New Delhi: Senior scientist Dr N. Kalaiselvi Sunday broke another glass ceiling in her career after being appointed as the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for a span of two years. She was previously the first woman scientist to head the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI) in 2019.
As the first woman to lead CSIR, a consortium of 38 research institutes across the country, not only is this another feather in her cap, but also a major win for women in science.
As the Director General of CSIR, she will also hold the charge as Secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), a part of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
With 25 years in the industry, she takes over from Shekhar Mande, a structural and computational biologist who retired in April. Upon Mande’s retirement, Rajesh Gokhale, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, was made interim Director General before Dr Kalaiselvi was appointed.
An International Scientist of the Year awardee in 2007, Dr Kalaiselvi had begun her professional career as an entry-level scientist at the CSIR.
She belongs to Ambasamudram, a small town in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, where she studied in a Tamil-medium school.
Focusing her work mainly on lithium-ion batteries, electrochemical power systems and, in particular, development of electrode materials, Dr Kalaiselvi is currently involved in the development of “practically viable Sodium-ion/Lithium-sulfur batteries and Supercapacitors”.
Research and development efforts
According to the CSIR-CECRI website, her research and innovation efforts include “modified electrode materials for high energy”, “tailor-made electrodes for aqueous and non-aqueous lithium batteries”, “developing polymer-based electrolytes” and “working with ionic liquid-based electrodes and electrolytes”.
While she has been involved in multiple research projects, Dr Kalaiselvi has also served as the Nodal Scientist for Multifunctional Electrodes and Electrolytes for Futuristic Technologies (MULTIFUN), the twelfth five-year plan project sponsored by CSIR with CSIR-CECRI posing as the nodal lab.
A Rs 68.54 crore project, MULTIFUN lasted from 2012 to 2017 and six other CSIR institutes also collaborated on the same. The project which was under Dr. Kalaiselvi’s supervision was graded ‘Excellent’ by the sectoral monitoring committee.
Taking steps towards electric mobility
Also having shifted her gaze to electric mobility, Dr Kalaiselvi has participated in various meetings for the implementation of e-mobility in India since 2015.
In collaboration with the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) and academic, research, and industry partners, she played a key role in and oversaw the efforts of CSIR-CECRI in the compilation of the Technical Report on National Mission for Electric Mobility (NMEM).
She also contributed to the Mobility Mission Concept Note that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) started.
Dr Kalaiselvi has published over 125 research papers and holds six patents. Eight research scholars have earned PhDs under her direction, and six more are now enrolled in doctoral programmes.
Between 1999 and 2019, she has received multiple merits, fellowships and awards, including winning the ‘Young Scientist Seminar Award’ of CECRI thrice. She was also awarded an Indian National Science Academy (INSA) Visiting fellowship in 1999, according to the CSIR-CECRI website.
In 2003, she received the Brain Pool Fellowship of Korea and, in 2011, was selected for the INSA-NRF Exchange Program of Scientists and visited the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI).
In 2015, she was the recipient of the Materials Research Society Medal, followed by the C.V. Raman Mahila Vijnana Puraskara in 2019.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)