. The awards were conferred in six categories - Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences.
The prize consists of a pure gold medal, a citation and a cash award of USD 100,000. The winners are: Engineering and Computer Science - Suman Chakraborty; Humanities - Sudhir Krishnaswamy; Life Sciences - Vidita Vaidya; Mathematical Sciences - Mahesh Kakde; Physical Sciences - Nissim Kanekar, Social Sciences - Rohini Pande. The laureates were selected by accomplished jurors comprising world-renowned experts from a pool of 218 nominations.
The trustees of the Infosys Science Foundation — Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Mr. Narayana Murthy, Mr. Srinath Batni, Mr. K. Dinesh, Mr. Mohandas Pai, Mr. Salil Parekh, and Mr. S. D. Shibulal attended the event. They announced the winners and participated in a questions and answers session afterwards.
WINNERS OF THE INFOSYS PRIZE 2022
Engineering and Computer Science
Suman Chakraborty, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Dean of Research and Development, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, was awarded the Infosys Prize 2022 in Engineering and Computer Science for his work in understanding how fluids behave in extremely small quantities (millionth of a millilitre) and extremely small spaces and channels (millionth of a metre). His work revealed how fluids behave very differently at such tiny scales (microfluidics) compared to how they behave while flowing through, say, a tap. He also explored how the movement of fluids in tiny quantities is affected by factors such as mechanical stress or electric field. Using this understanding, he has helped invent novel low-cost medical devices, such as paper-based devices for blood testing and painless extraction of blood samples. “Prof Chakraborty has used his expertise in microfluidics to develop a variety of sensing, diagnostic and therapeutic medical technologies with a potential to significantly transform health care in resource-limited settings,“ said the jury.
Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Vice Chancellor, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, was awarded the Infosys Prize 2022 in Humanities for his profound understanding of the Indian Constitution. Prof. Sudhir Krishnaswamy’s great achievement in his book, Democracy and Constitutionalism in India (Oxford, 2009), is to elaborate the theoretical basis, the validity, and implications of the ‘basic structure doctrine’ adopted by the Supreme Court in 1973 that guides and constrains various efforts to amend it, while also ensuring its stability in the face of executive and legislative outcomes in India’s political life. Congratulations from jury chair Akeel Bilgrami states, “I greatly admire the analytical power with which you have elaborated the significance of ‘the basic structure’ doctrine for the Indian constitution and its unfolding history in independent India.”
Vidita Vaidya, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, bagged the Infosys Prize 2022 in Life Sciences for her contributions to understanding neurological mechanisms that govern mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. She has been using animal models to study the manipulation of different signalling pathways in brain development and how this can, in turn, regulate mood-related behavioural changes perpetuating beyond childhood. Her work with serotonin signalling paves the way to yield new therapeutic strategies for a range of disorders relating to mental health. In the congratulatory note, jury Chair Mriganka Sur states, “Your analysis on how early life stress impacts serotonin function promises to yield novel strategies for reducing the burden of psychiatric disorders and improving mental health.”
The Infosys Prize 2022 in Mathematical Sciences is awarded to Mahesh Kakde, Professor of Mathematics, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, for his outstanding contributions to algebraic number theory. Prof. Kakde’s work made a decisive contribution to the main conjecture of non-commutative Iwasawa theory for the Tate motive. Ideas from Iwasawa theory were a key inspiration for Wiles’s proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. His work on the Gross-Stark conjecture (with Samit Dasgupta and Kevin Ventullo) and the Brumer-Stark conjecture (with Samit Dasgupta) resolves outstanding conjectures at the heart of modern number theory. In the jury’s opinion, Kakde’s work on special values of p-adic L-functions and their relation to class groups and units of number fields resolves several outstanding conjectures in the subject. “His work makes important progress towards a p-adic analytic analogue of Hilbert’s 12th problem on the construction of abelian extensions of number fields,” said the jury chair Dr Chandrashekhar Khare in his congratulatory message to Kakde.
The award in the Physical Sciences category went to Prof. Nissim Kanekar, an astronomer and Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). He was awarded for his work on detecting atomic hydrogen during the early periods of galaxy formation in the universe and on fundamental constants of the universe. Prof. Kanekar, using the Giant Meter wave Radio Telescope (GMRT), was able to detect atomic hydrogen in galaxies during what is referred to as the cosmic noon - a period around 3 billion years after the Big Bang when galaxies were growing at the highest rates. His observations also helped him place the strongest limits on the evolution of two fundamental constants of the universe – the fine structure constant and electron-proton mass ratio, over time. The jury chair, Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni, commended Prof. Kanekar’s “exacting work and persistence”, calling his work on the detection of atomic hydrogen at cosmic noon a “landmark finding” and his work on the fundamental constant as “standing high”.
The Infosys Prize 2022 in Social Sciences was awarded to Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director, Economic Growth Center, Yale University. Prof. Rohini Pande is an applied economist and quite versatile in her studies. Much of her research focuses on India, specifically rural India, a significant portion being about women empowerment, marginalised communities, banking in the rural sector, and the environment. Her empirical research findings offer the potential to develop viable policies that could perhaps be the answer to many of the social inequalities in society. “Rohini’s creativity, grit and prolific research are not only of great value to all emerging economies, including India but an inspiration for young economists venturing into the exciting world of research”, says Jury chair Kaushik Basu in his congratulatory message.