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Citations: 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Awards Recipients

Dr. Raj Mutharasan::


Dr. Raj Mutharasan, Frank A. Fletcher Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Drexel University, USA (1969/BT/CH).

Dr. Raj Mutharasan obtained his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1969 with ‘First Rank’. Subsequently, he earned his Ph.D. degree from Drexel University in Chemical Engineering in 1973. He currently serves as Frank A. Fletcher Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Drexel University.

Prof. Mutharasan has had a distinguished and remarkable career in both teaching and research. He is professionally active, chairing many research symposia as well as organizing major research conferences held by AIChE, Engineering Foundation, AIME and others. He has served in the academic leadership ranks such as the Interim Dean of College of Engineering (1997-2001) at Drexel University. Three major scientific and engineering societies (AIChE, AIMBE and AAAS) have recognized his contribution to his chosen field by electing him as a Fellow. Another remarkable achievement of Prof. Mutharasan is sustained transfer of technology from his laboratory to the industrial and commercial world. His early work on process control led to the development of the “Gautam-Mutharasan” algorithm, which, in modified form, is incorporated into commercial process control systems. His second major commercialization is related to his recent work on biosensors, which has received 4 patents already with eight more pending.

During his career, Prof. Mutharasan has served as technical consultant to industry, as well as on the Science Advisory Board of several corporations; some of his notable appointments are those on the Board of Apogee, Inc. (founded by one of his PhD students), and on Leversense LLC (which is based on Prof. Mutharasan’s biosensor invention)

As evidenced by the above summary of achievements, Professor Mutharasan’s career over the past 40 plus years has had a profound impact on society in general, in addition to leaving an imprint on academia, scientific research and industrial linkage. The extent of Prof. Mutharasan’s social involvement is evidenced by his civic activities, which include serving as President of various cultural societies in the U.S. He has also served as Advisor to many graduate students coming from India.

In recognition of Dr. Raj Mutharasan’s contributions to research, technology commercialization, and societal outreach, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. Jayant R. Haritsa::

Dr. Jayant R. Haritsa, Senior Professor, Department of Computer Science & Automation, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (1985/BT/EE).

Prof. Haritsa obtained his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1985. He subsequently graduated from University of Wisconsin with an M.S. (1987) and Ph.D. (1991) in Computer Science. He is a Senior Professor at the Supercomputer Education & Research Centre and Department of Computer Science & Automation at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

Over the past two decades, Prof. Haritsa has made high-impact contributions to the theory, algorithms, data structures and architectural design of database engines, which form the core of enterprise information systems. His work has spanned transaction-processing and decision-support environments, the two main streams of database research. He has been the problem-definer in a majority of his work, breaking new ground in a variety of topics, including real-time databases, data-mining, XML databases, multi-lingual databases, biological databases and query optimization.

A particularly noteworthy industrial contribution of Prof. Haritsa is the Picasso software that he has designed and constructed over the past seven years. Picasso is a visualization tool for the systematic investigation, understanding and redesign of database query optimizers. IISc has obtained copyright on the software from the Government of India, and several leading database vendors, as well as elite academic research groups worldwide, have incorporated Picasso in their workbench. The tool has been welcomed as a potent pedagogical resource for database instruction, and recently received the Best Demonstration award at VLDB 2010, a top-ranked international database conference.

Prof. Haritsa is also the recipient of the ACM Distinguished Scientist honor, and the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize. He has been elected a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS), National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), and Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), and has been granted faculty awards from blue-chip multinationals in recognition of his stellar research accomplishments.

In recognition of Dr. Jayant Haritsa’s research contributions to design and optimization of database engines, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. P. R. Kumar::

Dr. P. R. Kumar, Professor and Holder of Chair in Computer Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University, USA (1973/BT/EE).

