Scientists, like detectives, are constantly on the look-out for clues to solve real life mysteries. This National Science Day, meet seven exciting Indian scientists and glimpse into their respective worlds.

Dr. Gauri is a scientist who works with a newly-discovered material called graphene. Would you call her a chemist, a physicist or a biologist? The structure and properties of carbon atoms in graphene is essential to understanding how it is harder than diamond and stronger than steel, so she must be a chemist, right? But wait… graphene is famous for how well it conducts electricity. So Dr. Gauri could be a physicist as well. And did you know graphene is so thin that it could soon be used to carry medicines through our body? So Dr. Gauri must know a bit of biology, too.

You see, science today is a lot more than what our textbooks tell us. To solve real-life problems, scientists often need to cross boundaries, make use of mathematics and speed up the process with technology. Take the Infosys Prizes, for example. These are one of the biggest awards for science in India. This National Science Day, let’s look at the seven scientists who won the prize in 2013, and the exciting areas of science they won it for.

Tiny bits, big difference

Field: Nanoelectronics

Laureate: Ramgopal Rao

The first cellphones were the size of bricks! Modern gadgets are small enough to slip into our pockets, and parts that make them are even smaller. Nanoelectronics deals with these tiny parts. Dr. Ramgopal Rao studies electron transport and finds ways to design devices in ways that will maximise their performance.

A really old story

Field: Archaeology

Laureate: Nayanjot Lahiri

Ethnography, geology, geography, chemistry — there is a lot of science behind digging up the past, right from deciding where to look to analysing what you’ve found. Archaeologist Dr. Nayanjot Lahiri investigated what caused the end of the Indus Valley Civilisation, and many bigger questions.

What did you say?

Field: Linguistics

Laureate: Ayesha Kidwai

Try using Google Translate to translate a popular rhyme in your native language into English. The result might make you laugh. That is how complicated languages are. Linguists like Dr. Ayesha Kidwai are so good at this because they’re experts at not just vocabulary and grammar, but also the sounds, the history and the shared features of different languages.

Do the math

Field: Algebraic geometry

Laureate: Rahul Pandharipande

If Sumit is twice as old as his five-year-old sister, how old is he? If you answered 10, then you know what algebra is. If you’ve ever heard of the Pythagorean Theorem then that’s geometry. Dr. Rahul Pandharipande is pretty good at both these fields of mathematics and solves complicated problems to understand the nature of numbers.

Reactions that can cure

Field: Biochemistry

Laureate: Rajesh Gokhale

In the time you’ve taken to read so far, tuberculosis has killed more than a couple of people already. Dr. Rajesh Gokhale studied what happens inside the bacteria that causes it and found a potential strategy to design a cure. Investigating the way cells work and the chemical reactions that take place within them is what biochemistry is about.

High gravity situation

Field: Quantum mechanics

Laureate: Shiraz Minwalla

Everything you see around you is made up of atoms. The quantum theory of physics deals with the properties of the components of atoms. Though it is increasingly applicable to real life scenarios, there is still one phenomenon it is unable to explain — gravity. Dr. Shiraz Minwalla is a physicist who tries to find this missing piece of the puzzle.

Why we are the way we are

Field: Anthropology

Laureate: Aninhalli R. Vasavi

Anthropology — the study of human behaviour and society — is tremendously important to understand the world the way it is. Dr. Aninhalli R. Vasavi realised this and made important insights into the trend of farmer suicides and schooling in rural India.