Recognising pioneering minds in prominent fields of science, Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) has announced the winners of the Infosys Prize 2023 in six categories. The Infosys Prize stands as one of the prestigious awards for research and innovation in India, fostering meaningful engagement around science and society.
On Wednesday, 15 November 2023, the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) announced the laureates of the esteemed Infosys Prize 2023. Established in 2009 by Infosys board members, the ISF aims to rekindle the essence of romance in science and research by bestowing the recognition it truly deserves. This year signifies the 15th anniversary of the Infosys Prize, which is conferred upon exceptional research scientists across six categories— Engineering and Computer Sciences, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences.
Earlier this year, the nomination council recognised 224 candidates of the world class researchers under 55, in India and abroad. The distinguished jury for each category then deliberated and solicited insights from the world-renowned experts on the contribution of the shortlisted candidates to ensure they were on par with the best in their respective field. The awarded candidates receive a citation, a gold medal, and a prize money of USD 100,000.
Sachchida Nand Tripathi has been recognised for his outstanding contributions to understanding and mitigating air pollution by deploying large-scale sensors to analyse air quality and develop effective air quality forecasting systems.
One of his key findings involves the discovery of new pathways of aerosol formation and expansion responsible for haze formation in New Delhi. Tripathi notes, “The prize will provide much required attention to the issue of air quality. This may help galvanise more momentum to solve the problem of deteriorating air quality in India; and it also implies there will be greater expectations.”
Historian Jahnavi Phalkey has been honoured for her insightful contributions to the histories of scientific research in modern India, particularly through her book, ‘The Atomic State’, and numerous articles shedding light on India’s nuclear science research and the global history of scientific discoveries in the postcolonial contexts.
This award brings visibility to my discipline, the history of science, which is relatively marginal in Indian academia. Personally, this news provides the motivation to finish writing my next research-based book. Finally, it adds further credibility to the work I am doing at SGB.
Through her pioneering efforts at the SGB, she provides a creative platform to communicate science to a broader audience. For instance, her documentary film, Cyclotron (2020), showcases the story of the longest-running particle accelerator in India and the scientists behind the work.
Arun Shukla has been awarded for his ground-breaking research on G‑protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), crucial in cell-cell signaling. His research in synthetic antibody technology has provided emerging tools for probing GPCR activation and control, offering novel insights into GPCR biology.
Recalling the moment he learned about the award, Shukla stated, “It was an amazing feeling to hear that our work is recognised for this award. I felt incredibly proud for the students and fellows in our team and the host institution, IIT Kanpur. This will motivate more young researchers to expand on fundamental science and improve the infrastructure in this research area in India.”
Bhargav Bhatt has been awarded for his distinguished contributions to arithmetic geometry and commutative algebra, uncovering unexpected connections between these two areas of mathematics. His theory of prismatic cohomology, co-developed with Scholze, represents a fundamental discovery in arithmetic algebraic geometry with the potential to become a standard toolkit for mathematicians in the field.
Mukund Thattai has been awarded for his exceptional contribution to the field of evolutionary biology, particularly investigating one of biology’s central mysteries— the origins of endomembrane organelles and their evolution from a primitive cell. He says, “While this award won’t change my scientific direction— we have many exciting projects on eukaryotic evolution underway— it will definitely increase the visibility of the field, helping us expand the community of researchers working in this area, especially in India.”
When asked how this award impacts his research, Thattai addressed,
If you read the citation, it talks about the ‘Physics of Life’. I think this is excellent, as it places the study of living systems within the core of physics, where it really should be. That is quite forward-thinking by the jury.
Political theorist Karuna Mantena has been awarded for her extraordinary insights on the theory of imperial rule and how its ideology became one of the important factors in shaping modern social theory in India. Her book, ‘Alibis of Empire’, elucidates the post-1857 shift in imperial policy towards custodial conservatism instead of the liberal notion of preparing ‘natives’ for self-rule.
Mantena expressed surprise upon receiving the award, stating, “I initially thought of the Infosys Prize as a lifetime achievement (which it is not). I thought it was, thus, premature as I had not yet completed and published what I consider as my most important work. But I am extraordinarily honoured by this recognition. This award will help me build the international organisation I help run, the Conference for the Study of Political Thought, and establish more associations with students, faculty, and institutions in India.”
Sharing his thoughts at the ceremony, Narayan Murthy, the founder of Infosys, emphasised on the importance of adaptive thinking and being daringly inventive to tackle the daunting and persistent problems of today. He highlighted the contributions of the awardees and congratulated them on winning. The felicitation ceremony will be held in early 2024.