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The Movers & Shakers of 2010


Year 2010 has changed the notion that Indian Americans only make good engineers, doctors and hotelmotel owners. The last 12 months have proved without doubt our growing prominence in every thinkable field – arts, science, entertainment, politics, sports, to name just a few. We scripted histories, won tough elections, led global conglomerates, taken up highprofile appointments, bagged prestigious scholarships, awards and accolades and went on to helm a number of innovations.

Indian-American academician Subra Suresh was sworn in as the next director of the $7.4 billion National Science Foundation (NSF) for a six-year term. Suresh, dean of the School of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was nominated by President Barack Obama to the post in June this year. Suresh is now one of the highest-ranking Indian-Americans ever to serve in an administration. As director, Suresh will lead the $7.4 billion independent federal agency that supports all fields of science and engineering research, as well as a wide span of educational programs that reach more than 2,000 institutions across the US.

Yale University cosmologist Priyamvada Natarajan was part of an international team of astronomers that used a massive galaxy cluster as a cosmic magnifying lens to study the nature of elusive dark energy for the first time. Their findings appeared in August's issue of the prestigious journal Science. Astronomers employ a variety of methods to study the geometry of the universe in order to study the nature of dark energy -- a mysterious force discovered in 1998 that speeds up the expansion of the universe -- about which precious little is known.

The team used gravitational lensing to learn more about this elusive force, especially data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as well as ground-based telescopes, and analyzed images of 34 extremely distant galaxies situated behind Abell 1689, one of the biggest and most massive known galaxy clusters in the universe.

Through the gravitational 'lens' of Abell 1689, the astronomers were able to detect the faint, distant background galaxies -- whose light was bent and projected by the cluster's massive gravitational pull -- in a similar way that the lens of a magnifying lens distorts an object's image. Natarajan, professor, departments of astronomy and physics, and director, graduate studies, department of astronomy, Yale University, said that the way in which the images were distorted gave the astronomers clues as to the geometry of the space that lies between the Earth, the cluster and the distant galaxies.


Noted Indian-American academician Dipak Jain was named as Dean of leading international business school INSEAD. Jain, a Dean Emeritus at Northwestern University's prestigious Kellogg School of Management, succeeds J Frank Brown, who will step down in 2011. Among Jain's responsibilities would be to look for opportunities to build INSEAD programs in China and India as the business school focuses on growing its global presence and attracting more students from the developing countries.

"I am pleased that someone of Dipak Jain's calibre and values will continue to develop the school. The Board chose Dipak Jain to lead INSEAD into what is fast becoming a new global economic climate - one in which emerging markets are growing at a faster rate than the industrialized mature economies of Europe and North America," Chairman of the INSEAD Board Franz Humer said. Jain, a native of Assam, will assume his duties as Dean in March 2011.

Jain was Kellogg's Dean from 2001-2009 and the Sandy and Morton Goldman Professor in Entrepreneurial Studies and Professor of Marketing, a Chair he held since 1994. He stepped down from his Kellogg dean post last summer but remained a professor. A graduate of Guwahati University, the Assam-native received a Masters in management science and a PhD in marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas.

President Barack Obama nominated Nisha Desai Biswal as assistant administrator for Asia in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The agency channelling US developmental aid is headed by Rajiv Shah, the highest ranking Indian-American in the Obama Administration.

Biswal was a majority clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Committee on Appropriations in the US House of Representatives.

Announcing her nomination and seven others, Obama said: "I am grateful that these impressive individuals have agreed to join my administration. I am confident they will serve ably in their new roles, and look forward to working with them in the coming months and years."

Biswal was the director of policy and advocacy at InterAction, the largest alliance of US based international humanitarian and development non-governmental organisations.

She previously served on the professional staff of the House International Relations Committee where she was responsible for South and Central Asia policy as well as oversight of the State Department and USAID.

Biswal worked at USAID where she served as special assistant to the administrator.

During her four years at USAID, Biswal also worked in the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Office of Transition Initiatives, and served as chief of staff in the Management Bureau.

Biswal has also worked with the American Red Cross both in their Washington headquarters and overseas as an international delegate in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Biswal holds a BA from the University of Virginia.


Renowned Indian-origin academician Raghuram Rajan was named alongside US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman among the seven most powerful economists in the world, according to a compilation in Forbes magazine by economist Nouriel Roubini.

Forbes asked a group of experts to pick seven influential individuals each from the world's nearly seven billion people for fields such as education, Hollywood, media, entrepreneurs, economists, energy, philanthropists, bloggers, designers, feminists and fashion.

Roubini, Harvard alumnus and New York University professor who predicted the global financial crisis, picked the world's most powerful economists.

Roubini said Raghuram Rajan, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, was one of the earliest economists to point out the "distortions in bankers' and traders' compensation and other serious flaws of Wall Street that led to the US and global financial crisis."

