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2 Indians win MacArthur's 'genius' fellowship

September 22, 2009 16:05 IST

Two Indians are among the 24 talented individuals named for the prestigious MacArthur fellowship programme 2009.

Computer Vision Technologist Maneesh Agrawala and Applied Mathematics specialist L Mahadevan will each receive $500,000 (nearly Rs 2.5 crore) support over the next five years.

MacArthur fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavours. 

Working at the intersection of visualization, human-computer interaction, and computer graphics, Agrawala, aged 37, draws on cognitive psychology to identify the key perceptual and design principles underlying graphic illustrations. 

Agrawala's novel approach to visualization and computer communication in these and many other projects is transforming how we use, synthesize, and comprehend the ever-increasing volume of digital information we encounter in our daily lives.

"Through these fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci.

Forty four-year-old Mahadevan is a mathematician who applies complex mathematical analyses to a variety of seemingly simple, but vexing, questions across the physical and biological sciences -- how cloth folds when draped, how skin wrinkles, how flags flutter, how Venus flytraps snap closed.

He also considers properties of materials at larger scales, such as cell shape, adhesion, and migration in developmental biology, avalanche dynamics, or the role of water in determining the tensile characteristics of plants.

Mahadevan received a BTech (1986) from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, an MS (1987) from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MS  (1992) and PhD (1995) from Stanford University. Since 2003, he has been affiliated with Harvard University, where he is currently the De Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics.

He holds visiting professorships at the University of Oxford's Mathematics Institute and the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India.

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 805 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the programme.

The selection process begins with formal nominations. Hundreds of anonymous nominators assist the Foundation in identifying people to be considered for a MacArthur Fellowship. Nominations are accepted only from invited nominators, a list that is constantly renewed throughout the year. They are chosen from many fields and challenged to identify people who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. In a nutshell, only geniuses here!

Do you know Maneeesh and Mahadevan from their college days? Share your experiences with Mail your responses to

Image: (Left) Maneesh Agrawala. (Right) L Mahadevan

Rediff News Bureau