Page 22 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
P. 22

        Dr Soumya Swaminathan, 61
Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation (WHO)
In March 2019, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, who was a Deputy Director-General at the WHO, was appointed the Chief Scientist of the global health organisation. It was a new po- sition created for Dr Swamina- than, to serve as the fifth pillar of WHO, to strengthen the organisation’s core scientific work, and keep it ahead of the curve by overseeing work in digital health and innovation.
Dr Swaminathan was born
in Chennai on May 2, 1959, to
the famous scientist and Fa-
ther of Green Revolution in India, Dr M S Swaminathan. Her mother, Mina, was an educationist. Dr Soumya holds an MBBS degree from AFMC (Armed Forces Medical College), Pune and an MD in paediat- rics from AIIMS, New Delhi. Besides, she completed a post-doctoral medical fellowship in Neonatology and Paediatric Pulmonology at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
In her stellar career, Dr Swaminathan has earned many feath- ers, which include Coordinator of the UNICEF/ UNDP/ World Bank/ WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Dis- eases in Geneva, from 2009-2011; Director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai, until 2013; Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) from 2015-2017; and Secretary of the Department of Health Research (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare), Government of India.
She joined the WHO in October 2017 as its Deputy Director General.
Swati Mohan
Ritu Karidhal Srivastava, 45
Mission Director, Chandrayaan-2
Known as one of the Rocket Women of India, aerospace engineer Ritu Karidhal Srivas- tava has earned renown for her active association with seminal ISRO missions — as Deputy Operations Director for Man- galyaan and Mission Director for Chandrayaan-2.
Born in Lucknow on April
13, 1975, she always wanted
to work in the space sciences.
Since childhood, she would
spend hours gazing at the sky
and she fed her imagination by
reading up everything that she
could on NASA and ISRO. She obtained her BSc degree from Mahila Vidyalaya PG College and MSc in Physics from Lucknow University. Six months into her PhD at the same university, she cleared the tough and prestigious GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) exam and earned admission at IISc Bangalore for MTech in Aero- space Engineering. Soon, she joined ISRO in November 1997 and was appointed at the U R Rao Satellite Centre. The most challenging project that she would become a part of was Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan-1. In 2012, she was appointed the Deputy Operations Director on the mission, which was crucial as well as prestigious — because it had a very short deadline, and was a big leap for ISRO. By successfully launching Mangalyaan, India became only the fourth country in the world to send a mission to Mars, and at a far lesser cost than others.
What makes Chandrayaan project special that it is headed by two women as another senior scientist, M. Vanitha as the Project Director.
Karidhal is a recipient of several awards, including the ISRO Young Scientist Award in 2007 by the late Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.
         Guidance and Controls Operations Lead, NASA Mars 2020 Mission
Indian-American scientist Swati Mohan made global news last month when she announced the suc- cessful touchdown of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars on February 18. She works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Born in Bengaluru, Mohan had emigrated to the US when she was one year old. As is true for many other space scientists, it was the tele series Star Trek that got a young Mohan interested in space sciences. She initially wanted to be a paediatrician but chose to study engineering to be able to pursue a career in space sciences after attending a physics class at the age of 16. She studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, and later obtained a Master’s and a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Mohan joined NASA’s Mars 2020 team in 2013, shortly after it was assembled. Her role on this mission has been to ensure the spacecraft that carried the rover was properly oriented during its journey to Mars and when landing on the surface of the Red Planet.
Mohan is married to Santhosh Nadipuram, a paediatric infectious disease physician and the couple has two daughters.
MARCH, 2021

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