P Rajendran finds out how Himanshu Asnani, a winner of the Marconi Society’s Paul Baran Young Scholars Award, careened from wanting to become a neurosurgeon or cricketer into engineering
Right now, Himanshu Asnani may have been working his careful way through a human brain, or on the cricket field, bowling some blinders at some hapless bats- man’s brains or, as opening bat, whacking a ball past some cringing fielder at forward square leg.
Despite his interests, Asnani would not become a neurosurgeon or a cricketer. Because math happens. And the result of that heady infatuation sent Asnani careening away into engineering.
The self-deprecating Dr Asnani says he does not deserve the honor he is being given — the Marconi Society’s Paul Baran Young Scholars Award, which carries with it a modest sum of $4,000.
Dr Asnani has worked, among other things, on helping computers interact — and so cooperate — with each other. This step, along with the judicious use of communication and compression, could help ensure better infor- mation flow while reducing logjams in networks. Besides the work on communications, compression and cooperation in networks, Asnani has also worked on ways to compress human genome information.
Dr Asnani was born in Kota, Rajasthan, the son of Kanchan and the late Suresh Asnani, both doctors by train- ing. He came fourth in the Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination.
He was involved in the technical contests at IIT but, since he had decided he would study further, did not go job-hunt- ing in India.
Dr Asnani is more involved in research than pure engineering, and finished his PhD in four years and now works as a systems engineer at Ericsson. Tsachy Weissman, Dr Asnani’s advisor at Stanford, in a statement, described him saying that his ‘work runs the gamut from the theoretical to the applied. He is attracted to important problems, and is as passionate about under- standing their deep theoretical underpinnings as he is about developing, implementing and experimenting with practical schemes that make a difference.’
While Dr Asnani enjoys his work, his other interest is to engage youth: He teaches yoga to teenagers in corporate circles and at Stanford. According to Robert Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and chair-
man of the Marconi Society’s Young Scholar Selection Committee, “The Young Scholar awards were created to look at what are the kind of people who might win the Marconi Prize in the future. We think these are the kind of people who might do that.” According to him the organization used its members’ contacts in academia to find those who have made significant contributions by the time they are 27, the age Marconi was when he did his transatlantic radio trans- mission.
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