The Infosys Science Foundation, promoted by Infosys Ltd., announced seven winners of the fourth Infosys Prize for research across six categories, including a prize in Humanities that was introduced for the first time.

Bangalore-based scientist Satyajit Mayor, Dean at the National Centre for Biological sciences and professor of 'Cellular organisation and signalling group', won the prize for life sciences for his research work in regulated cell surface organisation and membrane dynamics.

The only awardee present at the media interaction where the awards were announced, Dr. Mayor said that he was “deeply honoured and quite embarrassed”. “The prize I've been rewarded is for all of us,” he said, pointing to his young research team that joined him at the event. Dr. Mayor is the second scientist from NCBS to be conferred this prize, after NCBS director K. Vijayaraghavan, who won the award in 2009.

New category

The first humanities prize was divided into two categories. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, professor of history, University of California, and scholar of early modern South Asian history was chosen for the prize in History, for developing “a new genre of “connected history,” involving persons, products, and social and political processes stretching from Malacca in the East to Portugal in the West.” In the same category, the humanities prize for outstanding work in Literary Studies was conferred on Amit Chaudhuri, professor of contemporary literature, University of East Anglia, UK in recognition of the “intellectual reach and the quiet humanity” in his writings. The jury for this new category is chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

Ashish Lele, scientist at the National Chemical Laboratories, Pune was chosen for the prize in Engineering and Computer Science for his “incisive contributions in molecular tailoring of stimuli responsive smart polymeric gel”.

Manjul Bhargava, Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton, U.S.A., was awarded the prize in Mathematics for his “extraordinarily original work in algebraic number theory” , which was revolutionized the way in which number fields and elliptic curves are counted.

The prize for physical sciences was given to Ayyappanpillai Ajayaghosh, senior scientist at the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Thiruvananthapuram. The jury recognised his “pioneering development of methods for the construction of functional nanomaterials”, which can be employed as components in energy conversion devices and in powerful optical sensors.

Announcing the winners, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman Emeritus and co-founder of Infosys, said that the Infosys Prize would encourage young minds to explore the sciences, and will promote ground breaking research. Infosys Executive Co-Chairman S. Gopalakrishnan said he hoped that in the medium to long term, winners will serve as role-models to motivate young Indians to take up research across fields. In the short term, we are seeing that this is becoming a coveted prize among researchers, and there is a realisation that there is recognition for their work.

"If you want to increase research, you have to start early. Which is why we are taking these awardees around the country, organising lectures in schools and colleges. We also organised a Maths fest in a school in Bangalore, and going forward, will take up more such activities to popularise the sciences, and encourage research," Mr. Gopalakrishnan said.

These awards will be given away at a ceremony on January 3, 2013, in New Delhi. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and former Director General of the World Health Organization, will felicitate the winners.

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