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Obama appoints Indian American to national science board

July 04, 2014 19:50 IST

Dr Sethuraman ‘Panch’ Panchanathan, senior vice president, Office of Knowledge Enter­prise Development, ArizonaStateUniversity, was last week appointed to the United States National Science Board by President Barack Obama.

Panchanathan, 52, has created history on two fronts; he is the first Indian American to be appointed to this prestigious board, and this is also the first time a person from the state of Arizona will be serving on the policymaking board, which focuses on national science and technology policy.

The Madras-born and raised Panchanathan told rediff.com that he was “both excited and humbled” over his appointment.

In addition to being an advisory body to the President and Congress on science and engineering issues, the 25-member National Science Board establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation.

The NSF is a major science-funding agency with an annual budget of $7.2 billion in fiscal year 2014, and is charged with promoting the progress of science, to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare, and to secure the national defence.

“I am excited because it gives us an opportunity to be part of a team of people who are working to advance science policy and also major scientific directions and programs of the NSF,” Panchanathan said.

“It’s also very humbling to be the first Indian American to be appointed to this board and of course, also the first from the state of Arizona.”

Michael Crow, president, ASU, lauded Panchanathan for his achievements.

‘Panch has worked tirelessly in advancing ArizonaState and its rapidly growing research enterprise, promoting our unique capabilities,’ Crow said.

‘He exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and social responsibility that ASU aims to cultivate. It is fitting that he be on this important board so that his influence can extend to the benefit of the nation.’

In addition to his work with OKED, Panchanathan is a professor at ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. He is also director of the Centre for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing.

He was recently was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and led a team that received two Microsoft Imagine Cup Awards.

Panchanathan has been chosen for the Governor’s Innovator of the Year for Academia Award and the ASU Leadership Award.

He has published or presented over 400 papers in refereed journals and conferences, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Society for Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers and the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

He attended Madras Christian College for his high school education, then the Vivekananda College for a bachelor’s degree in physics, and then the Indian Institute of Science for another bachelor’s degree in electrical and communication engineering.

Panchanathan told rediff.com, “The first bachelor’s degree gave me an opportunity to really be grounded in science before I went into engineering.”

He received his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology “and then I went to Ottawa, Canada to do a PhD in electrical computer engineering.”

Panchanathan remained on the University of Ottawa faculty for eight years, before moving to ASU in 1997, where he has his own research centre.

Since moving to Arizona, he has held several positions at ASU and since 2001 he has been the director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing and the foundation chair professor in Computing and Informatics since 2009.

Panchanathan founded the ASU School of Computing and Informatics in 2006 and the Department of Biomedical Informatics since 2005.

At the University of Ottawa, he was the founding director of the Visual Computing and Communications Laboratory from 1990 to 1997.

Aziz Haniffa