Our Guests

Dr. B. N. Suresh

Honorary Distinguished Professor, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Headquarters, Bengaluru

Dr. B.N. Suresh is an internationally renowned veteran from the field of space sciences and a distinguished Indian Scientist. Dr. Suresh is the founding director, and current Chancellor of the prestigious Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, established by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He is presently serving as an Honorary Distinguished Professor at ISRO Headquarters. Dr. Suresh was formerly the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the lead centre of ISRO in launch vehicles; former President of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE); and former member of the Space Commission of India. An internationally renowned aerospace engineer with pioneering accomplishments in the arena of space vehicle design, space navigation guidance, control and actuation systems, vehicle electronics, integrated simulation for launch systems and R&D management in the country. His role in defining the activities for advanced technology development and their planning for space transportation in India is very significant. Dr. Suresh took his degree in Science in 1963 and in Engineering in 1967 from Mysore University. Later he did his Post Graduation from IIT Chennai in 1969. He started his career in ISRO at VSSC in 1969. Following this, he earned his doctoral degree in Control Systems from Salford University, UK under Commonwealth Scholarship. As Distinguished Scientist and Director VSSC, he provided the dynamic leadership for the development of very complex launch vehicles and contributed significantly for the successful launches of ASLV, PSLV and GSLV. He has been instrumental in establishing full-fledged and state-of-the-art laboratories needed for the evaluation of complex systems. He has nurtured and built world class actuation systems and launched vehicle simulation laboratories. He played a crucial role in steering the very complex Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), which involved several new and critical technologies. The module was flight tested successfully with perfect re-entry and precise recovery operations. Among his numerous laurels, in recognition of his meritorious contributions to Science and Technology, the Government of India conferred on him the 'Padma Shri' Award in the year 2002 and the 'Padma Bhushan' in 2013. He has published more than 45 technical papers in national and international symposiums, conferences and journals and guided more than 500 technical reports in the area of launch vehicle design, mission, avionics and other associated areas.

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Dr. R. K. Shevgaonkar

Professor Emeritus, Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Dr. R.K. Shevgaonkar is an academician, innovator, eminent researcher, administrator and an avid music enthusiast. His career trajectory is illustrious, vivid, and rich in eclectic experiences, with his longest spells at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where he currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus. Dr. Shevgaonkar has served at crucial academic and administrative positions at IIT Bombay over the years, is the former Director of IIT Delhi, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pune and the Bennett University. Dr. Shevgaonkar’s research work and interests span across the vast fields of antenna theory, fibre optics communication, image processing, photonics, computational electromagnetics, and radio astronomy, to name a few. Apart from his exceptional expertise in the academic domain, he is a highly revered teacher, an inventor, and a visionary. Among his other pivotal contributions to the higher education system of India, he has pioneered the digital education activity in the country, and is one of the founding members of National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), which is now an unprecedented archive of high quality educational resources available for free across the country. In our conversation with him, he discussed about some of the most complex of concepts in the field with immense clarity, and also shared some of the quintessential insights from the country’s educational scenario, spinning together a tale of passion and ingenuity peppered with his own personal interests and passion.

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Dr. Roxy M. Koll

Climate Scientist, Indian Institute of Meteorology, Pune

Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll is a veteran researcher in the field of oceanography, dealing with Ocean atmosphere dynamics and interaction. He is currently a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. Dr. Koll completed his Master of Science in Physical Oceanography from the Cochin University of Science & Technology and went on to pursue his PhD in Ocean and Atmospheric Dynamics from the Hokkaido University in Japan. Following which, he joined the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change in Italy as a research associate. He has also held positions as a visiting scientist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in the United states. Alongside his research, Dr. Koll is also a lead author at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commonly abbreviated as IPCC - a scientific body instituted by the United Nations, whose goal is to provide information to the global community regarding climate change and its adverse effects. Recognised as one among the top 2% scientists ranked by Stanford University, Dr. Koll is working on the frontier of climate change research. Modelling unpredictable forces of nature like the vast Indo-Pacific oceans and making predictions about one of the lifelines of our nation, the Indian monsoon, is something he does on a regular basis. His work helps supplement humanity’s arsenal of knowledge in the battle against climate change.