Prof. Kumar obtained his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1973, and his M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in Systems Science and Mathematics from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri in 1975 and 1977, respectively. Since 1985 till recently, Prof. Kumar was at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, serving as Franklin W. Woeltge Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Currently, he is Professor and Holder of Chair in Computer Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University.

Prof. Kumar has done path-breaking and hugely influential work on problems in game theory, adaptive control, stochastic systems, simulated annealing, neural networks, machine learning, queuing networks, manufacturing systems, and scheduling for wafer fabrication plants. His papers are mathematically deep, rigorous and creative, yet strongly motivated by and relevant to the applications he considers. He has repeatedly introduced novel paradigms for the formulation and analysis of problems in important areas. The most recent example, and perhaps the most important and influential one, has been his study of the communication capacity of wireless networks, using completely new ideas. In addition to being a prolific and world-class researcher, Prof. Kumar gives the most lucid lectures– clear, unhurried and inspiring.

Prof. Kumar has received the Donald P. Eckman Award of the American Automatic Control Council, the IEEE Field Award in Control Systems, and the Fred W. Ellersick Prize of the IEEE Communications Society. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, and was elected to membership in the US National Academy of Engineering. He has been awarded a Guest Chair Professorship at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and a Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa by Eidgenoissische Technische Hochschule (ETH), Zurich in 2008.

In recognition of Prof. Kumar’s research and teaching contributions in game theory, wireless networks, and related disciplines, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. Prabhakar Raghavan::

Dr. Prabhakar Raghavan, Vice President for Strategic Technologies,Google, USA (1981/BT/EE).

Dr. Prabhakar Raghavan obtained his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1981, his M.S. (ECE) from University of California – Santa Barbara in 1982, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California – Berkeley in 1986. He served as Senior VP and Head of Yahoo! Labs since 2005, and recently took up a position as Vice President for Strategic Technologies, Google.

Dr. Raghavan is one of the rare individuals who have excelled in academic research, technical leadership and corporate management and governance. In academic research, Dr. Raghavan is well known worldwide for his outstanding accomplishments in Computer Science, particularly in the context of randomized algorithms. As a technical leader, Dr. Raghavan led the theory group at IBM Almaden Research Laboratory, a veritable analytical powerhouse, into the 21st century and the internet era, with far-reaching results. He created and led the Clever research project, one of the two pioneering groups working concurrently in the emerging field of link analysis for web search.

Dr. Raghavan and his group achieved a number of widely-reported and cited breakthroughs in web structure and modeling. The Clever project laid the foundation for IBM’s Webfountain project which provided web mining services to many large enterprises. The huge impact of this work continues to be felt to this date in academia as well as industry. After joining Yahoo in 2005, Dr. Raghavan built up a strong center of scientific excellence in Yahoo! Labs. He established several Yahoo! research centers around the world. He has, at the same time, continued a program of research on multiple fronts. Most recently, he has been working on showing how in-depth user studies, such as eye-tracking and interviews, can be combined with large-scale click mining to quantifiably improve user experiences.

Dr. Raghavan has received several honors and awards. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. His other honors include: Honorary doctorate from University of Bologna, Italy; UC Berkeley Distinguished CS Alumnus Award, Fellow of the IEEE and Fellow of the ACM, and several best paper awards. He deeply cares about the research community, and devotes time to mentoring and encouraging young researchers.

In recognition of Dr. Raghavan’s research and leadership in the field of web mining, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. V. Sumantran::

Dr. V. Sumantran, Vice Chairman, Hinduja Automotive Ltd., Chennai (1981/BT/AE).

Dr. Sumantran obtained his B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering from IIT Madras in 1981, his M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University, and his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech. He also has a Master’s Degree in Management of Technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic. He is Executive Vice-Chairman of Hinduja Automotive, UK. He leads the Group’s expansion strategy including sectors such as Light Commercial Vehicles, Construction Equipment, IT, Defence, Aerospace and Technologies.

