The Infosys Prize awardees this year were felicitated on 7 January, 2023. They represent the different disciplines of Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences. The awardees have been recognised and lauded for extraordinary contributions in their respective fields.
Taking forward the annual celebration of excellence in research, the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF), on Nov 15 2022, announced the winners of the 14th Infosys Prize 2022. ISF is a not-for-profit trust that encourages, recognises, and fosters the Indian scientific research ecosystem. A jury of eminent leaders selects the winners as on par with the finest researchers in the world. The awardees are bestowed with a gold medal, a citation for their contributions, and a generous reward of USD 100,000.
This year the award recognised the feats of work impacting the world around us in terms of accessibility, inclusivity, improved understanding, and constitutional dynamics.
The eminent jury chairs selected the winners from a pool of 218 nominations across six categories Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. The eminent jury chairs included Arvind (Engineering and Computer Science), Akeel Bilgrami (Humanities), Mriganka Sur (Life Sciences), Chandrashekhar Khare (Mathematical Sciences), Shrinivas Kulkarni (Physical Sciences), and Kaushik Basu (Social Sciences).
Chief Guest Shafi Goldwasser, Turing Award laureate and Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, in the felicitation ceremony held on Jan 7, 2023, said, ‘Science, mathematics, and engineering are the theoretical foundation and practical engines for knowledge and technology that is changing the world, making us globally connected, pushing forward medical advances, improving our energy usage and infrastructure, and fundamentally enlarging our understanding of the cosmos and the world around us.’
Suman Chakraborty received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Engineering and Computer Science for showing how fluids behave at micro- and nano scales. Using this knowledge, he has helped develop unique low-cost biomedical devices, including handheld devices for: blood testing, painless blood extraction, drug delivery, anti-biotic drug resistance, and monitoring water quality and pathogens.
The jury chair for the category, Arvind, commended the potential of Chakraborty’s work in expanding inexpensive healthcare options across India and the world.
Sudhir Krishnaswamy received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Humanities for his work on the basic doctrine of India, highlighting how the law relates to parliamentary politics and the ideals of democracy. A Rhodes Scholar, Krishnaswamy’s work in legal theory also extends to the working of the Indian Supreme Court, the nature and extent of trust of public opinion for the Indian judiciary, relations between social justice and courts and the newly emerging field of horizontal rights.
Akeel Bilgrami, jury chair, admired Krishnaswamy for elaborating on the basic structure doctrine of the Indian constitution and its unfolding history in independent India.
Vidita Vaidya received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Life Sciences for researching deeper into neurobiology, with particular emphasis on serotonin, in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Her research showed that early life stress can extend as mood-related behavioural changes into adulthood and that the efficacy of chronic treatment with antidepressants relates to the growth of new neurons and processes resulting in changes in brain function and structure. These findings pose significant potential in devising therapeutic strategies for brain-related disorders.
Mriganka Sur, jury chair, highlighted how Vaidya’s work on neurobiology of mood disorders poses the potential for reducing disease burden and improving mental health by breaking the path for novel strategies.
Mahes Kakde received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Mathematical Sciences for proving a conjecture, a mathematical statement with no proof, for the non-commutative Iwasawa theory, Gross-Stark conjecture, and Brumer-Stark conjecture. His work also led to a formula to compute the Brumer-Stark units, posing multiple applications in the field of cryptography.
Chandrashekhar Khare, jury chair, recognised the broader impact of Kakde’s work on Hilbert’s 12th problem on the construction of abelian extensions of number fields.
Nissim Kanekar received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Physical Sciences for explaining why the present-day galaxies are dominated by stars, not the hydrogen gas that uniformly filled the universe following Big Bang. An observational radio astronomer skilled at making definitive measurements of delicate nature, Prof Kanekar detected atomic hydrogen at cosmological distances. He also placed the strongest limits on temporal changes in the fine structure constant and electron-to-proton mass ratio, the two fundamental constants that help describe why our universe is the way it is.
Shrinivas Kulkarni, jury chair, remarked Kanekar’s work is a landmark finding and tribute to GMRT (Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope) and Govind Swarup, its architect.
Rohini Pande received the Infosys Prize 2022 in Social Sciences for her work on issues of national importance, including governance and accountability, women’s empowerment, the role of credit in the lives of the poor and the environment in India. Using various methods to collect data, Pande’s work emphasises the role of robust and effective institutions in establishing a healthy democracy that addresses the welfare of its citizens while providing them with a variety of opportunities.
Kaushik Basu, jury chair, remarked on Pande’s creativity and grit in producing research of great value to both the emerging economies and economists set to venture into the world of research.
Kris Gopalkrishnan, President, IFS while signifying laureates’ achievements, said, ‘From exploring the frontiers of brain research and astronomy to developing solutions for the urgent healthcare needs of underserved populations to examining the notions of justice in a fast-changing world inundated by the climate emergency and pandemics, our laureates are working on the cutting edge of science, technology, and scholarship. Their work is inspiring a new generation of researchers while revolutionising the science and research landscape in India.”
Wrapping another year in the marvels of research excellence the award ceremony places research in solutions context, while bringing forth important pieces of work to public light.