Winning an academic prize is one thing, winning the most lucrative one another. Physicist Ashoke Sen, a string theorist at the Harish Chandra Research Institute in Allahabad, won the first ever Yuri Milner Fundamental Physics Prize (one of nine winners) and pocketed a tidy sum of $3 million.
The prize, which has been founded by Russian student Yuri Milner, who was a dropout but later made billions as an investor in Facebook and Group On, is aimed at recognising the efforts of young physicists. Sen, whose research is considered revolutionary, is one of those rare Indians who returned to their homeland after studying abroad.
A graduate of Kolkata’s Presidency College, and then IIT Kanpur, he went on to study at State University of New York. He then went to Fermilab, Batavia, and SLAC, Stanford, to do post-doctoral work. In 1988, he returned to India, and worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, before moving to the Harish Chandra Research Institute. He also received the Padma Shri in 2001.
Sen has received this honour for work that aims to finish what Einstein started in relation to String Theory. He is trying to unify the theories of gravity and quantum mechanics. String Theory, if proven, scientists say, could explore how nature’s basic forces work. His paper on strong-weak coupling duality was a big contribution to the field of String Theory.
Sen, who already has the money in his account, which when converted to Indian currency would be almost Rs 13.5 crore, says he would want to use the money for funding education of children. The prize money is double the Nobel Prize money, which stands at $1.2 million.