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Citations: 2011 Distinguished Alumnus Awards Recipients

Prof. Hota V.S. Ganga Rao :


Prof. Hota V. S. Ganga Rao has earned a name in academic circles in the field of fiber-reinforced polymer composites. He is a visionary leader whose exceptional research and development contributions in his chosen field make him the world expert in the application of composites to constructed facilities. His research focus is on theory, design, development, production and implementation of fiber-reinforced polymer composites, including recycled polymers, for constructed facilities with emphasis on high strength and stiffness structures, utility poles and underground structures. His contributions in this field have resulted in his being appointed as the Head of the multi-University Center for the Integration of Composites into Infrastructure (CICI) sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA. He handles research and other projects worth more than two million dollars per year.

Prof. Hota showed his merit right from the student days. His academic record at IIT Madras, from where he graduated with a B.Tech. in Civil Engineering in 1965, was excellent, and he continued to show his scholastic prowess in his higher studies at North Carolina University, Raleigh, USA, where he received his M.S. and Doctorate in Civil Engineering in the short span of four years (two years each). He is highly knowledgeable and well-respected as a teacher and academician. More than 250 M.S./ Ph.D. students have graduated under his expert guidance. He has published more than 300 technical papers, with several of his papers winning �best paper� awards.

Prof. Hota has been recognized as an innovative researcher in his chosen field for the past thirty years. He is a scholar of extraordinary insight, whose contributions in his field were recognized on several occasions. To name a few, he received the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award for 1990-91. Cited as one of the Top Five Outstanding Leaders for the year 1988-89 in the College of Engineering, he was awarded Udani�s Best Concrete Engineer Prize for the year 1983 on �Innovative Design and Construction of Precast Concrete Panels with Passive Solar Devices�. He has co-authored a textbook titled �FRP Reinforcements for Concrete�, and has also contributed chapters in his area of specialization in many reference books and encyclopedias. He holds several patents in the area of application of composites in infrastructure. He is an active member of several professional societies such as ASCE, Advanced Composites Manufacturing Association – Composites Institute, SPI, and SAMPE.

He is a dedicated, community service-oriented person, and organizes the American Indian Students Association at West Virginia University. Prof. Hota has given generously of his time, expertise, and financial resources to make a difference to the lives of the Indian students on campus. He is a Board Member of Sahasra Deepika Foundation, Charleston, WV.

In recognition of Prof. Ganga Rao Hota�s outstanding contributions in the application of composites in constructed facilities, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. S. Sowmya:

S. Sowmya, the renowned Carnatic vocalist, is an alumna of IIT Madras, having done her M.Sc. in Chemistry during 1990 – 1992. She was awarded the meritorious IITM Blue in 1992 for excellence in Academics and Cultural Activities. She then joined the Ph.D program under the guidance of Prof. K. K. Balasubramanian. Within a short duration, she managed to publish a research paper under his guidance

Apart from being an excellent scholar during her days at IIT Madras, Sowmya was also deeply involved in Carnatic music, doing her utmost to balance her time between academics and music. The Carnatic music scene at that time was very competitive with many youngsters trying to carve a niche for themselves. In spite of her commitment to research in Chemistry, she did well in the music circles and finally decided to devote herself full-time to music. She then successfully completed B.A. and M.A. in Indian Music from the Department of Music, University of Madras during 1996 and 1998, respectively. She has since been pursuing her passion in Carnatic music to great public and critical acclaim, and is currently performing doctoral research in Indian music, focusing on pitch variations in percussion instruments.

Sowmya’s has been a life soaked in melody from the very beginning. Growing up in a traditional South Indian family, her initial tutelage in music was from her father Dr. Srinivasan, a Chemical Engineer with a Ph.D from IISc Bangalore, and a disciple of the renowned flautist Dindigul S. P. Natarajan. Later, Sowmya was taken under the wings of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. S. Ramanathan. She received further training from Smt. T. Muktha, of the legendary Brinda-Muktha duo.

Sowmya is endowed with a melodious voice, as well as sound knowledge of the theory of Carnatic and other Indian music systems. Besides performing in concerts, Sowmya has also presented several lecture-demonstrations on Carnatic music and has been consistently ranked among the top female Carnatic vocalists in India. She has won several honors, awards and titles from prestigious organizations over the years, the most recent being Sangeetha Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai. Her desire to propagate the traditions of South Indian music worldwide led her to establish Carnatica, an institution dedicated to music & dance instruction, archival, talent search and other related activities. Its web portal,, is now a popular online destination for music-related information and discussions.

Sowmya is producer and co-author of the world�s first interactive, encyclopedic CD-ROM on Carnatic Music titled �Nadanubhava � The Horizons of Carnatic Music�. She has also created the world�s first tutoring VCD on Carnatic Music titled �Nadopasana � My Own Carnatic Tutor�,a self-help module with Karaoke features.


