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Space scientist among six Infosys Prize winners

Bengaluru: Space Scientist Anil Bhardwaj of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is among the six winners of the Infosys Prize for this year, announced the software major’s foundation on Friday.

“An eminent six-member jury selected Bhardwaj under the Physical Sciences category for his contribution to planetary science and exploration, including detection and delineation of the nature and origin of planetary X-rays,” the foundation’s President and Infosys co-founder S.D. Shibulal told the media here.

Bhardwaj’s experiments on Chandrayaan-1 and Mars Orbiter Mission revealed new features of solar wind interactions with lunar surface and provided important clues for understanding thermal escape of the Martian atmosphere.

Bhardwaj is Director of the Space Physics Laboratory at ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram in southern Kerala.

The other five prize winners are V. Kumaran (Engineering and Computer Science), Gagandeep Kang (Life Sciences), Akshay Venkatesh (Mathematical Sciences), Kaivan Munshi (Social Sciences), and Sunil Amrith (Humanities).

The jury comprises renowned scientists and professors — Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Pradeep K. Khosla, Inder Verma, Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan, Shrinivas Kulkarni and Kaushik Basu.

“The winners, shortlisted from 250 nominations, were informed of their selection by the foundation’s trustees and the jury,” said Shibulal on the occasion.

The foundation will award the winners with a purse of Rs 65 lakh, 122 karat gold medallion and a citation certificate at a function in Bengaluru on January 7 next year.

Kumaran, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) here, has been awarded for his seminal work in complex fluids and complex flows in transition and turbulence in soft walled tubes and channels.

“Kumaran’s work is of utility in cardio-vascular and pulmonary health. His work is characterised by high quality applied mathematics and theoretical physics combined with innovative experiments and simulation,” said the foundation.

Kang, Executive Director of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute at Faridabad in Haryana, was selected for her pioneering contributions to understanding the natural history of rotavirus and other infectious diseases.

“Kang’s findings have enormous implications for vaccines and other public health measures to thwart these infections,” said the statement.

Venkatesh, mathematics professor at Stanford University in the US, bagged the award for his foundational and creative contributions to modern number theory.

“Venkatesh’s ability to use wide-ranging techniques drawn from analytic number theory, ergodic theory, and homotopy theory to address concrete problems in number theory and discover new phenomena attest to the essential unity of mathematics.”

Munshi, Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics in the University of Cambridge in Britain, was selected for his analysis of the multifaceted role of communities, such as ethnic groups and castes, in the process of economic development.

Amrith, history professor at the Harvard University got the award for his contribution to the history of migration, environment and international public health and in recognition of his field-changing research on the interrelated past of present Asia.

The not-for-profit trust foundation was set up in 2009 and is funded by a corpus of Rs 130 crore ($20 million) by the trustees and the IT major.