Dr. Sumantran had a 16-year career with General Motors in the R&D Centre in Detroit, and subsequently served on deputation in Europe as Director, Advanced Engineering, SAAB Automobile AB. During this period, he also held the position of “Single Voice” for all R&D and Advanced Engineering undertaken by the GM-FIAT alliance in Europe. Back in India, he contributed immensely in developing innovative product ideas and platforms. The Indica range of vehicles, and more recently Nissan Dost, launched in September 2011, are results of such ideation. From 2001 until end of 2005, he was the chief executive of Tata Motors’ car business. During this period, he led the organization through the concept phase of the ‘Nano’ low-cost to ‘Aria’ high-end car projects. Dr. Sumantran has championed several product innovation programs with an unwavering focus on sustainability and clean transport. Under his guidance, the first commercial Electric Vehicle in India was developed and launched under the Ashok Leyland banner.

He is a member of the Board of Ashok Leyland Ltd. and Chairman, Ashok Leyland Nissan Ltd; Chairman, Ashok Leyland John Deere Ltd.; and Chairman, Ashok Leyland Defence Systems Ltd. Dr. Sumantran serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet of the Indian Government, and also served on the Science Advisory Council of the Prime Minister of India. He is a member of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council. He is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at IIT Madras. He is a Fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers International and the Indian National Academy of Engineers.

In recognition of Dr. Sumantran’s excellence as a technocrat, business leader, visionary and creator, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Dr. Ashok S. Krishna aka S. Krishnaswamy::

Dr. Ashok S. Krishna, Vice President of Technology for Global Downstream, Chevron Corp., USA (1974/BT/CH).

Dr. Ashok S. Krishna (aka S. Krishnaswamy) obtained his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1974, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts. His work on “Diffusional Influences on Catalyst Deactivation Rates” is now part of undergraduate texts in Chemical Reaction Engineering. He also completed his MBA from University of Pittsburgh in 1983. Dr. Ashok Krishna is in his 35th year of service at Chevron Corporation.

Dr. Krishna was, and continues to be, a leader recognized for application of Chemical Engineering principles and technology to effectively manage a wide variety of energy resources. He is adept at identifying technological concepts that ultimately produce viable business outcomes. During his career, he has led commercialization of technologies associated with reforming, fluid catalytic cracking, hydrocracking and residuum processing. During the last decade, he has moved up through positions of increasing responsibility in technology management at Chevron, and sits on the Boards of Chevron Lummus Global, a Chevron JV with CBI Lummus for licensing technologies worldwide, and Advanced Refining Technologies, with Grace Davison, a global leader in petroleum catalysts. As MD of Chevron’s Technology Marketing, he brought high-pressure hydro-processing to India, enabling production of clean fuels and premium lubricants. Today, most Indian refineries employ Chevron technology.

Dr. Krishna has represented Chevron at numerous technical forums and provided strong leadership in managing Chevron’s in-house as well as external downstream technology development programs. He was selected to guide the joint venture between Chevron and Weyerhauser, called “CatchLight Energy”, which is focused on developing and commercializing technologies for conversion of cellulosic feedstock into usable forms of energy, while minimizing global greenhouse footprint.

Dr. Krishna has been involved in many public service and charitable activities, including United Way campaigns and individual contributions to various organizations. He is particularly well recognized for his mentoring activities, whether directed towards youth groups or professionals in the technology fields.

In recognition of Dr. Krishna’s academic excellence, innovation and industry leadership, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.


Ms. Uma Ghurka:

Ms. Uma Ghurka, Technical Director, Thermopads Pvt. Ltd. & Managing Director, Thermo Cables Ltd., Hyderabad (1975/BT/EE).

Ms. Uma Ghurka graduated with a B.Tech. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1975, and boldly took the road less travelled, deciding to explore opportunities to develop and manufacture new products. She identified a business opportunity in the area of flexible heating systems. The first prototypes of the thermal heating pads were fabricated in a small workshop in Mumbai. Encouraged by the response from early customers, she set up her own manufacturing facility, Thermopads Pvt. Ltd., in Hyderabad in 1978.

