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Indian-Australian world-leading nuclear scientist Prof. Mahananda Dasgupta to advise Prime Minister

While at school, Prof. Dasgupta wanted to join the Indian Administrative Service "to change the country, make a difference."

Prof. Mahananda Dasgupta from The Australian National University (ANU) has been appointed to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

The Council is the preeminent forum for providing scientific and technological advice for government policy and priorities.

Prof. Dasgupta’s is an international leader with expertise in nuclear physics, and is the first woman to be tenured in the Research School of Physics at ANU.

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She is the Director of the NCRIS-supported Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF) at the ANU, the largest and highest voltage ion accelerator in Australia (and one of three in the world). 

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Image: Prof. Dasgupta as a young PhD student in India (Source: M. Dasgupta/A.K. Rajarajan/ABC)

Prof. Dasgupta was born in India. While at school, Prof. Dasgupta wanted to join the Indian Administrative Service “to change the country, make a difference.” She said:

“Then I got a scholarship to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India to do a PhD in fusion, using its particle accelerator, and that drew me in.”

In 1992, upon completion of her PhD, Prof. Dasgupta migrated to work at ANU for two years. This was 30 years ago!

“I’ve worked alongside my colleagues at the HIAF as part of every improvement so that it can continually drive cutting-edge, world-leading research.”

She went on the become the first woman to get a tenured position in physics at the ANU. She is also a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science and the American Physical Society.

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Image: Prof. Dasgupta at HIAF (Source: ANU)

Prof. Dasgupta described the depth of her understanding of and connection to nuclear physics and ion accelerators almost like a relationship. ​​​​​​​

Thanks to Prof. Dasgupta and her teams efforts, scientists from around the world come to Australia to use HIAF. 

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In 2006, Prof Dasgupta won the Australian Academy of Science’s Pawsey Medal for her world-leading research in nuclear fusion physics.

Prof. Dasgupta feels that there are still some biases regarding women in STEM. She noted:

“I feel ‘women in physics’ shouldn’t be a question nowadays but it is. Men are never asked about being a ‘man in physics’. It seems to me these systemic things are hard to overcome, and I feel it very passionately.”

She added:

“As a nation, we need to make sure women can be part of that opportunity.” 

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Image: Ed Husic, Minister for Industry and Science (Source: ALP)

Announcing the new appointments, Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic observed:

“These appointments will increase the diversity of experience and perspectives on the NSTC – supporting its mission to provide timely and tangible expert advice to government on key policy objectives. I’m looking forward to seeing their exceptional contributions.”

Prof. Dasgupta’s expertise will help the NSTC advise the Government on growing Australia’s capabilities in critical tech areas.

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Prof. Dasgupta is looking to the future of nuclear science and industry engagement with excitement and positivity – as well as with a view to improving diversity in the field. 

Along with Prof. Dasgupta, Prof. Reuben Bolt from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Prof. Mark Hutchinson from the University of Adelaide have alos been appointed to the NTSC.

The Council is chaired by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with Minister Ed Husic as deputy chair and Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley as its executive officer.

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