People

Sheroes: 3 Women Scientists To Look Up To From Tamil Nadu!

Wonder Women!

Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, C V Raman, APJ Abdul Kalam…. Think about any great invention or breakthrough in science, a male name pops into your mind. Though it signifies that women didn’t contribute much to the field of science, in reality it is not. Achievements of women go unremarked despite the incredible work they have done and are doing – official data proves the same.

Overcoming all the odds, here meet three Tamil women – N Valarmathi, N Kalai Selvi, and Sellappan Nirmala who have broken the stereotypes and are an inspiration to all.

N Valarmathi – Project Director (RISAT-1)

N Valarmathi is an Indian scientist and Project Director of RISAT-1, India’s first indigenously-developed Radar Imaging Satellite.The satellite was launched from country’s spaceport Sriharikota in 2021. Born in Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, she did her Bachelor’s in Engineering at Government College of Technology, Coimbatore and Master’s in Electronics and Communications at Anna University. Valarmathi joined Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1984 and has been working with the ISRO for the past 32 years. She has been a part of various major missions including INSAT 2A, IRS IC, IRS ID, TES etc. She was awarded the most prestigious APJ Abdul Kalam award for her achievements in science by the Government of Tamil Nadu. She is the second woman to head a prestigious project after T K Anuradha, project director of the GSAT-12 mission in 2011. This self-made woman climbed the ladder despite how distant the rungs were placed. This isn’t her story, this is our story.

Dr. N Kalai Selvi – Director General (CSIR)

Dr. N Kalai Selvi is the first woman director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – India’s premier eight-decade-old research and development (R&D) organisation. She was the first woman scientist to head the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI) in 2019. Kalai Selvi was born in Ambasamudhram, Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Chemistry from Government Arts College, Tirunelveli and Master’s from Government Arts College, Coimbatore. She did her doctorate at Annamalai University, Chidambaram. Known for her work in the field of lithium-ion batteries, she also focuses on electrochemical power systems and, in particular, development of electrode materials. Kalai Selvi played a major role in the implementation of e-mobility in India since 2015.

Kalai Selvi is involved in the development of practically viable “Sodium-ion/lithium-sulfur batteries and super capacitors”. As the director general of CSIR, she is leading a network of 38 laboratories and nearly 4,500 scientists.This lithium powered battery expert created history!

Sellappan Nirmala – Discovered The First HIV/AIDS Case in India

It was 1986, exactly thirty-seven years ago, India discovered that the deadly HIV had reached its shores. A large share of the success goes to the efforts of Nirmala, a microbiology student. Born and raised in a traditional family, Nirmala was encouraged to go into medical research by her husband. She got the research idea from her professor, Suniti Soloman. Nirmala collected 200 blood samples from high-risk groups like sex workers, gay men, trans people, and international students. She got them tested with the guidance of Prof. Suniti Soloman at Christian Medical College (CMC) and hospital, Vellore. Even today, AIDS is considered taboo in India. We could imagine the trauma and complications Nirmala would have undergone during her research as a woman. This story about Sellappan Nirmala, a woman scientist who discovered India’s first cases of HIV, is inspiring, exhilarating, persuading, and much more.

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