Guest Lectures and Crossfire


1. Padma Bhushan Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai

Missiles, aircraft and space missions belong to the sphere where our country is gaining a strong foothold, elevating its position. There is no better way to learn more about our nation's development than from a person who has been there since its foundation was laid.

Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai, the founder CEO and MD of BrahMos Aerospace has done just that. From being a core team member of the SLV-III project at ISRO to contributing to many major space research programmes, he is a man who has been an integral part of many key projects that won India fame at an international level. Regarded as the father of BrahMos, he is responsible for the successful joint venture and in making it the leading projectile in the world of supersonic-cruise missiles. His contributions are recognised by the Government and he is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awards.


2. Dr. Ada Yonath

Ada Yonath is a globally renowned Israeli crystallographer, best known for her pioneering work on the structure of the ribosome. In spite of being born in an underprivileged family, she prioritized her education and attained a PhD degree in the field of Chemistry, after which she dedicated her life to the study of the structure and function of a ribosome, and has not looked back since.

Her innovative techniques in cryo bio-crystallography for enabling ribosomal crystallography won her the very coveted Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making her the first Israeli woman to win the Prize, the first woman from the Middle East to win a Nobel in the sciences, and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

It is truly a rare opportunity to listen to one of the biggest contributors in the field of Chemistry share her rich experiences, experiments and achievements.


3. David Peterson

Valar Morghulis.

These powerful expressions, complete with grammar and syntax, spoken in the popular television show, 'Game of Thrones', are the brainchild of the American linguist and language creator: David J Peterson. David has been creating languages for the past 17 years, which include the languages used by the dark elves in ‘Thor: The Dark World’, and the Dothraki and High Valyrians in 'Game of Thrones'.

His series of YouTube videos, titled ‘Art of Language Invention’ is a guide for many aspirant language creators. His skill and mastery in language creation are unparalleled and are treats to viewers and readers alike.


4. Henry Throop

This Pragyan, meet the man whose brilliant work has featured in Science Nature, Time, The Washington Post, The History Channel and National Geographic, and count your lucky stars!

Dr. Henry Throop is a senior scientist, with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, USA. His research interests focus on the outer solar system and beyond.

He is a member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizon’s mission and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto on 14 July 2015. He co-discovered Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, in 2012 and has been involved in a variety of activities and studies, which include planet and star formations, astrobiology and origins of life.

Dr. Throop is a zealous supporter for increasing the public’s awareness in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and considers it his responsibility to share his findings or ideas with the world. He worked extensively with rural schools and helped to develop their science programs during his three-year stay in Africa. He has delivered more than 100 lectures for science festivals, planetariums, schools and public events across USA, Mexico, Africa and India.


5. Kishore Jayaraman

This Pragyan, grab the opportunity to listen to the experiences of a man with a rich, varied experience in Business Leadership, Technology, Project management and commercial operations!

Kishore Jayaraman is the President of Rolls-Royce India and Southeast Asia. Heading a car company that makes glitzy headlines and automobiles with an astronomical scale of comfort and luxury does not come easy. His innumerable years of experience in business and product development has helped him expand opportunities for all Rolls-Royce businesses across the South Asia region.

His path to becoming a President of the world’s second-largest maker of aircraft engines started off, like most of us, with a Bachelor’s Degree; in Mechanical Engineering. He is also an active member of several boards and committees across the Aerospace and Energy sectors in the South Asia region.


6. Nandini Harinath

“Women are from Venus”, they say. But she’s a little different. Meet the woman who paved India’s way to Mars. Despite working over twenty years at ISRO, Nandini Harinath's down-to-earth attitude remains a cornerstone of her identity.

Involved in 14 missions over her career, she has been through many ups and downs with ISRO. Most importantly, she provides a great example for women who want to strike a healthy balance between work and home, without sacrificing on their career progress. She shot to fame when she was at the crux of the Mars Orbiter Mission, otherwise known as Mangalyaan, handling the mission as the Deputy Operations Director.

Pragyan gives you an opportunity to interact with one of India’s strongest women personalities who made the headlines with the Mars Orbiter Mission that left the world astonished at India’s space capabilities.


7. Rajshekhar Murthy

In an era where risks associated with cyber security is making countries casualties of cyber war, Rajshekhar Murthy has evolved to be the saviour.

Widely known as the ‘Blue Genius’, Rajshekhar Murthy is an Indian Information Security Expert and the founder of the International Malware Conference, Malcon. From helping to discover soft spots in over 100 government websites in 2006 to disclosing vulnerabilities in institutions like IIT Mumbai, Mumbai University and Pizza Hut India through his nonprofit group ISAC, his knowledge and expertise in the field became the ultimate war suit for the country.

Post the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, he founded the National Security Database in association with NTRO, Government of India, to identify and maintain a verified list of credible and trustworthy Information Security experts who work to protect the National Critical Infrastructure and the cyberspace of India.

This Pragyan, explore the exciting, albeit intricate, cyberspace with the quintessential guide possible!


8. Dr. Richard Muller

From global warming and climate change to renewable energy and nuclear power, he is the man who knows it all. A professor of physics at UC Berkeley, he is well known among academic circles for his vocal stance on global warming and is also famous for being the 6th most followed person on Quora with over 134.5 K followers.

