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International Maths prize for Indian woman

February 28, 2007

Ramadorai Sujatha, an associate professor in mathematics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, has won a Maths prize for 2006. The prize carries a $10,000 cash award, and is specifically for those under the age of 45 from developing countries. Prof. Sujatha was selected by a committee of five eminent mathematicians appointed in conjunction with the International Mathematical Union (IMU).
As this report says:

“It’s perhaps the first international recognition of an Indian woman scientist…”

The world-renowned Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) awards this prize. It is located at Trieste, Italy and was established 42 years ago at the initiative of Pakistani Nobel prize winner Abdus Salam. It is supported by the Italian government and two United Nations bodies — UNESCO and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Interestingly, the award is named after the Indian mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. In fact, British director Stephen Fry and India’s Dev Benegal are to make a film about him as “…his ideas underpin the digital revolution.” Ramanujan was a poor college dropout who died at 33. He was noticed by the Cambridge don GH Hardy in early 1900 and was acknowledged as a mathematical genius.

So what did Prof Sujatha actually win this prize for? Well, I understand so little of Maths that it is difficult to explain it. All I can do is quote. The BBC report says she won it for “arithmetic of algebraic varieties and her substantial contributions to a mathematical framework known as Iwasawa theory”. A TOI report says, “..this branch of mathematics has relevance to encryption, that is, putting signals into codes. Mathematical systems like the ones that Sujatha has developed could become the basis of future systems, as they are very difficult to break.”

It is a matter of pride that Prof. Sujatha received all her university education in India. In an interview to the BBC, she spoke about her success “…’women in developing countries could face career obstacles,’ but she said that she had encountered none herself.”

Well, a certain section of our population never encounters any discrimination, neither in one’s family nor in society.

Educational institutions to my knowledge do not discriminate. If anything they are biased towards the backward classes because of reservations, but not towards women.

When I went to college I never really knew that Indian women could face any career obstacles! My aunt is a doctor and has a hospital of her own, another aunt was the head of department of Psychology at a respected college until she retired. My mom always worked and so do most of my girl cousins and the wives of my boy cousins. And ofcourse so do my friends. I too picked up a post graduate degree and worked outside the home until I decided to opt out and work from home. In fact the way we were brought up, it was assumed that we would go out there and do something. Being a mother was important, but that was a phase that one lived through. Well, that phase is gone now as my daughters are grown up, and now I feel I could have achieved something more…but I took breaks and that affected my career. And now when I look back I realise that all I have done is write hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines. And frankly I am getting quite sick of it. The freelance world is not a friendly world and they don’t really care whether you write or not, whether you deliver or not. In India its like that. It doesn’t even give me a kick anymore, seeing my name in print. My blog however gives me a strange sense of happiness even though I am earning nothing from it. Soon, I am going to give up my free lance work and just concentrate on my blog.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 11, 2009 2:59 pm

    Ramadorai Sujatha is a beautiful woman. Her Mathematical contributions are even more beautiful.

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