Dr Neena Gupta – A Young Marvellous Mathematician

Kshitija Athlekar

When discussing women achievers in STEM, we can’t miss the young and intelligent mathematician Dr. Neena Gupta from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata.

Even in the 21st century, Mathematics is still considered out of the women’s league. A recent study revealed that a typical mathematician is viewed as an “old, white, male, middle-class nerd” by almost all the youngsters. A female student is mainly advised to choose arts and commerce over science. If she still insists on science, then choose subjects like chemistry or biology but hardly Mathematics. Against all these odds, if a girl decides mathematics, it’s purely to get into engineering or architecture streams and rarely the pure mathematics is considered as a choice. Despite all these facts, Neena was persistent and resilient in pursuing her career in Mathematics.

Neena recollects her mother taking her maths studies and her father sparing most of his evenings with Neena and her brother asking mental maths questions when they were kids. It was that time when Neena first got interested in Math and enjoyed the pleasure of solving puzzles, problems and challenging her abilities.

Neena finished her schooling and college in Kolkata and then went to Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) to pursue her post-graduate studies. It’s here when she really worshipped the subject and never looked back. In her words, “Mathematics became her everything, her god!”  Neena completed her Master’s Degree in 2008 and PhD in Algebraic Geometry in 2011. After her doctorate, Neena became a visiting scientist at ISI Kolkata, followed by a fellowship at The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai. She returned to ISI in 2012 after winning an “Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research” assistant professorship by the Indian Department of Science and Technology.

The year 2014 was a special year for Neena. This year, she became associate professor and made history by being the first person to solve the world’s most significant math problem, “The Zariski cancellation problem”, proposed by Oscar Zariski in 1949 and unsolved for as much as 70 years. As Neena says, Math gets complicated to explain in the layman’s language after a certain level. Still, she tries to put the Zarinski problem in simple words as “The cancellation problem asks that if you have cylinders over two geometric structures, and that have similar forms, can one conclude that the original base structures have similar forms?”

Neena has been showered with many prestigious accolades and honours for her pathbreaking research and work in Algebraic Geometry. The National Science Society awarded her a young scientist award and acknowledged her work as “one of the best works in algebraic geometry in recent years done anywhere.” The same year she was awarded the Swarnajayanti Fellowship by the Indian government. In 2015, she won the A.K. Agarwal Award for the best publication by the Indian Mathematical Society.

The list of her honours and awards do not end here. In the year 2019, this calm, hardworking, and determined woman came into the limelight after winning the prestigious Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Prize. The Bhatnagar Prize is considered the most prestigious award in India for science and technology given by the Prime minister. The award is notable for Neena as she made history by being the youngest and the third woman to win such a high accolade. The latest feather in her cap is the DST-ICTP-IMU Ramanujan Prize for Young Mathematicians from developing countries in 2021. It’s an extraordinary honour for Neena as she is the fourth Indian and third woman to win this prize. “This is my first international award, and I am happy that I could make my country proud. I am the fourth Indian to receive the award. People recognise us as Indians, coming from the land of Ramanujan and winning a prize named after him is very special,” she said in response.

Well, the work doesn’t end here. Neena is determined to do more. There are still many unsolved puzzles in mathematics, and she is up for new challenges. Neena love teaching her students and learning from them, “one needs to keep learning as there is no end to it,” she mentions.

Neena believes that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl; God has given the same abilities to both; it’s up to us to recognize our abilities, do the hard work, be patient and taste the success, be it mathematics, space science, cooking or nursing. One should have passion and perseverance to be a master of the chosen field. Neena was the only girl student during her masters and PhD, but her determination, love for the subject, and immense patience were her strengths to fight against all odds. Stereotyping a profession based on gender is not correct, and Neena has proved just the same with her unmatched success in the field of Mathematics!

Google Scholar link for Dr Neena Gupta’s research work: https://scholar.google.co.in/citations?user=7yNXEaYAAAAJ&hl=en

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Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar

Dr. Mashelkar is only the third Indian engineer to have been elected (1998) as Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), London in the twentieth century. He was elected Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Science (2005) and also National Academy of Engineering (2003), Associate Foreign Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2011), Fellow of Royal Academy of Engineering, U.K. (1996), Foreign Fellow of Australian Technological Science and Engineering Academy (2008), Corresponding Member of Australian Academy of Sciences (2017), Fellow of World Academy of Arts & Science, USA (2000), Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors (2017), the first ever Indian from India to be elected and TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize (2018), which is the highest science award of The World Academy of Science.

