Indo-Australian professor head of country’s top science body

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Professor Chennupati Jagadish. Photo: Twitter @NanoJagadish

Prof Chennupati Jagadish, a nanotechnology pioneer and physics researcher at the Australian National University (ANU) whose early years in India were spent studying before a kerosene lamp, has been named as the next president of the Australian Academy of Science (AAS), the country’s premier science body.

Prof Jagadish, a world-renowned physicist, will serve a four-year term, according to a release by the ANU. Prof Jagdish is the first Australian of Indian roots to take up the leadership of a leading science body in Australia. He will join in May 2022.

Born in Andhra Pradesh, in southern India, Professor Jagadish had a humble childhood. Due to the inaccessibility of electricity at home, the professor spent most of his time studying in front of a kerosene lamp until his first year of high school, when mathematics teacher Chaganti Sambi Reddy recognized the young talent and Jagdish’s potential and invited him to live with the Reddy family, so he didn’t have to walk three miles each day to attend high school.

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After completing his post-doctoral research fellowship in Canada, the professor moved to Australia to take up a position at ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. in 1990.

“I never imagined when I came to Australia with a two-month-old baby and two-year contract thirty-one years ago, that one day I’d be elected a Fellow of the Academy and then go on to lead the organisation,” he says.

Prof Jagadish’s research mostly focuses on the science of extremely small things, including some of the world’s tiniest lasers that are thinner than human hair. He has been the recipient of the highest honour in the Australian Day awards for his contribution and recognised services in the field of physics and engineering. Some of the best works by the professor include the creation of lightweight flexible solar cells, a method to split water to create new clean energy sources, and treatments for people with dementia. His pioneering research in the field of meta-optics (manipulation of light), is also recognised on the world stage.

Academy Professor John Shine is delighted with the election of Prof Jagadish as the next president. “Professor Jagadish is highly regarded as a scientist and understands the importance of Australia’s international scientific engagement, having research collaborations in 30 countries around the world himself,” Prof Shine said.

Consisting of Australia’s top research scientists, the objectives of the AAS are to promote science and science education through a range of activities.

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