President Biden honors 2 Indian American scientists with National Medals


President Biden awarded the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to a number of Americans, two of whom are of Indian origin. The ceremony was conducted in the East Room of the White House Tuesday, October 24, 2023. It recognized leading American scientists “who have made exemplary achievements in science, technology, and innovation to strengthen our nation’s well-being,” the White House said in a press release.

President Biden awards Subra Suresh the National Medal of Science during an awards ceremony in the East Room of The White House, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Ryan K. Morris, courtesy
Ashok Gadgil receives the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Biden at the White House. PHOTO: courtesy of the White House, via

The two Indian Americans recognized were Subra Suresh of MIT and Brown University, who was bestowed the National Medal of Science, and Ashok Gadgil of Berkeley who was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  The medals were awarded after a hiatus of 7 years, having been presented last in 2016.

While announcing the names, Biden said, “We’re determined to return great science to America,” adding, “For this year’s recipients, ‘outstanding’ may be an understatement. They’re extraordinary… They have paved the way for a generation of other scientists and innovators to pursue their own discoveries to unlock our nation’s full potential.”

The National Medal of Science is the nation’s highest scientific honor, established by Congress in 1959. It is bestowed by the President “on individuals deserving of special recognition for their outstanding contributions in biology, computer sciences, education sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, in service to the Nation.”

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation  established in 1985, is the nation’s highest award for technological achievement. “It recognizes American innovators whose vision, intellect, creativity, and determination have strengthened America’s economy and improved our quality of life.”

President Biden has often been heard saying in his speeches that America is defined in a single word – possibilities.

“These trailblazers have harnessed the power of science and technology to tackle challenging problems and deliver innovative solutions for Americans, and for communities around the world,” the White House said.

Suresh, former director of the National Science Foundation, is a scientist and engineer, “with decades of impactful leadership in higher education, industry and government,” said a press release from Brown University where he is a professor-at-large in the School of Engineering.

Suresh was recognized for pioneering research across engineering, physical sciences and life sciences, and particularly for advancing the study of material science and its application to other disciplines.

The National Science and Technology Medals Foundation highlighted his commitment to research and collaboration across international borders, which has demonstrated how science can forge understanding and cooperation among people and nations.

“It’s very satisfying,” Suresh is quoted saying in the Brown University news site. “This is not why you do science. You don’t do this for the reward, you do it for the joy. If somebody notices it, it’s icing on the cake, but it’s not the cake itself. This particular one, though, has added significance because it’s from the president of the United States. It’s national. It has the United States stamped on it,” Suresh added.

Gadgil, distinguished professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering, is best known for inventing safe drinking water technologies — including UV Waterworks, a low-cost, portable and energy-efficient water purifier, and ECAR, an advanced arsenic removal technology — as well as fuel-efficient cookstoves, University of California, Berkeley, said in a press release.

He is the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Safe Water and Sanitation and was recently named the 2023 R&D Leader of the Year. His current research focuses include computational fluid dynamics of indoor air and pollutant flows and building energy efficiency.

A retired faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Gadgil is  considered a “humanitarian inventor,” working for decades “to create low-cost, inclusive and robust solutions to some of the developing world’s most challenging problems,” Berkeley said.

His many engineering solutions have helped transform low-resource communities and have helped more than 100 million people across four continents, the press release said. One of his more recent projects included setting up an arsenic treatment system for a small, rural community in California.

Over the years, Gadgil has mentored numerous researchers pursuing impactful R&D careers. He directed a national laboratory research division, a binational clean water-energy technologies research organization and a university development impact lab addressing global poverty. Gadgil also developed and taught courses in development engineering at UC Berkeley.



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