Physicist Mani Bhaumik’s largesse funds prestigious science prize

New York: The world’s largest scientific society on Thursday announced an annual award for science breakthroughs, drawing on what it has called “the largest transformational gift” in its history donated by Mani L. Bhaumik, a Bengal-born Indian-American physicist and pioneer in lasers.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said the $11.4-million pledge would support a $250,000 annual cash prize, to be called the Mani L. Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award, for up to three scientists for their research.

The award is intended for scientists whose foundational research and activities best exemplify the Science Breakthrough of the Year picked by the research journal Science, published by the AAAS.

“The international award will help the science most poised to change the world have its maximum impact,” Sudip Parikh, the chief executive officer at the AAAS, said in a media release. “It has the power to propel discovery and advance innovation society needs.”

In a statement announcing the award, the AAAS said that recognizing the most significant developments in scientific research was a central philosophy for donor Bhaumik, a physicist with myriad contributions to the development of high-powered lasers.

Bhaumik, 91, was born in rural Bengal. He studied under physicist Satyendranath Bose, earned a master’s from Calcutta University and a doctorate at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 1973, Bhaumik demonstrated the world’s first efficient excimer laser, a type of an ultraviolet laser commonly used for high-precision machining and for cutting biological tissues without damaging surrounding tissues.

The new award is linked to the Breakthrough of the Year, the journal’s choice of the year’s top research advance. After the journal announces the breakthrough, a panel will select up to three winners whose work best exemplifies the related research field to receive the Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award.

From 2023, the selection panel will convene in January every year. The winners will be announced in March, the AAAS said.

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