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6 Indians in elite US innovator list

Thursday, 14 September 2006 - 12:30am IST

All the six Indian Americans who made it to the MIT list studied in India before migrating to the US for doctorates.

New York City: The oldest tech magazine in the world, the weighty Technology Review owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has included six Indians in an elite list of top innovators under the age of 35.

It’s more than rocket science. The work of the scientists and engineers profiled in the ‘Technology Review Innovator 35’ list affects our daily lives.

For instance, biotechnologist Jay Shendure is tipped to slash the costs of genome sequencing to $1,000 while Intel computer chip engineer Ram Krishnamurthy’s work on circuits helps laptops to run faster and batteries to last longer and consume 25 per cent less power.

Ram, 33, already holds an astonishing 53 patents and has published 75 papers. He also finds time to teach system design at Oregon State University.

The six Indian Americans - Intel’s Ram, Ashok Maliakal of Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs, Anand Raghunathan of NEC Labs, Shendure of Harvard Medical School, Prithwish Basu of BBN Technologies, and Sumeet Singh of Cisco - all studied in India before migrating to the US for doctorates.

“I was happy with the nomination itself by my company,” said Basu, 31, “so I am really blown away by this —both surprised and happy to make
the final cut.” The US defence department has been inspired to check out
his designs for energy-conserving,
ultra-low wireless networks for soldiers communicating in remote, rugged terrains.  

Basu has developed algorithms that dramatically reduce the chance that a wireless network will drop connection while also saving energy consumed by battery-powered radios.

His algorithms may have wider applications for people using laptops in areas without traditional connectivity, or even for operating radio-controlled robots.

Indians in the US are playing invaluable roles in keeping the US ahead in the global innovation race. Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, and other tech giants have come to rely on Indian geek gods to devise software platforms and dazzling multimedia features for next-generation devices.

Basu, a computer scientist from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, who has a doctorate from Boston University, said India’s education system deserves credit for turning out innovators and thinkers.

“IIT gives you a rigorous theoretical background, which helps you appreciate or get insights to more applied areas of computer science, which I worked on later in my doctorial studies,” he told DNA.

This was echoed by IIT Madras and Princeton computer engineer Anand Raghunathan. “I hope the nomination will be an inspiration for me to keep working at technology that helps people,” he said.

“I was lucky to get a great education and plan to use it.”

To make mobile devices more secure, Anand and his team of researchers at NEC Labs America have given the world a supplementary processor dubbed Moses.

“Moses can be added on to a tiny mobile phone chip to ensure that a phone’s sensitive data and code is safe from virus attacks,” he told DNA. “It performs all of a device’s security functions, such as encryption and user authentication.”

The only Indian medicine man on the list, Shendure is using off-the-shelf parts to determine the order of all the DNA bases in a bacterial genome at 20 times the speed and one-ninth the cost of traditional DNA sequencing. By 2015, Shendure’s work may pare down the costs for sequencing a person’s genome to $1,000.

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