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ANU nanotechnology scientist Chennupati Jagadish endowment fund supporting internships

It is not enough that Chennupati Jagadish has used his education to leverage himself out of a small Indian village to forge a global reputation as a nanotechnology pioneer.

The esteemed Australian National University academic and his wife Vidya have ploughed $140,000 of their own money to help other students to do the same.

This week, the couple – much loved across the ANU campus – welcomed their first four students to complete 10-week intensive internships at Professor Jagadish's Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Rather fittingly, all four have come from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, and this is their first overseas trip.

Last year Professor Jagadish and Dr Jagadish – herself a biologist – announced they were setting up an endowment fund to help students from the developing world have an experience of high-level research at the ANU and a taste of Canberra life each year.

The endowment pays for all costs – including airfares and living expenses – while students are away from home.

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Despite a stellar research career that could have seen him accept positions at any number of elite universities around the world, Professor Jagadish has remained intensely loyal to the ANU since he arrived 25 years ago with Dr Jagadish and a two-month old daughter, Laya.

Professor Jagadish pioneered the creation of high performance next generation optical devices, which have huge potential in the field of communications, data storage and solar cells. The structures that he and his team work on are 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

In January, he was awarded Australia's highest honour for his services to physics and engineering – named a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours.

But he has always remained humbly indebted to his own teachers in India, including his high school maths and science teacher Changanti Sambi Reddy who invited the young and bright Jagadish to live with his family when he couldn't walk the six-kilometre distance each day to attend high school.

While his high school teacher was a strict disciplinarian, waking his charge at 4am to recite lessons out loud, Professor Jagadish's other favourite teacher – Valluru Srinivasa Rao – instilled in him the importance of kindness and being generous to others.

While completing research that has led to five US patents, Professor Jagadish has also mentored 40 PhD students and 44 post-doctoral research fellows.

Support for the Jagadishs' endowment idea has flourished across the ANU, attracting other institutional donations reaching $500,000.

The four students, Bhagyashree Soni, Sameer Sonar, Atish Awasthi and Abhilash Chakraborty said it was an incredible opportunity to spend time at the ANU.

Mr Sonar planned a career in engineering physics, while the other three were consumed by material sciences.

All planned to further their education, progressing to become university researchers themselves.

Professor Jagadish said he had been thrilled by the calibre of students applying for a place and he had every faith his first four students would succeed in their chosen fields.

One of the highlights of the trip for the four undergraduates was to meet Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, now the ANU's vice-chancellor, and Indian High Commissioner H E Navdeep Suri at a special welcoming ceremony.