Dr. Richard Muller is one of the leading experts on the topics of energy, climate change, nuclear power and air pollution in developing countries. A recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Prize and the Breakthrough Prize for discoveries in cosmology, he is also the co-founder of Berkeley Earth, an independent non-profit organization focusing on land temperature data analysis for climate science. He has also written bestsellers like Physics for Future Presidents and Now, The Physics of Time.

This Pragyan, get the answers to the questions you’ve always wanted to ask, quench your curiosity and learn more about the role you can play in fighting global warming and preserving our earth for the future generations.


9. Dr. S K Pal

While most of us struggle to grasp the very notion of machine intelligence and soft computing, Dr. S K Pal is a man who had taken it upon himself to master these fields. Over his illustrious career, he has presided over ISI Kolkata as its Director, been the Founder President of the Kolkata chapter of the Indian National Academy of Engineering and has worked at various universities and organizations across the globe, including the NASA Johnson Space Center.

With years of experience and expertise behind him, he is the co-author of an eye-popping seventeen books and his works have been cited over 24,000 times.  An eloquent orator, Padma Shri Dr. S K Pal has delivered lectures in over forty countries and this Pragyan, we can guarantee that you will leave the lecture with a fresh perspective and vibrant ideas.


Topic: Will equity ever lead to equality? India's path to inclusive growth


Dhanya Rajendran

Dhanya Rajendran is a prominent personality in the media circle. She completed her education in Asian College of Journalism and began her career as a reporter in The New Indian Express. She later joined as a the correspondent of Times Now, TGBCL before she got promoted as their Bureau Chief. In 2014, along with Chitra Subramaniam and Vignesh Vellore, she co-founded The News Minute, a digital news platform with a specific focus on the 5 southern states. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief at The News Minute and has received recognition for News Minute's excellent reportage, and will be drawing in this experience to moderate the Crossfire panel of Pragyan 2017.



T R Raghunandan

T R Raghunandan was the former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (Rural local governments, 2004-2009) and served as Secretary Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Karnataka State (2001-2004) before he retired from the Indian Administrative Services after 26 years. He is now well known for his anti-corruption activism and the reforms he had taken on decentralization when he was the member convenor of the reform working group in 2002.  He is also a member of the Local Bodies Commission, Kerala State and a member of the Working Group on Decentralisation, West Bengal Government. More recently, he served as consultant with the UNDP office in Timor Leste, Consultant to the World Bank on Centrally Sponsored Scheme reforms, Governance Advisor with UNDP's India office, and was a member of the Committee on Decentralisation, Government of Karnataka, as well as a member of the State Planning Board, Karnataka and Principal Consultant to several Expert Committees constituted by the Government of India, on decentralized public governance. He is the Co- Founder of the non-profit  organization Avantika Foundation which is aimed at heritage restoration to celebrate India's romance with travel and transportation.


Dr. Santosh Mehrotra

Formerly an economic adviser at the United Nations, Dr. Santosh Mehrotra is a human development economist, researcher and technical adviser.  His pioneering work in the fields of labour, skill development and development challenges has formed the basis for several policy initiatives by the Government of India.From 1991 to 2006, he spent 15 years with two UN agencies – UNICEF and UNDP. He was the Chief economist of UNDP's global Human Development Report (2002-05), New York. He led the research programme on developing countries at UNICEF's global research institute, the Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, Italy (1999-2002). He was also a member of the World Bank’s High Level Advisory Panel in Washington DC in 2011. He was the Director-General, Institute of Applied Manpower Research, Planning Commission (in the rank of Secretary, Government of India) from 2009 to 2014. Presently, Santosh Mehrotra works as Professor of Economics, Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.  He is currently a member of the National Steering Committee of National Skills Qualification Framework, MHRD.


Dr. Trilochan Sastry

Dr. Trilochan Sastry is a professor of Quantitative Methods and Information Systems at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. A distinguished academic, Sastry obtained his B.Tech from IIT Delhi, Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Ahmedabad and went on to complete his doctorate from MIT, USA. He was formerly a professor at IIM Ahmedabad before moving to IIM Bangalore. He served as Dean (Academics) in IIM Bangalore. In 1999, Sastry along with several professors from IIM Ahmedabad formed the non-profit organization, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). The organization was instrumental in the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict, making it mandatory to disclose the criminal, financial and educational background of Parliament, State, Panchayat and Local Bodies’ elections beforehand. A keen interest in rural development and concern for the farmers spurred the social activist in him. In 2003, Sastry started Center for Collective Development (CCD), an NGO promoting the cause of commodity cooperatives in Andhra Pradesh, especially in the oil seeds processing sector. After 7 years of operation, CCD has established cooperatives in 50 villages in Adilabad and Anantpur districts, and enrolled 2,500 members. A firm-believer of the cooperative model, Sastry has been working relentlessly to improve the lives of farmers in drought-affected areas, giving them a sustainable and reliable source of income.


M. Sathya Kumar

Mr. Sathya Kumar is a highly proficient Chartered Accountant, and the winner of 'National Youth Icon' Award from the UNESCO Association.

Not shying away from responsibility, his positions include being an empanelled Member of the Corporate Laws and Corporate Governance Committee of the ICAI (2015-16) and the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce, and is an enthusiastic contributor to ‘Ease Of Doing Business’ and ‘Start Up India’ initiatives in the Chennai zone.   

With an eight-year experience boasting of working for more than 8 years with the Big 4 accounting firms in the Audit & Tax Advisory, Sathya Kumar comes to Pragyan 2017 to add to the Crossfire panel his deeply grounded financial prowess.