Prof. V.S. Sunder:

Prof. V. S. Sunder is a well-known mathematician currently working at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Taramani, Chennai. He received an M. Sc. in Mathematics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1973. Subsequently, he went to the U.S.A. for higher education, and obtained his Ph.D in Mathematics from Indiana University in 1977. His thesis supervisor was the world-famous mathematician Paul Halmos, the author of several widely-followed textbooks, popular articles and research papers.

Prof. Sunder has also served as a faculty member in the Indian Statistical Institutes at Bangalore and New Delhi, University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, and in the Research Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Kyoto, Japan. He works in the broad area of Functional Analysis, with specific involvement in Operator Algebras and Von Neumann Algebras. These algebras were originally introduced (in the 1930s) by the famous mathematician, Von Neumann. More recently, there was some seminal work on these algebras, done in the 1980s, by another famous mathematician, V. Jones. These algebras have important connections with topology, statistical mechanics, quantum and conformal field theory. Prof. Sunder�s contributions in this area are well-known and well-recognized, among them: the formulation of a �path-model� to study towers of algebras, the construction of several series of new �irreducible� subfactors, and the axiomatization of certain structures called �integral hypergroups�

Prof. Sunder has authored/ co-authored six textbooks and research monographs, about sixty research papers, guided six Ph.D students, written several popular articles and also given talks at several conferences and workshops at both elementary and advanced levels. He has also conducted a large number of workshops and short courses for research scholars and college teachers. His book on sub-factors (with Professor V. Jones), on topological quantum field theories (with Professor V. Kodiyalam), and his other books are widely used. He is a fellow of all the three science academies in India, namely Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi; Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore; and National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad. He was awarded Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award for Mathematical Sciences in 1996. He has been awarded the J.C. Bose Fellowship for 2008-14

Despite such achievements and plaudits, Prof. Sunder remains extremely modest and easily approachable to his students. In spite of a busy schedule involving research and teaching, he has been a Member of many Scientific Committees in India and has contributed in no small measure to mathematics education in India, having delivered lectures at various Universities in most states of India, as well as at the premier research institutes (TIFR, ISIs, IITs, IISc, etc.) in the country. This involvement is exemplified by his contributions to the �Mathematics Training and Talent Search Program� that is conducted annually by the National Board for Higher Mathematics.

In recognition of Prof. Sunder�s outstanding contributions to the field of mathematical sciences, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Shri. K. Sridharan:

For more than a decade now, Sridharan has worked as Founder and the President of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF), USA, whose objective is to eradicate curable blindness across India. SEF was set up in 1998 in San Jose, CA, and works with its partner in India, Sankara Eye Care Institutions (SECI). Set up in 1977 under the auspices and blessings of Sankaracharya in Coimbatore initially, SECI now has expanded to numerous locations around the country. SECI has been recognized all over India as a leading philanthropic organization that performs free eye surgeries among other preventive care for eye-related diseases, especially in rural areas of the country. Sridharan has, through his tireless efforts, led a dedicated group of volunteers all over the USA to raise funds for the development of this exemplary organization, its growth and achievement of its objectives.

In India, a single hospital in Coimbatore, Sankara Eye Hospital, performed about 8,000 free eye surgeries in 1998. When SEF joined the mission, a much bigger goal was set – Vision 20/20 by the Year 2020. To replicate the success of the Coimbatore hospital all over India, a unique scalability model was introduced: Every hospital should be self-sustaining in 5 years after starting operations. The self-sufficiency is attained by performing 20 percent of the surgeries on paying patients, and performing the other 80 percent of the surgeries totally free. This model was proved in the first hospital SEF built in India – in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. There are now 8 functioning hospitals, including ones in Bangalore, Shimoga, Anand, Krishnan Koil, Silvassa, and in Rishikesh. SEF is currently raising funds for building the next super-specialty eye-care hospital in Punjab. The number of free eye surgeries has increased from 8,000 in 1998 to over 120,000 in the year 2010. Sridharan is a key member of the core team driving policies, strategy and process for the organization, and is also part of the implementation team. He handles the organization�s governance and growth, and is involved in identifying key growth opportunities for the Sankara Eye Foundation – in corporate grants and foundations.

SEF and its sister organization in India (Sankara Eye Care Institutions – SECI) have won many awards for the work they have done so far. SECI recently won the �FICCI Health Care Excellence Award 2010 � Towards Innovative and Inclusive Health Care�. It has won this award 2 years in a row. In addition, SECI won the 2008 Asian Hospital Management Award and NGO of the year Award in India. SEF has won the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator 3 years in a row, for its efficient management of the organization.

