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A community health worker in India gives babies life-saving vaccinations.

A community health worker in India gives babies life-saving vaccinations.


The Mittal Institute has curated its latest publication that explores scientific developments in South Asia, bringing together papers written by Harvard faculty and conservators, as well as faculty and experts from across the US and South Asia. The publication is now available digitally and covers a vast array of topics, from healthcare in India to the new, sophisticated technology behind art conservation. You can access the Science & South Asia publication by clicking the button below.

For a quick preview, read the opening Director’s Note from Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute, below. 

From the Director

In South Asia, profound scientific discoveries and advancements date back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Across numerous endeavors — ranging from astronomy to mathematics to medicine, and more — science is deeply rooted in the South Asian consciousness, predisposing contemporary South Asians to continued scientific inquiry. Science remains a steadfast part of South Asia’s interactions with other nations and an agent of internal change; but the region faces many challenges that require the development of stronger scientific programs — especially as its population continues to rapidly grow. Today, the region is confronted with issues of air pollution, energy security, water scarcity, sanitation, and sustainability, uncovering the pressing need for South Asian societies to make the precarious decision about which obstacles to address first. South Asia grapples with some of the most difficult scientific challenges in the world, but it is also the region that delivers some of the most innovative scientific solutions to problems. This publication, Science & South Asia, invites the reader to consider science within the context of South Asia’s diverse cultural, sociological, and political environments.

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University has a long-standing commitment to connect the Harvard community with scholars and practitioners working in South Asia and to cultivate institutional and interdisciplinary collaboration in the region. This volume brings together experts across the scientific, economic, and political spectrums, from backgrounds that span diverse disciplines, offering new perspectives on science in South Asia.

The following collection of essays ranges from topics in regional health and environmental crises, to the development of start-ups and interdisciplinary education in South Asia, to the use of the scientific method and technology in

South Asian art conservation and even genealogy. Priya Moorjani, assistant professor of genetics, genomics, and development at the University of California, Berkeley, unravels the mysteries of the ancients’ migration from Africa to South Asia through her innovative DNA research; while Ashok Gagdil, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joyashree Roy, professor of economics at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, explore breakthrough technological and social innovations to bring safe drinking water to South Asia. Muhammad Hamid Zaman, professor of biomedical engineering and international health at Boston University, envisions a shift in Pakistan’s science education that integrates critical thinking and promotes expansive, interdisciplinary studies.

Toward the middle of the volume, K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to the prime minister of India, and I work to unearth the importance of scientific input in the development of the start-up ecosystem; while Narayan Khandekar, Katherine Eremin, and Penley Knipe of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University illustrate the complexities of nondestructive scientific techniques to reveal hidden features of age-old South Asian paintings. Mukund Thattai, on faculty at the National Centre for Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore, concludes this volume with a journey through the development of scientific programs in India, championing the re-imagination of science in the public’s mind to a science that inspires, embracing curiosity but maintaining its roots in local experience and history.

Together, these essays expose the inextricable connection of numerous disciplines through science, highlighting the importance of scientific advancements in all aspects of life and the need to bring science to the forefront of our social consciousness. They provide a view into scientific innovations within the region — both present and future — building a narrative that shows us just how ubiquitous and essential science is in our everyday lives. Our past four publications on Health, the City, Technology, and the Arts have each provided a window into South Asia’s modern challenges and advancements. This Science edition is distinct from our Technology publication through its focus on the development of scientific practices across a diverse array of disciplines. As always, we invite you to engage actively with the essays that follow.

Tarun Khanna
Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School
Director, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute