Sunday 28 April 2019

Gagandeep Kang is the first Indian woman scientist to be elected Royal Society Fellow in 360 years

The UK Royal Society elected 51 eminent scientists as Fellows of the Royal Society on Tuesday, which included India's first woman scientist to become a Royal Fellow Gagandeep Kang, as well as five other Indian scientists.

Fifty-one eminent scientists were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society on April 16, along with 10 new Foreign Members and one Honorary Fellow for their exceptional contributions to science. Among the 2019 intakes is Dr Gagandeep Kang, who is purportedly the first woman scientist from India to have received this honour, while Mumbai-born Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Yusuf Hamied was elected as Honorary Fellow.

The Fellowship of the Society is an incredible honour in the scientific world, and Gagandeep Kang, along with the other new Indian Royal Fellows have now joined the ranks of Isaac Newton (1672), Charles Darwin (1839), Michael Faraday (1824), Ernest Rutherford (1903), Albert Einstein (1921), Dorothy Hodgkin (1947), Alan Turing (1951) and Francis Crick (1959) -- brilliant scientific minds who created history with their scientific work.

Apart from Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Yusuf Hamied Dr Gagandeep Kang, four other Indian scientists were elected Royal Society Fellows (Photo: Youtube/InfosysPrize)
Parsi-born Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia, an Indian shipbuilder and engineer belonging to the Wadia ship building family, was the first Indian to be elected a Royal Society Fellow, way back in 1841.
Since then, there have been a few male scientists from India to follow the line, notably Srinivasa Ramanujan (1918) and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1944), but sadly, no female scientist.

Founded on November 28, 1660, the Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, is the oldest scientific academy the world which has been working continuously for 360 years.

The Twitter handle of the Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, currently headed by professor K VijayRaghavan, posted a tweet congratulating the Indian scientists elected Royals Society Fellows, and said "Kang is the first woman Fellow from India, if I am not mistaken."
Women scientists are typically not easily recognised, especially because the number of women working in STEM fields is still very less compared to the number of male researchers and scientists. Kang herself points out the problem in an article she had written for the Economic times last year.
Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, the former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the president of the Indian National Science Academy also tweeted his congratulations.
Who is Gagandeep Kang?
Gagandeep Kang is the executive director of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad. It is an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Kang is a leading scientist in India and her main research focus is on viral infections in children, and the testing of rotaviral vaccines. With over 300 scientific research papers, she serves on the editorial boards for several journals.

She is also a member of several review committees for national and international research funding agencies, and on advisory committees which are mainly related to vaccines.

Since 2015, Kang also chairs the WHO SEAR's Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group.
Kang was awarded the Infosys Prize in 2016
In 2016, the prestigious Infosys Science Foundation awarded Gagandeep Kang in the Life Sciences category for her pioneering contributions to understanding the natural history of rotavirus and other infectious diseases that are important both globally and in India.

Some other awards received by Gagandeep Kang:

  • 2006: Woman Bioscientist of the Year
  • 2008: Fellow, Royal College of Pathologists, London
  • 2009: Abbott Oration Award, Indian Society for Gastroenterology
  • 2010: Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2011: Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences
  • 2011: Dr. YS Narayana Rao Oration Award, Indian Council of Medical Research
  • 2013: Fellow, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2014: Ranbaxy Research Award 2013 for Medical Research (link)
  • 2015: Dr. SC Parija Oration Award, Indian Academy of Tropical Parasitology
  • 2016: Fellow, Indian National Science Academy

Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan, the Indian scientist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A Steitz and Ada Yonath in 2009, and is the current president of the Royal Society, announced the fellowships of the distinguished scientists. ,

"Over the course of the Royal Society's vast history, it is our Fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realised: to use science for the benefit of humanity," said Ramakrishnan, as per the official website.

"This year's newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry - epidemiology, geometry, climatology - at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live, and it is with great honour that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society," he added.

Dr Yusuf Hamied named Honorary Fellow of Royal Society
Padma Bhushan awardee and chairman of Indian pharmaceutical major Cipla Dr Yusuf Hamied was announced among the 2019 scientists being elected into the Royal Society for his work in producing low-cost drugs to treat diseases such as diabetes, cancer and others.

Other Indian scientists elected Royal Society Fellows in 2019
Gurdyal Besra: Bardrick Professor of Microbial Physiology and Chemistry, Institute of Microbiology and Infection, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham

Manjul Bhargava: R Brandon Fradd Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, Princeton University

Anant Parekh: Professor of Physiology, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford

Akshay Venkatesh: Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute for Advanced Study, US

Here are the main statistics from the Royal Fellow website about this year's intake:

  • 13 of this year's intake of Fellows (10) and Foreign Members (3) are women
  • 15 newly elected Fellows and 7 Foreign Members are primarily affiliated with US-based institutions
  • Newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members are from across the UK and Commonwealth, as well as international institutions in Argentina, Israel, and the Netherlands

(Source: India Today)


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