Sridharan�s day job at Intel Corporation as Director of Strategy and Marketing of Software Pathfinding & Innovation is no less demanding and does take up well over the usual 40 hours of work a week, but he nevertheless finds enough time, energy and conviction to spend an equal amount of time and energy to work towards furthering the goals of Sankara Eye Foundation. Sridharan obtained his B.Tech. in Civil Engineering from IIT Madras in 1980, two M.S. degrees from Southern Illinois University in �82 and �84, and an Executive MBA from Pepperdine University in 2004.

In recognition of Shri Sridharan�s philanthropy and outstanding contributions to eye-care among the rural poor in India, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.

In recognition of his outstanding professional accomplishments and his significant and sustained contributions to the Nuclear Engineering Group of IGCAR, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer this award on him.


Prof. vijay Kumar:

Dr. Vijay Kumar received his B.Tech. Degree in Chemical Engineering in 1975, and his M.S. degree in Industrial Management in 1978, both from IIT Madras. After a brief career in management consulting in India, he joined the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and received his Ed.D. degree in 1986. His dissertation topic was: �Introducing Technological Innovations for Education in Developing Countries – Implications for Planning�. The following 24 years speaks for Vijay�s distinguished career and accomplishments in this endeavor.

He is currently Senior Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His work at MIT is helping to redefine the relationship between universities and society. In 1996, Vijay was appointed as the Principal Investigator of MIT�s Open Knowledge Initiative, an MIT-led collaborative project to develop an open architecture for enterprise educational applications. He is a key member of the Advisory Committee of MIT OpenCourseware, the pioneering initiative that has put every classroom lecture in every subject taught at MIT on the worldwide web. OpenCourseware aggregates the knowledge of one of the world�s great universities and makes it available to students anywhere on our planet.

Before joining MIT, Vijay worked as Director of Academic Computing and Assistant Professor of Computer Applications (1987-1991) at the University of Maine at Machias, and as Director of Academic Computing at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts (1991-1996). The focus of Vijay�s entire career has been the intersection of education and technology, and specifically, initiatives that use technological innovations to positively transform the educational experience, making it easier and cheaper to share knowledge among institutions and across national borders.

His expertise in this area is globally acknowledged. Among many notable contributions, he has been an Advisor to the National Knowledge Commission, India, since 2006. He has advised numerous leading educational institutions and governments in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia. He was appointed as an Advisor for IT to the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2010.

Vijay has never been a distant ivory-tower academic. For forty years, he has remained good-humored and ever accessible. He is generous with his time and expertise, and wears his numerous accomplishments lightly. Of him, it can be truly said: �Vidya dadaati vinayam� � �Learning bestows humility’.

In recognition of Dr. Vijay Kumar�s excellence in technology innovation for education, academics and managerial practices, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Shri. V.G. Venkatesh Mannar:

Shri M. G. Venkatesh Mannar, President, Micronutrient Initiative (MI), Ottawa, Canada graduated from IIT Madras in 1970 with a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering, and later completed a Master�s degree from Northwestern University. In 1972, he returned to India to join his father and establish a large solar salt operation near Mamallapuram. While running the salt works, he became actively involved in developing technology for fortification of salt with essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and iodine. He was invited by various UN agencies to assist with a global program to correct dietary deficiencies through fortification of salt and other staple foods. During this period, he conducted situation assessments and advised governments to plan micronutrient fortification programs in over 40 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Finding his work in micronutrients more challenging and life enriching, Venkatesh decided to devote his time entirely to this area. In 1990, he sold his salt company and relocated to Canada. He then worked as a consultant to UNICEF in planning their salt iodization programs, and led the global thrust to address Iodine Deficiency Disorders through mandatory iodization of salt. Nearly 4 billion people now have access to iodized salt. He extended his work to include fortification of a wide range of staple foods and condiments with vitamins and minerals, and targeted provision of vitamins and minerals to severely-malnourished children and women.

Venkatesh is now recognized as a leader in global health with 35 years of experience in pioneering effective nutrition and development initiatives focusing on the world�s most vulnerable citizens. He has been the Head of MI, an international non-profit nutrition organization since its inception in 1994 – working to enable access to essential micronutrients for the common man through the regular diet, and ensuring the impact of these interventions in more than 75 countries. MI, starting with 4 employees, has now become the global leader in nutrition development programs with more than 100 full-time staff, 120 full-time consultants, 2 regional offices, 11 country offices and a budget of USD 38 million per year. In his role as President of MI, Venkatesh regularly interacts with and advises national leaders and policy makers to develop policies, strategies and plans for their countries. His efforts through the MI to provide essential vitamin and mineral supplements to children and women, iodize salt and fortify staple foods are saving children�s lives and improving livelihoods of over 500 million people in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

He has been invited to join the Boards of several global organizations, including the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and Flour Fortification Initiative. In addition, he serves as a member on the scientific advisory boards of some of the largest food companies in the world, such as Nestle and Pepsico. In 2010, Venkatesh was awarded the Tech Award in Health by Nokia for the contributions he has made to develop technology for the double-fortification of salt with iron and iodine. Earlier, he was recognized as the third most influential citizen in Ottawa by Ottawa Life Magazine in the year 2009.

