Published: 02nd December 2021
Infosys Prize 2021: JNU, NCBS profs among this year's winners. Full list inside
Given away by the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF), these were the 13th Infosys Prize 2021 and they were given in six categories
An indigenous rapid testing platform, effects of climate change on fragile ecosystems, understanding the nuclear force and ethnographic research on sexual violence and jurisprudence were some of the pressing challenges of today's world that the winners of the Infosys Prize 2021 worked on and were recognised for. The list of six laureates of the Infosys Prize 2021 was announced in a virtual ceremony on December 2 amidst the presence of trustees of the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF), winners and a few jurors.
For developing TrueNat, the indigenous rapid testing platform that enabled detection of COVID-19 in droves, Dr Chandrasekhar Nair, CTO, Molbio Diagnostics from Bengaluru won the Infosys Prize 2021 in the category of Engineering and Computer Science. While fielding questions, he said that we cannot dismiss the possibility of future outbreaks, but what can work in our favour is, "strengthening our grassroots healthcare, diagnosing closer to the patient, enabling quick decisions".
Dr. Ângela Barreto Xavier from the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal, won in the category of Humanities for her extensive research on the impact of conversion and violence in India during the Portuguese empire, with a special focus on Goa. She expressed her surprise at winning the prize and went on to enunciate the importance of a work like this not only back in her country but in India as well. She said that, "it allows her to have more dialogue with Indian scholars. Which is how Science should work, enable dialogue".
Dr Pratiksha Baxi from the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, won in the category of Social Sciences for her sociological study of rape trials in Gujarat over 18 months. Calling legal hierarchy "masculinist" and the judiciary "misogynist because law is embedded in the society itself", she said it is about time we stop looking at law as something seperate from society.
As soon mankind will venture beyond the solar system, it is Prof Bedangadas Mohanty's work that will help us prepare for the adventure as his work investigates nuclear force and helps the world gain an understanding of highly energetic processes, similar to those that are found in the interiors of stars. His work is primarily focussed on understanding nuclear energy.
Prof Mahesh Sankaran from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru won the prize in the category of Life Sciences for his path-breaking work on the ecology of tropical savannah ecosystems while highlighting biodiversity in vital ecosystems such as the Western Ghats. His reports on climate change and biodiversity contribute to the structure of conservation policy as well. In the category of Mathematical Sciences, Dr Neeraj Kayal won for his in-depth work in the field of computational complexity, His theoretical work on complexity theory specifically lends us the mathematical tools to gain knowledge of both the efficiency as well as the limitations of algorithms.
Apart from taking us down the memory lane as to how the prize was conceptualised in the year 2008 by Mohandas Pai (former director of Infosys), Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, Infosys Science Foundation, stated that apart from criterias like being under the age of 55 (preferably 50) an important statute was to ensure that the winners, "showcase that stellar work is possible in India and can serve as an inspiration to many youngsters."
This year's laureates were selected from 201 nominations and the winners take home a gold medal, a citation and a USD 100,000 prize purse.