Six Indian-American Innovators in TR’s Honour List<

Six Indian-American innovators figure in MIT’s Technology Review (TR) journal’s honours list this year for their contribution in providing tech solutions in various fields. It is great achievements for the emigrants. It also indicates the priorities of this ethnic group.

Since 1999, the Technology Review (TR) journal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been selecting young innovators below 35, whose innovations they find most exciting and creative. As Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of TR says: ”TR35 is among the most prestigious honours that can be bestowed on a young innovator.”

The editors of the magazine select these innovators. A panel of judges from major institutions like Boston University, Hewlett-Packard Labs, Caltech and Applied Materials etc help in arriving at the finalists. The list has now been brought down to 35 from the earlier 100 innovators.

TR estimates Indian-Americans comprise just under 1% of the country’s population, but their contribution to innovative technology is 12% to 17%. The inclusion of six Indian-Americans means there is a 50% rise over the previous year, and a 70% rise since 2004.

NRIs have made it to the list every year since its inception. The first-year winners included Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail fame, Amit Goyal for his research on semiconductors, and Akhil Madhani, the creator of Black Falcon robot that performs remote minimally invasive surgery.

Later winning innovators were like Sangeeta Bhatia who used microchip-manufacturing tools to build artificial livers and Shuvo Roy who built tiny machines that could warn of impending heart attack and monitor healing after surgery. In 2004 list had Chaitali Sengupta who oversaw the architecture of communication chips used in advanced cellular systems, and Smruti Vidwans who developed a drug against TB.

This year’s list has six Indian-Americans.

A second-generation NRI, biotechnologist and medical student, Shendure is revolutionising genetics with a new way to sequence DNA. He developed a novel method of DNA sequencing that is substantially cheaper than the conventional method. His goal is to bring the cost down to a point where it costs around $1000. He plans to use the technique to sequence the genome of a lung tumour to identify the mutations that cause it.

Prithwish Basu, 31, BBN TECHNOLOGIES
This Kolkata genius is making waves with his networking innovation. Even the US Defence Department wants to test his network designs to help keep soldiers in touch on the battlefield. Basu grew up in Delhi and studied at DPS. After B.Tech from IIT Delhi, he enrolled at Boston University for PhD. There he proposed a wireless parking meter network for discovering vacant parking spots.

Ram K Krishnamurthy, 33, INTEL
Ram is from Hyderabad, a REC-Trichy graduate, who did his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University has invented high-performance energy-efficient circuits for PCs that “could enable PCs with significantly improved energy-efficiency and performance per watt of power consumption.”

Sumeet Singh, 31, CISCO
Singh studied at mayo school and did his PhD at the Computer Science & Engineering University of California. He was the co-founder of NetSift Inc, which was acquired by Cisco this June. Singh has changed the method for tackling e-viruses. He has automated virus detection in such a way that defenders are on the same footing as attackers. He hopes the technology will be able to scan more than 20 GB of data per second.


Raghnunathan’s innovation will make all mobile devices secure from viruses. The supplementary processor, dubbed Moses, does security functions on mobiles.

Born in the US, Maliakal’s parents migrated from Kerala to the US in the ’70s. As a materials scientist at Bell Labs, he has designed nanostructured composite materials for optical and electronics applications. If mass-produced, it could lead to a new generation of flexible display screens.

I don’t know frankly how many of these innovators are proud of their Indian origin, but I am sure 100% Indians, particularly old technocrats like me get elated to hear their success stories and pray for their successful endevour to reach the top of the world in their area of activities. Who knows one of them one day get a Noble? They may feel great by calling themselves Americans rather Indians, but still they can’t take away the right of ours to feel proud about their achievements. They must also not forget that somewhere these wllwishes of some millions would have worked.

I wish media did coverage of youngsters working in Indian laboratories too. It is unfortunate that we know so little about them.

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