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Australia Day Honours 2016: Indian academic Chennupati Jagadish a pioneer in nanotechnology

One of the Australian National University's most beloved academics – and one of the world's pre-eminent physicists – has travelled far to receive one of Australia's greatest honours.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish started life in a small rural village in Southern India. He studied by kerosene lamp and could not walk the distance to get to the closest rural high school after primary school ended. His father was a teacher and wanted his son to have every educational opportunity. So his family allowed him to live with his maths and science teacher for three years.

It was here that Professor Chennupati learned to rise at 4am and recite his lessons out loud, quickly appreciating "the importance of hard work, discipline and persistence".

And from his other favourite teacher, an elderly, humble and gentle man who had taught his father, Professor Jagadish learned "the value of being kind and simple and generous to other people."

Over his career Professor Jagadish has mentored 40 PhD students and 44 post-doctoral research fellows – earning a number of accolades for his excellent supervision and commitment to new generations of scientists.


He has also helped pioneer a new world of nanotechnology.

His expertise is in the field of nanofabrication, or the building of minuscule machines – those that operate on an atomic or molecular scale. They are smaller, faster and consume less power than conventional electronics and the technology has huge potential in the field of communications, data storage, solar cells and medical applications.

Professor Jagadish has published more than 820 international journal and conference papers, co-authored a book, co-edited five books, and guest-edited 15 special issues of journals.

He holds five US patents.

He has been made a Companion on the General Division of the Order of Australia for eminent service to physics and engineering, to education as a leading academic, researcher, author and mentor and through executive roles with national and international scientific advisory institutions.

Next month, as a result of Professor Jagadish's standing in the field and his determination to bring world expertise to Canberra, the ANU's Research School of Physics and Engineering will host an international conference on nanoscience and nanotechnology – expected to draw up to 1200 Australian and international attendees and generate about $2.5 million in spending for the local economy.

Professor Jagadish is a much-loved member of ANU academic ranks, having arrived for a two-year contract in 1990 with his wife and new-born daughter.

Last year his family returned to India to visit the families of both his beloved teachers. His maths and science teacher is still alive – having written a book about his prodigious student.

"He will be very proud of this I think. I feel very very humbled to receive this honour. I feel I owe it to both of the teachers who made such a huge difference to my life."