In 2006, he received the ‘Star of Asia’ Award at the hands of former President of USA, George Bush (Sr). The President of India honoured Dr. Mashelkar with three of the highest civilian awards, namely Padmashri (1991), Padmabhushan (2000) and Padma Vibhushan (2014).

Prof. Satishchandra Ogale

Prof. Satishchandra B. Ogale has had a long 40 years of experience in higher education and research.  He has over 500 publications in international journals, three co-edited books with Springer, Wiley and Elsevier, and 10 granted US patents based on research done in India. 
He is a Reviewer as well as Advisory Board member of many high impact International Journals and is also a popular science writer in regional language marathi.
He has won many Awards, Prizes, and National and International recognitions. He has given numerous invited, plenary and keynote talks in National and International conferences and has supervised over 65 Ph.D. students. 
Prof. Ogale has been a Visiting Professor/ Scientist in many institutions in the USA and Europe on several occasions.

Anupama Engineer

She has previously worked as a Scientist at Agharkar research Institute and at higher management level at Thomas Baker Bioscience Private Limited. She has also taught graduate and post graduate students in Biotechnology & Microbiology during her tenure as a lecturer in Royal College, Mumbai and as a Counselor for IGNOU Biotechnology course. Anupama, is a multitasker with few roles like, entrepreneur, Scientist, manager, a doting mother and many more. Teaching and educating is her passion and she takes every effort to encourage fundamental learning. Anupama holds a vast experience in Start-up processes.

Dr Smita Chaturvedi
Smita is an experimental condensed matter physicist. The quest for multifunctional materials motivates her. Smita finished her PhD from RDVV Jabalpur and BARC Mumbai in the year 2002 and worked as a research associate in IIT Mumbai and Oakland University, Michigan. Smita was awarded as a Fulbright Nehru Academic and Professional excellence fellow in 2018-19. Smita holds more than a decade of research and teaching experience. She possesses good knowledge about education system and research opportunities in India as well as abroad. Music and gardening are her mindful meditations.
Dr. Priyadarshini Karve
Dr Priyadarshini Karve has worked in the areas of household energy, decentralised waste-to-fuel technologies, climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable and climate-ready urbanisation, etc. She runs her own social green enterprise Samuchit Enviro Tech in Pune, focused on enabling access to sustainable products and services. She is also a co-founder of OrjaBox, a startup promoting solar thermal technologies. Dr Karve is a Founder Member of Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN - a multi-state society of decentralised renewable energy practitioners and entrepreneurs) and Cleaner Cooking Coalition (CCC - an international organisation focused on promoting user-centric cooking energy technologies that are good for health as well as climate). She is also the National Convener of Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC - focused on climate justice issues and working to bring people's voices in policy choices). Her work has been recognised by several national and international awards and honours.
Sanjay Khare
Sanjay Khare ,after his graduation in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1986 has been associated with major Japanese & European Automotive OEMs in Indian Subcontinent for 35 years . Widely travelled across Europe & Asia , he has held positions across diverse functions of Automotive Corporations.
In his current role as Board Member and Vice President at Skoda Auto Volkswagen India , he is Chief Sustainability Catalyst to guide actions at Skoda Auto Volkswagen India along with the sister brands Audi, Porsche & Lamborghini.
He leads an active Climate Resilience program where the automotive major in India has already achieved Zero Waste to Landfill, Water Positive & Zero liquid Discharge Certification, Zero Accidents , targeting an 18.5 MW of installed Roof Top Solar plant at a single Automotive site in India in 2021 and fully Carbon Neutral Production by 2025.
Sanjay has done his Executive MBA from Management development Institute ,Gurgaon specialising in Strategy & Marketing . He has active interests in driving Cultural Change, Competency building , Human Motivation topics while adopting/ innovating the technological advancements and total quality revolution.He is also a Qualified Independent Director registered with Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India. An active speaker on Automotive & Sustainability topics on National & International forums.
In personal life, he is an Endurance Cyclist having participated in many adventure ride expeditions . He also spends his time in developing mastery on Indian Classical Music instrument Sitar.