Rajan's recent book, 'Fault Lines,' which won the 2010 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, "is a must-read." Roubini's picks are powerful economists who "don't just sit in ivory towers writing brilliant but esoteric prose; they actively engage in the leading economic issues of our time.

Researcher Amit Goyal was named the '2010 Innovator of the Year' by leading technology publication R&D Magazine, whose awards are touted as the ‘Oscars of Innovation.'

An IIT Kharagpur alumnus, Goyal is a researcher at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. Widely regarded as an international leader in the field of hightemperature superconducting (HTS) materials, Goyal is known for his contributions to the practical use of HTS and development and fabrication of wires that allow these superconductors to be adopted in the marketplace.

Terming the award as a "tremendous honour," Goyal said the recognition "represents an implicit responsibility of continuing to strive towards full commercialisation of the innovations I have been involved with."

Goyal has also developed flexible, single- crystal-like, semiconductor substrates for electronic device applications such as solar cells, which have led to the formation of the startup TexMat. His technical contributions have been in the field of largearea, low-cost, high performance flexible electronic devices, including superconductor- based and semiconductor-based devices.

In the last three years, he has received three R&D 100 Awards related to fabrication of HTS wires. The R&D 100 Awards are given to the top 100 technologies or products of the year by R&D Magazine. He has published more than 300 papers, has more than 5,000 citations and holds 54 patents. A recent Thompson-Reuters's Essential Science Indicators analysis of citations and papers published worldwide in the last decade in the field of high-temperature superconductivity ranks him as the most cited author worldwide.

Goyal joined ORNL as a postdoctoral fellow in 1991 after completing his doctorate at the University of Rochester. He earned a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and received executive business training from Purdue University and the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Gita Gopinath was named tenured professor at Harvard University's high-brow economics department and she thus becomes the third woman ever and the first Indian after Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to receive such as outstanding honour.

Professor Gopinath, who is only 38, works in the area of international macroeconomics and finance—areas that have become significant in light of the current financial crisis and the critical macroeconomic situation.

“She has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of sovereign debt defaults, which is the current leg of the crisis in Europe. Her work also shows, at a very deep level, why many emerging markets tend to experience greater macroeconomic volatility than advanced economies and has significantly advanced understanding of the interaction between prices and interest rates,” says Kenneth Rogoff, professor of economics and public policy at Harvard and former chief economist at the IMF.

Professor Gopinath completed her bachelors in economics from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College and masters from Delhi School of Economics before moving to the US for a PhD


The US District Court for the Central District of California appointed Vijay “Jay” Chand Gandhi as US Magistrate Judge.

Gandhi was sworn in as a Magistrate Judge on April 14 in Los Angeles and presided over matters arising from all three Divisions of the Court. The Central District of California is the largest district in the nation and is comprised of the seven counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura. The Central District serves more than 19 million people and, last year, more than 14,900 cases were filed in the district.

Gandhi is the first Indian-American federal judge in the Central District and only the second Indian-American federal judge in the history of the United States. At age 38, Gandhi is also one of the youngest federal judges currently serving in the Central District.

Judge Gandhi was formerly a litigation partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP. He practiced law for nearly 12 years at Paul Hastings, first joining the firm as an associate in 1998 and subsequently elected to equity partner in 2006. He specialized in complex business litigation and class actions. His practice areas included securities, corporate governance, consumer rights, intellectual property, and real estate. During his tenure at Paul Hastings, Gandhi also served as Vice-Chair of the firm’s Orange County office.

While in practice, Gandhi was repeatedly recognized as a “Rising Star Lawyer” in the “Super Lawyers” Edition of Law & Politics Magazine. He is a prolific writer, and has several publications to his credit, including as co-author of a book on securities law claims. He is also an alum of the Trial Attorney Partnership with the Orange County District Attorney’s office where he worked on a full-time basis as a volunteer Deputy District Attorney.

Prior to joining Paul Hastings, Judge Gandhi clerked for the Honorable Kenneth M. Hoyt, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas. Gandhi received his J.D. degree from the University of Southern California Law School, graduating Order of the Coif.

Sohini Chatterjee, an Indian American lawyer involved in development work worldwide, was appointed as Senior Advisor in the Office of Donor Engagement in the US Agency for International Development's newly created Policy Planning Bureau.

Chatterjee works closely with USAID administrator, Dr Rajiv Shah and Nisha Desai Biswal, recently appointed as the Assistant Administrator for Asia in the agency.

The new bureau is envisaged to consolidate policy-planning functions within USAID and evaluate what natural disasters, civil unrest outbreaks or refugee crises are most urgently in need of the agency's limited resources.

Born in Rourkela, Orissa, and raised in Cary, North Carolina, Chatterjee earlier worked in the Development Economics Prospect Group at the World Bank on the issues of migration and remittances.


Co-founder of Sun Microsystems Vinod Khosla was named among Vanity Fair's 100 "most influential people of the information age," a list that also has Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple chief Steve Jobs in the top spots.

