National Academy of Sciences recognizes two Indian-Americans for ‘extraordinary’ achievements

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Nikhil Srivastava, a mathematician, and his partners will receive the Michael and Sheila Held Prize for their work on the Kadison-Singer problem and Ramanujan graphs, and a $100,000 prize. Photo Courtesy- UC Berkeley)

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently announced its 2021 NAS awards recipients in recognition of their extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide range of fields spanning the physical, biological, social, and medical sciences, according to a press release from NAS.

Meenakshi Wadhwa, a planetary scientist will receive the J. Lawrence Smith Medal for her investigation of meteoric bodies, along with a $50,000 prize. Photo Courtesy – Arizona State University

Among the 20 award recipients are Indian Americans Meenakshi Wadhwa, a planetary scientist and Nikhil Srivastava, a mathematician.

Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Wadhwa will receive the J. Lawrence Smith Medal for her investigation of meteoric bodies, along with a $50,000 prize.

Among her many accomplishments, Wadhwa used long-lived radioisotopes to refine the age of the solar system, in the process correcting the commonly used ratio for decay, according to the release.

In addition, her studies of the trace elements and stable isotopes (especially hydrogen) in meteoritic minerals have allowed her to develop new ways to interpret that data and reveal planetary secrets, particularly those of Mars.

Wadhwa currently serves on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Advisory Council and chairs its Science Committee. She is also serving on the joint NASA-ESA Mars Sample Planning Group.

She was president of the Meteoritical Society for the past two years, and recently also served on the Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board and the National Academies Space Studies Board.

Nikhil Srivastava, associate professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley along with Adam W. Marcus, EPFL and Daniel Alan Spielman, Yale University will receive the Michael and Sheila Held Prize for their work on the Kadison-Singer problem and Ramanujan graphs. The award is presented with a $100,000 prize.

According to the press release, Srivastava and his partners in their research uncovered a deep new connection between linear algebra, geometry of polynomials, and graph theory that has inspired the next generation of theoretical computer scientists.

Their papers, both published in 2015, solved problems that mathematicians had been working on for several decades. In particular, their solution to the Kadison-Singer problem, first posited in 1959, has been hailed as one of the most important developments in mathematics of the past decade, according to the release.

The winners will be honored in a virtual ceremony during the NAS’ 158th annual meeting.

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