Thermopads has grown from two employees in 1979 to over 1,100 in 2010-11; group turnover has grown from Rs. 1.2 lakhs to a targeted Rs. 350 crores. The company makes a wide range of products that find applications in industry, construction and defence. 95 percent of its turnover today comes from exports to over 40 countries around the world.

Ms. Ghurka’s pioneering achievements have been recognized by numerous awards from India and abroad. She was honored as one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the world in 1999 at an Event sponsored by IBM Corporation; on this occasion, Thermopads Pvt. Ltd. also received an award for the Best use of Technology by one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs. As early as 1984, Ms. Ghurka was named one of India’s Women Entrepreneurs of the Year. Ms. Ghurka also serves in advisory capacities in a variety of organizations. For the Year 2010, she was appointed as a member of the National Board of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of the Government of India. She served as a Non-executive Director of State Bank of Hyderabad between 2003 and 2008, representing small-scale industries. She was the President of the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs (COWE), an organization that actively promotes entrepreneurship among women, from 2008-2010.

Ms. Ghurka is actively engaged in social work through her companies. She is the Managing Trustee of the Shri Ram Charitable Trust, set up to focus on education, medical treatment and rural development. The achievements of the Trust range from providing funds to ongoing management support for a 100 – bed charitable hospital in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, to the creation of a charitable school in Ghattuppal, Andhra Pradesh, where over 700 students from nearby villages now receive subsidized education.

In recognition of Ms. Ghurka’s entrepreneurial excellence and devotion to social causes, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on her this award.


Shri Balaji Sampath:

Dr. Balaji Sampath, Founder and CEO, AID INDIA, Chennai (1994/BT/EC).

Dr. Sampath obtained his B.Tech. degree in EC from IIT Madras in 1994. As a Ph.D. student in the U.S., he was involved in inspiring a large number of Indian students and professionals and forming chapters of the Association for India’s Development (AID) in over 25 cities. After he completed his Ph.D., he chose to return to India to work on education and village development.

He is the founder and CEO of AID INDIA, a non-profit working on children’s education. He has built a team of 400 fulltime activists, 3000 village teachers and 2000 volunteers who have impacted the education of 1 million children in 2000 villages and 8000 schools in 12 districts of Tamil Nadu. AID INDIA is a rare organization in the non-profit sector with a strong outcome and measurement focus.

Eureka Child, AID INDIA’s flagship education program, sparks ambition, curiosity and learning excitement in over 100,000 children in 1030 villages in Tamil Nadu and 100 villages in Bihar. Donors and parents together support community youth who are trained and empowered with tools to become high-quality tutors for children. Many schools, NGOs, Government organizations and agencies such as UNICEF use Eureka materials and methods to improve teaching outcomes. He is also the Founder Trustee of Eureka Books, a non-profit education publisher that has published close to 350 titles and has reached out to more than 8 lakh children with high-quality, low-cost books and kits. In parallel, he has created 175 science demonstration experiments which were aired on TV. He has recently started AhaGuru, an Online Physics Education portal that uses interactive videos and quizzes to improve conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills of high-school students.

Dr. Sampath has received many awards, starting with an All India Rank 4 in the IIT JEE 1990. He has received the Ashoka Fellowship and Lemelson Inventor Certificate for innovative work on Science Education, MIT Indus Technovator’s Award 2005 for AID INDIA’s village education programs, Rotary Distinguished Service Award by the Rotary Club of Madras South, and Pratham USA Achievement Award 2006 for improving reading skills in Tamil Nadu. He also received the Times of India Social Impact Award from the Prime Minister for AID’s global contribution to India’s development.

In recognition of Dr. Balaji Sampath’s tireless efforts to improve school children’s education, IIT Madras and its alumni are proud to confer on him this award.