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Prof. Kalyan Chakraborty

Assistant Professor of History, Ashoka University

Prof. Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty is a researcher, excavator, and post-excavation analyst, who specialises in Biomolecular Archaeology and Archaeological Geochemistry. Prof. Chakraborty pursued his bachelors in Anthropology from the University of Calcutta, and then went on to pursue his masters degree in archaeology, specialising in ancient Indian history and culture from the Deccan college. Following this, he pursued his doctoral work at the University of Toronto, wherein he conducted really interesting research in the field and as an analyst as well. Following his post-doctoral stints across various institutes and field sites, he currently is an assistant Professor at the Ashoka University, and is associated as a Postdoctoral researcher with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. We discussed with him on fundamental ideas about the understanding of human history from the anthropological and archaeological points of reference, the names of knowns while tracing the story of the development of human civilizations from scientific perspectives, and most importantly, naming the unknowns that still beg for an understanding of where we belong. Prof. Chakraborty’s patient art of storytelling combined with the extensive understanding of the nuances of the field made the conversation extremely lively, and beautifully lined with treasures of fundamental ideas, spilling into further ardent curiosities trails that we promised to follow through very soon.

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Prof. Rajesh Gopakumar

Director, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences - TIFR, Bengaluru.

Prof. Gopakumar did his bachelor’s studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and went on to pursue his doctoral work at Princeton University under Prof. David Gross. Thereafter, he pursued his postdoctoral fellowships at University of California Santa Barbara, and at Harvard University, before moving to India in 2001, as an Associate Professor at Harishchandra Research Institute in Allahabad, where he was working till 2015. Thereafter, he moved to the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences- TIFR at Bangalore, and assumed the role of the centre Director shortly after the joining. Prof. Gopakumar has had an exceptionally illustrious and inspirational journey over the years, with major milestones studded in his career that very few are able to command. His research interests primarily lie at the intersection of quantum field theory and string theory - which directly translate his unending curiosity for deciphering why string theory is a natural framework for describing a variety of phenomena, for instance, tracing the deepest fundamental roots of gravitation. This has included uncovering a new example of this correspondence (minimal model holography) and using it to understand the unbroken symmetries of string theory. His research works range across wide arenas of the field (and beyond), covering topological string theory, large N gauge theories, non-commutative field theory, and pure mathematics, to name a few, and are considered to be seminal contributions. Beyond his research works, he has also made momentous contributions to the development of scientific culture in India through his leadership, which have transformed the scenario at large and continue to push the ideas of science and pursuit of excellence further.

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Prof. Rupamanjari Ghosh

Former Vice Chancellor of Shiv Nadar University Delhi-NCR, Former Professor of Physics & Dean of School of Physical Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University

Prof. Ghosh pursued her Bachelors and Masters of Science at the University of Calcutta, graduating in 1980. She then moved to the United States for her PhD at University of Rochester, New York, where she worked with Prof. Leonard Mandel. It was during her doctoral years that she undertook, among other ideas, the pioneering work on Non-classical effects in the interference of two photons which essentially is considered to be one of the holy grails of the field of quantum optics. Upon completion of her PhD, Prof. Ghosh moved back to India to join the Jawaharlal Nehru University as a professor, where she worked for the major part of her career, until 2012, while also holding multiple visiting positions through the years at the Université Paris-Sud, and École Normale Supérieure among others. Prof. Ghosh has served in pivotal roles on multiple national scientific and educational bodies, including the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT), DST, UGC and CSIR, among others. She was the Vice-Chancellor at the Shiv Nadar University from 2016-2022, and currently is also on the Advisory Board of the Executive Leadership Academy at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. Ghosh has not only contributed immensely to the field of science and technology through her brilliant work, but has also made an indelible mark in the society through her significant contributions as a policy maker, and an administrator with various educational institutions and governing bodies at different levels.

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Prof. Sujatha Ramdorai

Professor & Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Prof. Sujatha Ramdorai is a highly regarded and renowned mathematician, and has made seminal contributions to the field of algebraic theory, of which one of the most remarkable is her work on formulation of non-commutative version of the main conjecture of Iwasawa theory. Notably, she is the only woman till date to have won the ICTP Ramanujan Prize(2006), and was also recently honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India. Prof. Ramdorai completed her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru and finished her M.Sc. from Annamalai University in 1985. After a short hiatus, she went on to pursue her Ph.D. from TIFR, Mumbai where her dissertation work was titled “Witt Groups of Real Surfaces and Real Geometry" which was completed in 1992. She continued working there as a Professor later on for further research. Currently, she holds the position of Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Prof Ramdorai also has keen interest in promoting education and science communication, starting at the grassroot levels, and her elucidations and single-handed personal work on descriptive versions of mathematics textbooks are one such labour of love and passion that are immensely precious, collated on a forum which she runs here: https://gyanome.org/. Prof. Ramdorai’s story is one of the singular examples of sheer brilliance combined with indomitable will of human spirit, that can cumulate to remarkable achievements.

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