Two scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, have found a place among the awardees of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology this year. Amit Agrawal from the department of Mechanical Engineering and Ashwin Gumaste from the department of Computer Science and Engineering have been conferred the award — often cited as the highest honour for scientists in India — for outstanding research in the field of engineering sciences. The winners for 2018 were announced on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, both scientists emphasised on the importance of getting more young science students in research. Agrawal, the institute chair professor of his department, said, “There are a lot of technical problems in the world that need technology-based solutions. There are also many problems that need India-specific solutions. Therefore, we need people who are passionate about science and are willing to find these solutions.”
Gumaste, an associate professor working in the area of telecommunications, said: “India is growing in leaps and bounds in terms of technology development especially as we seek to move up the value chain. We are seeing that the Make in India initiative is actively converting outlays into outcomes and finally into output that is tangible for the nation. It appears that the time is right for younger people to take up technology building careers as this would eventually create the next billion dollar product company in India.”
Agrawal’s achievement includes research breakthroughs in both fundamental as well as applied sciences in the area of fluid mechanics. In a latest development, he has helped design a micro device that can help separate plasma from blood. “Going forward, this micro device can help conduct blood tests at home. We have tied up with a start-up for the commercialisation of the device,” he said. He is also working on developing equations in fluid dynamics that are beyond the established Navier-Stokes equation that describes the flow of incompressible fluids. “We are also trying to identify areas in the field of medical science where we can find solutions,” said Agrawal, who has over 150 journal publications and filed 11 patents.
Gumaste, on the other hand, helps build indigenous telecom equipment such as routers. “We have built routers and switches that were commercialised by state-owned Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL,) in what was the largest technology transfer between the IITs and industry. Our routers sit in various service providers (such as MTNL) and enterprise networks and have had several years of fault-free operation. Our carrier-class routers are based on hardware and software, which is completely indigenous and developed by IIT Bombay students, faculty and project staff,” said Gumaste, who has 25 granted US patents to his credit and has published around 175 papers in referred conferences and journals.
It is for building these indigenous routers in the past and the development of a terabit indigenous SDN (Software Defined Network) compatible whitebox for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), that Gumaste received the prestigious award on Wednesday. “Our next research endeavour is in the domain of using learning tools for network verification,” he said.
The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology was established in 1958 in the honour of the Indian chemist and entails a reward of Rs 5 lakh for exemplary work in the fields of biological sciences, engineering sciences, chemical sciences, earth, atmosphere, ocean and planetary sciences, mathematical sciences, medical sciences and physical sciences.