Kolkata-based mathematician Neena Gupta has bagged the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, the most prestigious award of the country for maths, this year.
She has also been recognised as the youngest ever to win it. She is yet to be 35. Till date, M S Raghunathan of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), was the youngest when he won the award in 1977 at 36.
Gupta, who teaches commutative algebra at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, said the award was beyond her dreams. This award brings her ratification for the “endless” love that she has had for maths since she was a schoolgirl. “I was not the kind who got full marks in maths but I just loved to solve problems and spend hours doing maths. I am ever grateful to my mother, Gyanlata Gupta, for sowing the seeds of maths in me. She taught me till I was in Class X and I didn’t need tutors at all,” Gupta said.
She feels that the phobia for maths in kids develops because the subject is not introduced properly to kids and they try to memorise steps instead of learning to analyse and solve problems. “Most of the time it is the tutor who is solving the problems while he should be encouraging the kid to do it,” Gupta said, adding that she and her brother were led into a competition by their mother every time they sat to solve problems. “The market is the best maths tutorial for kids. One is amazed with the ease with which vegetable sellers tackle calculations,” she felt.
Gupta completed her schooling from the Khalsa Model Senior Secondary School and went on to graduate in maths from Bethune College, after which she completed her master’s and PhD from ISI and did her post doctoral research at the TIFR. Prior to this she was given the Insa award for her contribution to algebraic geometry.
“I am trying to solve problems related to the polynomial rings, something that has always intrigued the maths world,” Gupta said.
Her teachers, especially her PhD guide, Amartya Kumar Dutta, said: “She pursues the problems with dogged passion. Neena is the third woman to win the maths Bhatnagar award till date. The other two winners were, R Parimala in 1987 and R Sujatha in 2004.”
Gupta said that she was thankful to her husband, Vishal Saraogi, a physics graduate from IISc Bangalore, who works with KPMG, for understanding that she had a permanent relationship with maths too.
Source: Times of India