With the start of the pandemic in 2020, there has been a tectonic shift of focus towards healthcare and an emphasis on scientific reasoning, more than ever. With the rise of socio-political movements globally, there has been an intersectional and often, an empathetic approach towards these fields of science and technology and medicine, which inevitably highlights the importance of the contributions of women and other marginalised sections to these arenas. It remains to be noted that women and other historically oppressed gender, class and caste minorities were sidelined and their contributions neglected for the longest time in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) although there were anomalies. From ASHA workers who have always been doing most of the footwork in ensuring the wellbeing of people on ground to women scientists being at the helm of making COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic brought about a shift in the focus towards women’s work in STEM as we know it now.
Closer home in India, women in STEM have been making history too. From Neena Gupta, the Indian Statistical Institute professor who became the fourth Indian mathematician to receive the prestigious Ramanujan prize to the four IIT Rourkee professors who made it to Confederation of Indian Industry’s list of top women achievers in STEM, we as a country are glowing with pride in their achievements in a field traditionally seen as a patriarchal domain.
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1. Annie Sinha Roy
Annie Sinha Roy is the Project Senior Resident Engineer at Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation. Arguably the only woman tunnel engineer in the country, after her graduation in mechanical engineering from Nagpur University, she joined Senbo in 2007. She started working with Chennai Metro in 2009 and later with Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation in 2015. She single-handedly steered the tunnel-boring machine called Godavari, which recently finished carving out an underground track from Sampige Road to Majestic.
This year, she was nominated for ETPrime Women Leadership Awards 2021 alongside Beena Kothadia (Plant Director, Gestamp), Geeta Uppal (Senior Vice President and Head of SCM Procurement at Reliance Industries), Sarala Menon (Executive Vice President at Colgate-Palmolive), Seema Gupta (Director Operations at Power Grid India), and Sukla Mistry (Executive Director & Refinery Head at Indian Oil Corporation).
2. Dr Neena Gupta
Dr Neena Gupta is a prominent Indian mathematician at the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. Previously, she has won the Young Scientists Award of the Indian National Science Academy in 2014 for her solution to the Zariski cancellation problem for affine spaces.
This year, she won the Ramanujan Prize 2021 for her commendable contribution to affine algebraic geometry and commutative algebra. She is the fourth Indian mathematician and the third woman to have been awarded the prestigious prize. This award is offered jointly by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the International Mathematical Union, and the Department of Science and Technology under the Government of India.
3. The four IIT Roorkee professors featured by CII
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has featured four faculty members from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee among top women achievers in STEM, a recognition that has also been featured in the ebook launched by the CII, titled, WiSTEM-2021: Nurture and Celebrate Women in STEM. All the four faculty members have made significant contributions to scientific research and inspired several students to pursue a professional career in STEM.
Dr Davinder Kaur Walia is a Senior Professor in the department of Physics and Centre for Nanotechnology. In focussing on nanoscale thin films, her research functions to improve devices useful in energy. She is an expert member of the Physical Sciences boards of DRDO, CSIR, and SERB-DST.
Dr Debrupa Lahiri works as an Associate Professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and Center for Nanotechnology. Her research concerns biomaterials, multi-scale mechanics and tribology, and composite material systems with nano-fillers. Last year, she started three funded projects, which were sponsored by LSRB-DRDO, DST-SERB, and DST-SERB-IRPHA. All three projects are currently ongoing.
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Dr Pranita P Sarangi is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences and Bio-Engineering. Cellular and molecular immunology, immunopathology, and immuno-oncology are some of her areas of interest. Her research on the effects of yoga and meditation in combating stress-induced immuno-suppression was funded in 2021 by DST-SATYAM.
Dr Kusum Deep is a Professor at the Department of Mathematics and Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science. Her work is centred on operations research, numerical optimisation, and evolutionary algorithms, among others. In 2021, NPTEL sponsored her project on operations research.
4. Dr Bushra Ateeq
Dr Bushra Ateeq is an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She has published over 75 journal articles and book chapters. Her expertise lies in cancer biology, cancer genomics, and molecular oncology. Last year, the Government of India recognised her contribution to her field by awarding her with S Ramachandran-National Bioscience Award for Career Development as well as Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in Medical Sciences. She also secured the Senior Fellowship Award by Wellcome Trust and DBT India Alliance.
In 2021, she successfully guided Anukriti Singh’s doctoral thesis, which was titled, “Investigation of Mechanisms involved in AGTR1 Positive Cancer: Implications in Therapy.” The Life of Science also featured her in its 2020-21 Indian Women-In-Science calendar. The feature was, then, published in a book titled, 31 Fantastic Adventures in Science.
5. Esha Cyril
Esha Cyril is an Indian American high school student at Quarry Lane School. Previously, she has secured the first position in JoinJade Stanford University Advocacy Challenge at the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Conference. She has been awarded with a range of awards and prizes in leadership, including the George Eastman Young Leaders Award by the University of Rochester and Outstanding Performance and Leadership Award by the Mayor of Estacíon Central Chile.
This year, she won the prestigious Hyundai Women in STEM Scholarship 2021. The scholarship offers $10,000 to each recipient in an attempt to bridge the gender gap by encouraging and supporting young women pursuing an education and a career in STEM disciplines. Esha is not only among the five winners, but also the only high schooler to have secured the scholarship.