In recognition of Shri Venkatesh Mannar�s outstanding contributions to the global effort to stem micronutrient deficiency, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Shri. G.K. Pillai:

Shri G K Pillai was born in 1949 in Kerala. His father as well as grandfathers from both the maternal and paternal side were civil servants. He completed his schooling from Bishop Cottons, Bangalore. He was also a National Science Talent Scholar and did his Bachelors in Physics and Chemistry from St .Joseph College, Bangalore. He then went on to complete his M. Sc. in Chemistry from IIT Madras in 1970 before appearing for the Civil Services Examination. Following family tradition, he joined the Civil Services and was selected for the IAS in the year 1972.

His penchant for doing something worthwhile, broad-based and significant was evident early, and he worked his way up the Civil Services hierarchy with keen earnestness. His early assignments included: District Collector, Kollam; Special Officer for Cashew Industries, Industries Secretary and Health Secretary in the State of Kerala, all of which he handled admirably. In 2001, he was appointed Principal Secretary to Shri A. K. Anthony, the then Chief Minister of Kerala.

He has also been on Central deputation to Delhi where initially he worked in the Ministry of Defence handling aircraft acquisitions. Other postings were as Director, Shipping and Joint Secretary (Transport). In 1996, he was posted as Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, where he was given the complex and difficult North East Portfolio. His fearless approach, deep study of the complexities and ethnic issues, coupled with his sincere work ethic, ensured significant development benefits to the region, as also the effective handling of various insurgencies. In fact, his approach to resolving the Bodo problem in Assam and negotiations with the Bodo Liberation Tigers was considered unique and beyond compare. He was later posted in the Ministry of Commerce and went on to become the Chief Negotiator for India at the WTO, representing the country at innumerable international conferences.

He later became Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce. He also played a key role in the enactment of the Special Economic Zones Act 2005 and was the Chairman of the Board of Approvals for the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Under his supervision, over 325 SEZs were notified with a total investment of Rs. 90,000 crores. These SEZs, apart from giving tax incentives to developers and industries, provided much needed employment. The total exports last year from the SEZs were over Rs. 300,000 crores, and Shri Pillai�s supervision led to the SEZs becoming economically important especially when other export industries faced a recession. Shri Pillai became Home Secretary, Government of India on 30 June 2009, a position that he holds till date. His handling of the Maoist problems, the Jammu & Kashmir situation, the North East and the modernization of police forces, as well as other critical matters has been appreciated across all sections of Government. His frankness and commitment have been useful in handling these problems. His style has always been engaging and thought-provoking. Admirably, he has put national interests over his own personal safety. A rare trait indeed!.

In recognition of Shri Pillai�s outstanding leadership qualities and contributions to excellence in administrative service, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Prof. Jayant B Udgaonkar:

Prof. Jayant B. Udgaonkar is an accomplished teacher/ scientist in the area of Biological Sciences, particularly in protein chemistry/ biochemistry. Many of his accomplishments came after he joined the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bangalore. His research at NCBS has earned him many awards and recognitions.

Prof. Udgaonkar is currently a senior professor of NCBS, TIFR, and a pioneer in protein folding, protein stability and protein aggregation. His laboratory uses several small proteins as archetypical model proteins for studying how proteins fold, unfold and misfold. He uses the tools of protein engineering and physical biochemistry, including diverse optical spectroscopic methods, time-resolved fluorescence methods, as well as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry methods. Highlights of his recent work on protein folding and unfolding include the demonstration of competing pathways for the folding of monellin. Highlights of recent work on protein misfolding and aggregation include the demonstration that the transformation of soluble oligomers of barstar into amyloid protofibrils occurs in multiple steps.

Prof. Udgaonkar has 106 publications to his credit in top-notch journals such as Nature and Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, USA. He has received several distinctions at the national and international levels, among them: Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of Indian National Science Academy, Biotechnology Career Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation (1991-1995), B.M. Blrla Award for Biology (1996), Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Biological Sciences (2000), J.C. Bose National Fellowship (2007), and Honorary Faculty Member, JNCASR, Bangalore (1999). He was awarded a Golden Jubilee Biotechnology Award by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, in August 1997, and the B. M. Birla Science Prize for Young Indian Scientists during 1998. He was awarded the Swarnajayanti Fellowship by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, in July 1998. Since 2003, he has been a Member of the Editorial Board of Protein Engineering, Design and Selection.

In recognition of Prof. Udgaonkar�s outstanding contributions to the field of bio-chemical sciences, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.