Two Indian-Americans scientists, Dr. Subhash Kot and Dr. Manu Prakash have received the MacArthur grant, 2016, for exceptional creativity in their fields of interest.

Dr. Subhash Kot is an IIT Bombay alumnus and is a theoretical computer scientist at New York University. Dr. Manu who studied from IIT Kanpur, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bio engineering at Stanford University.

Subhash has been recognised for his work in providing important insights for solving problems in the field of computational complexity. For this, he has developed the Unique Games Conjecture

The crux of this conjecture in his own words is, “If you believe that one specific problem is hard to solve, lots and lots of other problems, which computer scientists are very interested in are also hard to solve.”

Manu is the brains behind some interesting developments in the field of microbiology. He invented a low-cost origami microscope called Foldscope, which costs less than Rs. 70. It is made by folding paper and attaching a glass bead lens. It can help view things at a sub-micron level and because of its low manufacturing cost, it has been adopted by amateur scientists, schools and medical experts.

His contributions in the field of frugal science are path breaking. The devices he has developed are low-cost, widely accessible and can be used in resource- poor settings.

Stanford’s Manu Prakash, as assistant professor of bio engineering, has been awarded a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

 An eye toward global health

Prakash said that many of his ideas come from his travels and from his childhood growing up in India. “Being in the field gives meaning to working in global health,” Prakash said. “It teaches you empathy, a driving force so strong that it transforms ideas into actions.”

An example of this is his work designing tools to track and detect mosquito species by people around the world. This work would allow communities to survey mosquitoes at large scale and track the vectors for some of the most deadly diseases. In a few months, the Prakash Lab will start testing some of these tools in a field site in Madagascar.

“Manu’s contributions to global health are an inspiration to us all,” said Persis Drell, dean of the School of Engineering. “It is through precisely the kinds of creative innovations in technology that Manu is developing that we can have significant impact on the world’s urgent challenges.”

While talking about why he builds inexpensive machines, he said, “Often a challenge in technology deployment is building engaged local communities that take ownership of ideas and deployment. I’d started thinking about this connection between science education and global health.”

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