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Algorithms and Neural Circuits: How Do Animals Solve Olfactory Tasks?

Algorithms and Neural Circuits: How Do Animals Solve Olfactory Tasks?

Recently, Professor Venkatesh Murthy gave a talk entitled “Algorithms and Neural Circuits in Olfaction,” at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore, exploring how animals sense the chemical world to guide their behaviors. “Fluctuating mixtures of odorants, often transported in fluid environments, are detected by an array of chemical sensors and parsed by neural circuits to recognize odor objects that can inform behavioral decisions.

India Science Festival: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Society

India Science Festival: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Society

The beginning of 2020 marked a massive celebration of science with the India Science Fest (ISF) in Pune, India, which aimed to bridge the gap between scientists and society and help the youth engage with the latest in science and technology from across the world. The festival, organized by Aspiring Minds and the Mittal Institute, brought the international science community to the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). Social Alpha, the Tata Institute of Genetics and Society, and Google AI Research were key supporters of the festival.

Neha Hiranandani: Girl Power and Breaking the Mold in India

Neha Hiranandani: Girl Power and Breaking the Mold in India

This January, Neha Hiranandani will join us in Mumbai to discuss her recently published book, Girl Power: Indian Women Who Broke the Rules, with Professor Jacqueline Bhabha of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Centering on the challenges young women still face when it comes to access to education and health while negotiating with the societal expectations, Hiranandani and Bhabha will discuss the stories of “rebel women” in India — pondering the factors that contribute to the success of those who break the mold, against the odds.

A Paean to Learning to “See” and the 1947 Partition

A Paean to Learning to “See” and the 1947 Partition

Recently, Professor Tarun Khanna — Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute — traveled to Bengaluru to give the D.D. Kosambi Lecture, “A Paean to Learning to ‘See’” at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences. The talk was structured around the use of basic analytics to better “see” some overlooked regularities in human behavior — drawing on examples from recent Indian history, including the Partition of British India in 1947 and the annual Maha Kumbh Mela religious gathering, and from contemporary social phenomena.

Sakshi Gupta: Framing the Human Condition Through Sculpture and Mixed Media

Sakshi Gupta: Framing the Human Condition Through Sculpture and Mixed Media

Sakshi Gupta is an accomplished sculptor and mixed media artist from India and one of the Mittal Institute’s Fall 2019 Visiting Artist Fellows. Her practice frames human conditions of understanding, progressing, suffering, and halting due to a lack or gain of knowledge, will, or energy. Her work grapples with the need to achieve a balance between life’s inherent polarities, exhibiting this by utilizing materials often considered waste or ordinary. She’s dedicated her life to an immersive journey through form and material, toward the non-material and experiential.

An Expanding Network Brings Eye Care to Rural Indian Communities

An Expanding Network Brings Eye Care to Rural Indian Communities

The latest inauguration ceremonies of two Prakash Vision Centers (PVCs) in Brahmpur and Pali blocks of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, were recently held in late October. These vision centers have been established under the project “Multidisciplinary Approach to Innovative Social Enterprises” with support from the Mittal Institute and Harvard Global Research Support Centre in India. More than a hundred people from the neighboring villages attended the ceremony, which featured special guests Rinku Yadav, the Village Pradhan of Lalapur village in Brahmpur Block, and Brijil K. Mathew, Manager of Eye Care Services at Fatima Hospital in Gorakhpur. Fatima Hospital is a charitable hospital with a well-appointed ophthalmic division that has partnered with Project Prakash to provide medical treatment to patients referred from PVCs for specialized care.

Naveen Bharathi: Fractal Urbanization and Residential Segregation in Liberalizing India

Naveen Bharathi: Fractal Urbanization and Residential Segregation in Liberalizing India

Each year, the Mittal Institute welcomes a new Raghunathan Family Fellow to support recent PhDs whose research lies in the humanities and social sciences related to South Asia. Naveen Bharathi, the Mittal Institute’s 2019-20 Raghunathan Family Fellow, comes to Harvard with a breadth of experience as an architect, planner, and researcher of political sociology and political economy of identity in India. Most particularly, his research explores the relationship between ethnic diversity and development in contemporary urban India.

A Tale of Three Cities: Agrarian-Urban Transformation in Western Maharashtra

A Tale of Three Cities: Agrarian-Urban Transformation in Western Maharashtra

“If we look at some of the most contentious land conflicts over the past decade, we realize that the new economic corridors are not anachronistic to the agrarian countryside. Instead, they accrete onto former agricultural modernization programs of the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution helped consolidate … provincial propertied classes — and these agrarian propertied classes are at the forefront of these corridor conflicts,” said Sai Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in her talk this week on economic corridors in India and the infrastructural urbanizing development projects that come with them.

Looking Back at the 1947 Partition Through Personal Stories

Looking Back at the 1947 Partition Through Personal Stories

Most personal accounts of what had transpired during the weeks before and after August 1947 are handed down as inter-generational knowledge. And yet, given the traumatic uprooting and violence of the event, there remains a palpable silence around stories relating to violence against or loss of family members. As a third-generation member of a family that had witnessed the Partition of British India in 1947, I grew up listening to stories full of paradoxes. The stories of my grandparents were replete with instances of compassion between individuals and families despite the raging madness that prevailed throughout the larger community.

Investigating the Sounds of India’s Rural and Urban Spaces

Investigating the Sounds of India’s Rural and Urban Spaces

My main goal was to examine the production of religious sound in a variety of settings, with an eye toward the social demarcation of “spaces” around the sites of these sounds. Of course, this originally led me to the kinds of places that one would obviously expect: shrines, churches, gurdwaras, masjids, a few Buddhist monasteries, and so on. After listening to most of the field recordings I made, they all seemed to end up pointing to the sort of conclusions that are common in the literature on sound studies in urban spaces: people go about their business within their particular location-bound social milieu, but sound bleeds over.

Podcast: Boosting STEM Education With the Soft Robotics Toolkit

Podcast: Boosting STEM Education With the Soft Robotics Toolkit

We recently sat down with Alex Beaudette, Sapna Shah, and Ankur Goel: three members of Professor Conor Walsh’s research team who are working on the research and development of the Soft Robotics Toolkit. This project has grown out of research conducted at Harvard University, University College Dublin, and Trinity College Dublin to become a comprehensive resource that will teach students how to design, fabricate, model, and test their own soft robotic devices — eventually making its way to Indian classrooms. This month, the team was in Delhi to conduct workshops with a group of educators and students, testing the kit with its main audience to inform continued development of its parts and instructions.

Sai Balakrishnan: Redefining the Shape of Urbanization in India

Sai Balakrishnan: Redefining the Shape of Urbanization in India

Economic corridors — ambitious infrastructural development projects throughout Asia and Africa — are dramatically redefining the shape of urbanization. As these corridors cut across croplands, the conversion of agricultural lands into new urban uses has erupted in volatile land conflicts. We sat down with Sai Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, to learn more about the interaction between agrarian and urban lands throughout India, and the effects that infrastructural changes are having on the nation’s population. On Tuesday, November 5, Balakrishnan will head a panel, Shareholder Cities, on urbanization along the first economic corridor built in India, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

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