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Indian American professor named Jefferson Science Fellow by National Academies

Atlanta, GA, May 25, 2022: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have named Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Evan Pugh University Professor and Charles Godfrey Binder Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State, as one of 14 members of the 2022-23 Jefferson Science Fellows class, according to a report on the Penn State website.

Established in 2003 by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, the Jefferson Science Fellowship program “serves as an innovative model for engaging the American academic science, technology, engineering and medical communities in U.S. foreign policy and international development,” according to the program website. Fellows are tenured faculty at institutions of higher education who spend one year on assignment at the Department of State or with the Agency for International Development, using their specific expertise to contribute to foreign policy or international development.  

Lakhtakia will serve his fellowship in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State, with a specific focus on India. After the fellowship year concludes, Lakhtakia will return to Penn State. 

“I am looking forward to developing cooperative relationships focused on sustainablity between U.S. and Indian institutions of higher education,” Lakhtakia said. “These relationships will exploit India’s National Education Policy to form a regenerative culture from research in STEM arenas. This will include arts and humanities as inalienable parts of a regenerative culture.” 

Jefferson Science Fellows are selected based on their stature, recognition and experience in the national and international communities related to their expertise; their ability to understand and translate new scientific advancements and their impact on policy discussions, as well as articulate such information to the general public; and related experience that may help the individual succeed in their fellowship.  

Fellows deliver a lecture as part of the program’s distinguished lecture series, as well as a final report to summarize their experience and provide recommendations for future work. The program is conducted with understanding from the fellows’ home institutions, and fellows may be asked to contribute to short-term projects for the government following the conclusion of their fellowship year.   

Lakhtakia previously held visiting appointments at Universidad de Buenos Aires, University of Glasgow, University of Waikato, University of Otago, Imperial College London, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, National Taipei University of Technology, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and Indian Institute of Technology Varanasi. He has published 25 books, 33 book chapters, 900 journal papers and 200 full papers in conference proceedings.

He has been elected a fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, Optica, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Arts and Institute of Physics for contributions to electrical engineering, optics, electromagnetics, physical chemistry and applied arts. He currently researches complex electromagnetic materials, thin-film solar cells, forensic science and biologically inspired design. He received the 2010 SPIE Technical Achievement Award, the 2016 Walston Chubb Award in Innovation and the 2022 Smart Structures and Materials Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was named a distinguished alumnus by The University of Utah in 2007 and an Alumnus of the Century in Making Award by the Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, in 2019. He is a 2022-24 Distinguished Lecturer by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. 

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