Khosla, an IIT Delhi and Stanford alumnus, ranks 71 on the ''New Establishment 2010'' list, where he is the sole Indian-origin person.

The founder of capital venture firm, Khosla Ventures raised 1.3 billion dollars last year "even with credit tight" to seed two different investment vehicles, a one billion dollar fund earmarked for clean-energy and information technologies and a 300 million dollar fund that will target high-risk, experimental projects.

Khosla's current investments include EcoMotors, a Detroit-based manufacturer of fuel-efficient internal-combustion engines, LED lighting company Soraa, solarenergy concern Cogenra and a high-efficiency-cooling-system company New PAX.

In May, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair joined Khosla's venture-capital shop to serve as an adviser.

Vanity Fair said that Khosla's "pet peeve" is ''Greenwashing.'' "There’s a lot of this fashionable ''Let's go green!'' especially politicians spending other people's money, to show that they can be greener than the next guy," he is quoted as saying.


United States Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has announced the appointment of Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, entrepreneur, philanthropist and Chairman of Tejas Networks, A123 and Akshaya Patra, USA, as the Co-Chairman of the U.S. National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

Reflecting on the importance of NACIE, Locke said, “Americas innovation engine is not as efficient or as effective as it needs to be, and we are not creating as many jobs as we should... We must get better at connecting the great ideas to the great company builders.”

Dr. Deshpande is one of 26 members of the Council, which counts serial entrepreneurs, university presidents, investors and non-profit leaders among its members.

As a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Deshpande currently serves as a member of the MIT Corporation, where he has helped finance the creation of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. He has also set up the Deshpande Foundation, a leading philanthropic foundation in the innovation, entrepreneurship and international development. Dr. Deshpande is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras. He has an engineering degree from the University of New Brunswick in Canada, and a Ph.D. from Queens University, Canada.

Eminent physician and philanthropist Dr Sudhir Parikh, who was awarded with the prestigious Padma Shri this year was recognized in the US Congress for his extraordinary contribution. "I applaud Dr Parikh's achievements and dedication and recognize his work as it serves as an inspiration to us all," influential US Congressman Frank Pallone said in his remarks in the US House of Representatives.

"Madam Speaker, please join me in leading this body in acknowledgement of the extraordinary contributions of Dr Sudhir Parikh. He is a greatly valued citizen of the state of New Jersey, and I am honored to recognize him today," Pallone said.

A nationally acclaimed and respected allergist and immunologist, Dr Parikh, the Congressman said he has used his time, money and influence to advance the goals of the Indian-American and Indian communities. With the Padma Shri award, Dr Parikh becomes the only Indian-American to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the Congressman said.


PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi again made it to Forbes magazine's list of 'World's 100 Most Powerful Women' . She ranked 6th on the list. In the business category, Nooyi is ranked two.

Forbes said Nooyi nudged a 20 million dollar slice of the company's $616-milliona- year ad budget away from traditional to social media spends.

Pepsi's worldwide campaign, Pepsi Refresh, allocates USD 1.3 million each month for a US project, such as the recent "Do Good For the Gulf," which offers stipends to build a shelter for animals whose owners lost their homes to the oil spill and to provide mental health services and job training.

"Brands have to speak to millenniums; young people want to make a difference," Nooyi says.

In what's being hailed as a major scientific breakthrough, an Indian-origin researcher- led team created the world's first implantable "artificial kidney", no larger than a coffee cup. Shuvo Roy and colleagues at University of California have developed the artificial kidney which they say not only filters toxins out of bloodstream, but also uses human kidney cells to perform other vital functions like regulating blood pressure and producing vitamin D.


The team has tested the new device on animals, and it now plans to test the same on humans.

"Dialysis is not only time-consuming, but it's also debilitating. Many patients don't feel good, because it's not doing all the functions of a normal, healthy kidney.

"The new kidney doesn't just filter toxins. It has metabolic functions and hormonal functions, and dialysis does not capture these abilities," Roy recently told 'Technology Review' published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A prototype of the artificial kidney, unveiled recently, is a two-part system - half consists of a toxin-removing filter, in which thousands of silicon membranes are stacked together.

Their nano-pores are so dense, and so precisely shaped, that they can filter very precisely using only the force of the body's own blood pressure. Blood flows in through this filter, where the toxins, sugars, water, and salts are removed as a filtered solution.

The clean blood and watery filtrate are both shunted into the other half of the system - a separate cartridge.

Here, they flow over more silicon membranes, these ones coated with a single type of human kidney cell, which helps the device reabsorb some of the water, sugars, and salts, as well as produce vitamin D and help prevent blood pressure from sinking too low -- normal kidney functions that are not offered by dialysis, say the scientists.

The waste that's not reabsorbed is shunted to a tube attached to the bladder and removed as waste in the urine - just like a normal kidney would do.

- by Lavanya Garikina