Who are These Gems of Bharat? President Biden Awards America’s Highest Honor in Science & Technology to Them

AMERICA continues to reap the fruits of what Sardar JJ Singh did by unblocking the path to US Citizenship for Indian immigrants in 1946. It started attracting intelligent brains and innovative minds from free India. The passage to America was widened by Air India’s first flight from Bombay to New York in 1960. Since then, America has nurtured and preserved Indian talents with a myriad number of opportunities on its soil.

In their second/adopted home, the Indian American community is equally shining in every walk of life, from spirituality to science. Like every year, 2023 has seen the best of them, from their winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee to the Regeneron Science Talent Search and the Miss Teen USA title.

PC: The White House | Dr Subra Suresh (left), Dr Ashok Gadgil (right)

Dr Subra Suresh is awarded the National Medal of Science

Indian-American Dr Subra Suresh is one of the nine recipients of the ‘National Medal of Science’ this year. An accomplished engineer, scientist and academic, he is a rare breed of exceptional talent. His pioneering research across engineering, physical and life sciences earned him the coveted medal. Dr Suresh, a Padma Shri awardee, has published over 300 research papers and co-authored three books.

Born into a middle class family in Mumbai, Dr Suresh graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Having secured a full scholarship from Iowa University soon after his graduation, he bought a flight ticket to USA with borrowed money and flew to the land of the American Dream with nothing but $100 in his pocket and an ambition greater than his meagre funds. He received a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

After his postdoctoral research, he joined the engineering faculty at Brown University as the youngest member of the faculty. A decade later, he moved to MIT as a professor and later served as a dean. He was then nominated by the then-president Barack Obama (unanimously confirmed by the US Senate) as the director of the National Science Foundation.

Dr Subra Suresh holds the distinction of being one of the very few Americans elected to three branches of the US National Academies (engineering in 2002, sciences in 2012, and medicine in 2013). In his long years of academic service, he also held the positions of president at Carnegie Mellon University and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He returned to Brown’s School of Engineering in September 2023 as a professor at large.

Dr Ashok Gadgil is awarded the National Medal of Technology & Innovation

Mumbai-born Ashok Gadgil is among 12 tech revolutionaries presented with the ‘National Medal of Technology and Innovation’ at the White House. Hailed as a ‘humanitarian inventor’, Dr Gadgil dedicated himself to developing low-cost, sustainable solutions to tackle grave problems worldwide, ranging from water contamination to climate change. His ground-breaking innovations have touched the lives of over 100 million people across the world.

His inventions are driven by an urge to uplift the vulnerable and his belief in the power of innovation to transform lives. In his own words, his journey started with the resolve ‘to make lives a little better for those who are born in less fortunate societies, less fortunate countries, and less fortunate circumstances’ (quoted from his interview with Berkeley Labs). The 1993 cholera outbreak in south Asia led him to create UV Waterworks while the suffering of millions of refugees living in camps in Sudan’s Darfur spurred him to develop Berkeley-Darfur stove.

For his UV Waterworks, he bagged two awards in 1996 – Discover Award for the most significant environmental invention of the year and the Popular Science Award for “Best of What is New – 1996”.

A post-graduate alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, he earned M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. After his studies, he took a flight to India and joined a non-profit organization there. After 5 years, he flew back to California and began his career as a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). A man of multiple interests, he expanded his knowledge and gained expertise in applied math, fluid dynamics, mechanical engineering, and technical, economic and policy research on energy efficiency in developing countries.

Indian American Ashok Gadgil is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley and the co-editor of the journal, Annual Review of Environment and Resources. He served as the former director for their Environmental Energy Technologies Division. According to Berkeley website, he has more than 105 refereed archival journal papers, 150 conference papers, and several patents. In recognition of his life-sustaining innovations, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

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