Abhijit Banerjee
Abhijit Banerjee

Economist Banerjee, historian Upinder Singh get Infosys Prize 2009

Bangalore, November 30, 2009

Economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee of the Massachuetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States and historian Upinder Singh of the University of Delhi, who is the daughter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are among the five scientists and social scientists chosen for the Infosys Prize 2009 here today.

The other winners announced by the Infosys Science Foundation for their outstanding contributions to scientific research in India were theoretical physicists Thanu Padmanabhan and Ashoke Sen and developmental geneticist and neurobiologist K VijayRaghavan.

The winners of this year's prizes were announced by the Trustees of the Foundation at an event where Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal was the chief guest via video conference.

The awards will be presented by the Prime Minister at a ceremony to be held on January 4 in New Delhi.

Dr Padmanabhan, who is currently at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, has been chosen for the award in recognition of his contribution to a deeper understanding of Einstein's theory of gravity in the context of thermodynamics and large scale structure in cosmology, the Foundation said.

His principal fields of research are cosmology and the interface between gravity and quantum theory. He has won several national and international awards, including the Birla Science Prize, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award, the Sackler Distinguished Astronomer, the Miegunah Fellowship Award and the G D Birla Award for Scientific Research. The Government honoured him with the PadmaShri in 2007.

Dr Sen, 53, of the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, was given the prize in recognition of his fundamental contributions to Mathematical Physics, in particular to String Theory, it said.

He has made several major original contributions to the subject of string theory, including his landmark paper on strong-weak coupling duality or S-duality, which was influential in changing the course of research in the field. He pioneered the study of unstable D-branes and made the famous Sen conjecture about open string tachyon condensation on such branes. He was awarded the ICTP Prize in 1989, the S.S. Bhatnagar award in 1994 and the Padma Shri in 2001.

Dr VijayRaghavan is currently the Director of the National Centre of Biological Sciences in Bangalore. He is a developmental biologist whose research has focused on myogenesis in Drosophila. More recently his group has been examining how neuronal shape and connectivity is regulated and how this relates to the development of behaviour.

Dr Banerjee was chosen for his outstanding contributions to the economic theory of development and for his pioneering work in the empirical evaluation of public policy. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, along with Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan and remains one of the directors of the lab. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. His areas of research are development economics and economic theory.

Dr Singh was given the prize for her contributions as an outstanding historian of ancient and medieval India. She is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delhi and had taught history at St. Stephen's College in the capital from 1981 until 2004. Her wide range of research interests and expertise include the analysis of ancient and early medieval inscriptions; social and economic history; religious institutions and patronage; history of archaeology; and modern history of ancient monuments.

The jury decided not to award any prize for Engineering Sciences this year as they did not find a suitable candidate.

The Infosys Science Foundation was established in February 2009 to promote world-class research in the natural and social sciences in India. The Infosys Prize is an annual prize across five disciplines to reward and recognize outstanding inventions or discovery, or a cumulative body of work done in India that has a positive impact on the nation.

The Prize is amongst the highest in terms of prize money for any award in India, and carries with it a cash award of Rs. 50 lakh, a citation and a medallion.

"Indian scientific talent has strong roots and is well respected the world over. The work done by the winners of the Infosys Prize for 2009 are clear examples of the world-class quality of scientific talent in this country. Research in the sciences is key to India’s development and progress, and we must find ways to recognize and reward relevant, leading research in India. The Infosys Prize is Infosys Technologies’ commitment to the country to promote and honour outstanding research efforts in India," Mr N R Narayana Murthy, founder-chairman of Infosys Technologies, and the President of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation said.

Commending the winners of the Prize for their exceptional achievements, Mr Sibal said research was the foundation on which a nation's growth rested.

"The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s recognition of the critical importance of scientific research for India’s development can be seen in the doubling of the science and technology expenditure in the recent budget. To realize India’s scientific potential, the government’s efforts need to be supplemented by non-governmental efforts as well. In this context, I welcome the initiative of the Infosys Science Foundation to recognize and encourage scientific achievement in India," he said.

The minister spoke about the need for industry and academia to collaborate in developing an environment that encourages and supports scientific research in India. He pointed out that the government is giving a policy thrust for higher levels of research in the country, in sciences and in humanities.

The Infosys Prize seeks to recognize outstanding contributions in the fields of Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Life Sciences and the Social Sciences. The winners of the Infosys Prize were chosen by individual category panels, comprising international jurors against a backdrop of international research.

The objective of the Infosys Prize is to elevate the prestige of scientific research in India and to inspire young Indians to pursue a career in scientific research. It also seeks to boost the confidence of economists, social scientists and other researchers who are already engaged in significant research, an Infosys press release said.


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