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Indrani Das wins top prize in Regeneron Science Talent Search competition

Indian-American teenager Indrani Das (17) has won the top prize of $2,50,000 in the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition in the United States (US).

She has won the award for her research on treating brain injury and disease. Her research showed a way for increasing the survival rate of neurons affected by brain injury or neurodegenerative disease.

Key Facts
  • One of contributors to neuron death is It is a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons.
  • Das’s in a laboratory model showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and also increased neuron survival.

Indian-American teen, Arjun Ramani was placed at third place for his project on networks using mathematical field of graph theory and computer programming. He won prize of $1,50,000.

Other Indian Winners
  • Of the 40 finalists of the science talent search, 13 were Indian-Americans. More that 1,700 students took part in the contest.
  • 5th place award ($90,000): Won by Archana Verma for research related development of windows that could produce solar power.
  • 7th place award ($70,000): Won by Prathik Naidu for a developing software to study human genomes and cancer.
  • 9th place award ($50,000): Won by Vrinda Madan for her study of medications for malaria. 

About Regeneron Science Talent Search competition

  • It is the oldest science competition in US for students.
  • It is nicknamed as the “Junior Nobel Prize”. Twelve of the contest alumni have won Nobel Prizes.
  • It was originally sponsored by Westinghouse in 1942 and Intel took it up from 1998 till 2016.
  • Now it is organised by the Society for Science and the Public in association with medical firm Regeneron.


4 Indian American scientists selected for presidential awards

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has selected four Indian-American scientists among 102 researchers for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

They are Pankaj Lal from Montclair State University, Kaushik Chowdhury from Northeastern University, Manish Arora from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Aradhna Tripati from University of California, Los Angeles.

About Awardees
  • Pankaj Lal: He is an associate professor in the department of earth and environmental studies at Montclair. He has been working on environmental economics and economic geography, natural resource conservation and policy and climate change, human dimensions of ecosystem management.
  • Kaushik Chowdhury: He directs the Next Generation Networks and Systems (GENESYS) Lab. He is the winner of the “NSF CAREER” award (2015) and the Office of Naval Research Director of Research Early Career Award (2016).
  • Manish Arora: He is an environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist. His research focuses on effects of prenatal and early childhood chemical exposures on life-long health trajectories.
  • He is known for his work on biomarkers that utilise human deciduous and permanent teeth to reconstruct the timing of exposure to various harmful chemicals and essential nutrients.
  • Aradhna Tripati: Her lab at UCLA uses chemistry of natural compounds as well as models as tools to understand how the Earth works. Her models focus to understand climate change, oceans, and the transfer of carbon between the biosphere, atmosphere and oceans.

About Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)

  • PECASE is the highest honour given by the US government to science and engineering professionals.vThe awards were established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
  • They are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the US president.
  • The awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at frontiers of S&T and their commitment to community service demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.


PM Narendra Modi announces Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a skill development program targeted at Indian youth seeking overseas employment to make India the Skill Capital of the World.

It was launched after inauguration of 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention at India’s IT hub Bengaluru, Karnataka. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa was the Chief Guest of the event. 

Key Facts
  • PKVY will provide training and certify Indians who are seeking overseas employment in selected sectors that have high demand in the global labour market in line with international standards.
  • It will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its training partners and in consultation with the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Union Skill Development Ministry.
  • It also aims at boosting the confidence of the Indian youth so that they don’t feel like strangers when they land in a country of their choice for vocation.
  • For this purpose, NSDC will leverage various MoUs it signed between 2011 and 2015 with different agencies of Germany, Canada, Australia, Singapore, UK, US, European Union, France, Iran and China.