Gagandeep Kang is the first Indian woman scientist to be selected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The Royal Society, London, selected 51 distinguished scientists from across the world as Fellows and Foreign Members on April 16 for their exceptional contributions in the field of science.

The Royal Society is the oldest scientific academy in the world and its Fellows are some of the world’s most eminent scientists.

Among this year’s group of Fellows are Indian clinician scientist Gagandeep Kang and three Indian-origin scientists — American-Canadian mathematician Manjul Bhargava, Australian mathematician Akshay Venkatesh and British microbiologist Gurdyal Besra.

Kang is the first Indian woman scientist to be selected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Before Kang, two Indianorigin women scientists — British microscopist Pratibha Gai (2016) and American microbiologist Lalita Ramakrishnan (2018) — had received the honour.

Kang is a clinician scientist and a professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the famous Christian Medical College, Vellore. She is the current executive director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad, which is an autonomous institution under the department of biotechnology of the science and technology ministry.

“The Royal Society stands for excellence in science. So, as a medical researcher who was trained in India and has worked in India for all but two years, I am delighted that the work that my research team and I have done has been recognised for its quality and impact,” Kang told ThePrint.

Kang is no stranger to being inducted into scientific societies. She was elected to the Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2010, the Indian Academy of Sciences in 2011, the National Academy of Sciences in 2013, the Faculty of Public Health in the UK in 2015, and the Indian National Science Academy in 2016. She has also won the Woman Bioscientist of the Year award from the Government of India in 2006.

Kang is renowned for her work on viral infections in children, particularly on rotavirus infections that cause high mortality and morbidity in India. She has shown that the Indian population naturally has a lower immunity to rotavirus infections. Her work on this subject has led to a better understanding of why rotavirus vaccines are not as effective in India as in the rest of the world. Kang has also established a clinical laboratory for the evaluation of rotavirus efficacy, which trains scientists and vaccine manufacturers from India, China, and Brazil for indigenous vaccine manufacturing. She has won the Infosys Science Prize in Life Sciences in 2016 for her work on this subject.

Asked what advice she would give to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), Kang said, “Take on big problems, explore every aspect thoroughly by yourself or in collaboration, and do not give up.” “There is really no difference in career or professional advice given to women and men. Our society needs to enable women to fulfil their potential, (and) not hold them back,” she said.

“On a more personal note,” Kang added, “women in leadership need to support and enable (other) women”.

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