Indian American Scientists Account for 16% of DoD Research
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Indian immigrants in America account for less than 0.75% of the U.S. population but their contribution to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) research is more than twenty times their population base -- according to a survey conducted October 2004 for Indolink.
The survey, involving a detailed analysis of awards from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs announced for fiscal year 2004, and funded by agencies such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency), and BMDO (Ballistic Missile Defense Office), revealed that 75 out of 470 research projects, or 16% of the total research effort, was by scientists and engineers of Indian origin.

A similar survey of the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs funded by the DoD for 2003 showed that Indian Americans were involved in 25%, of the research programs for the Missile Defense agency.

Overall the study reveals that Indian American scientists are playing key roles in transforming the US military into a smarter force for the 21st century.

This is the first time that the Indian American contribution to U.S. defense-related research has been quantified.

In most instances the Indian American researchers we’ve monitored are academic scientists, with small business enterprises of their own, and utilizing the services of younger post-doctoral fellows and graduate students, also of Indian origin, for their research efforts.

Working in areas ranging from homeland security to missile technology, advanced ceramics and munitions, while at the same time linking with other university-based researchers, these scientists are forging ahead in both classified as well as unclassified research to help maintain America’s superiority in military technology.

Ironically, our analysis also shows that if the U.S. Technical Alert List were in place none of the scientists would have received an American visa in the first place. That list, as it now stands, precludes students from pursuing advanced research in every one of the strategically important areas identified by the U.S. Department of State as “sensitive” including: missile technology, navigation and guidance control, remote imaging and reconnaissance, materials technology, information security, lasers and directed energy systems, sensors, robotics, advanced ceramics, and munitions – all technology areas where Indian American scientists have a strong presence.


Here are examples of the various projects that Indian American scientists are currently involved in:

Ravi Vaidyanathan of BioRobots in Cleveland, Ohio, is partnering with Boeing and Case Western Reserve University to develop a biologically inspired morphing micro air-land vehicle (MMALV) to enhance military intelligence gathering capabilities in battlespace environments. The MMALV is expected to autonomously fly, land within a target area, and morph into an efficient, stable, highly mobile terrestrial robot. The ongoing phase 1 work is expected to deliver a hybrid vehicle capable of aerial to terrestrial locomotion, a morphing winged vehicle, and a fully integrated system design for MMALV including platform, sensor, and control systems.

At Nextgen Aeronautics in Torrance, CA, while founder Jayanth Kudva is working towards the design and fabrication of antenna arrays for military aircraft, Akhilesh Jha is intent upon reducing the weight of weapon systems using genetic algorithms for a proposed software design. Also at Nextgen, Shiv Joshi has proposed the use of a self-powered, compact, light, wireless sensor that takes advantage of advances in fabrication technologies and inventive packaging to reduce system cost to the point that the sensor is disposable.

Until recently, Kudva directed the DARPA/AFRL/NASA Smart Wing program team at Northrop Grumman Corporation where he demonstrated smart materials based concepts to improve the aerodynamic and aeroelastic performance of military aircraft. NextGen researchers are experimenting with so-called morphing wings, or sophisticated structures that automatically reconfigure their shapes and surface textures to adapt to changes in flying conditions. Such capabilities arfe expected to mimic the subtle, nearly instantaneous adjustments that birds make instinctively to their wings, tails and feathers when aloft.

Shyama Chakroborty of Microcosm Inc. in El Segundo, CA, is working with Lockheed Martin, the Air Force, and the California Space Authority to design and develop a low-cost liquid fueled rocket engine that will be used in various launch vehicles at Edwards Air Force Base. The engine will be used for both defense and commercial applications.

At Orbital Research in Cleveland, Ohio, Mehul Patel is developing a small rocket powered projectile as an effective countermeasure against anti-aircraft missiles. His project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a ‘Highly Maneuverable Destructive Expendable (HM-DEX) for Aircraft Self-Protection’ through experimental and modeling studies. Patel is also collaborating with the University of Notre Dame to demonstrate a technology to enhance the aerodynamic control and maneuvering capabilities of long-range munitions.

rishna Linga of Inphot in Plainsboro, NJ, is creating revolutionary photodetectors and photoreceivers based on Silicon-Germanium nanotechnology. These photoreceivers will be applicable in missile seekers, battlefield target identification and recognition system, and laser communication.

Ranji Vaidyanathan of Advanced Ceramics Research in Tucson, AZ, is developing a manufacturing technique that combines energetic materials to enhance the lethality for the Miniature Kill Vehicle (MKV) by 50-75%. To achieve this he proposes an innovative manufacturing technique for lightweight structural components.

America’s doctrinal requirement of Total Information Dominance has lead to massive deployment of sensors. Which means that gathering, storing, communicating, fusing and analyzing the vast flood of data in real time is a formidable technical challenge. Pankaj Topiwala of Fastvdo in Columbia, MD, is helping the warfighter by improving target recognition through better imaging resolution using software.

Monitoring a soldier’s health while on duty is the research behind Anjal Sharma’s ‘Wearable Novel Metabolite Monitor’ at Lynntech in College Station, Texas. Basically it is a monitoring device that is wearable, lightweight, easy to use, noninvasive and non-constricting.

Rama Nageswaran of Smaht Ceramics in Salt Lake City, UT, is developing advanced ceramic matrix composites for ballistic missile components and structures because the next generation of missiles will require materials which are light-weight and have high-temperature resistance to withstand heating caused by extreme velocity and harsh environments. It is believed that these ceramic materials satisfy the requirements for missile applications.

Radha Nagarajan of Infinera Corp in Sunnyvale, CA, is developing revolutionary photonic integrated circuits and high performance microwave components for next generation satellite optical communication.

Aniruddha Weling says that in the global war on terrorism there is a pressing need to detect a wide range of potentially dangerous materials – weapons made out of ceramics, plastics, or composites; explosives; and substances associated with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. At Foster Miller in Waltham MA, Weling is designing an all optical laser based detection imaging system

Amish Desai of Tanner Research in Pasadena, California, is involved in mass fabrication of MEMS-based microdetonator technology. In the process Desai is part of an effort supporting the Army’s Warhead and Energetics directorate to implement low-cost devices for nano-scale detonators. This four-year development effort is expected to lead to detonators that can be mass-produced at approximately 20 cents per piece.

Subrata Das of Charles River Analytics in Cambridge, MA, is developing a prototype for Agent-based Terrorist attack Prediction (ATAP) for homeland defense. This artificial intelligence based tool is expected to predict terrorist attacks by retrieving, on demand, relevant data distributed across various services, multinational forces and intelligence agencies. ATAP will predict both bioattacks and early detection of disease outbreaks due to such attacks. Das is also developing a Decision Aid for Counter-terrorist analysts (DACTA) by fusing and aggregating information from distributed sources. According to Das, “We intend to rapidly develop a prototype based on our in house fusion and belief network engines, and demonstrate its validity in the context of a bioterrorism scenario.”

Kisholoy Goswami of Innosense in Torrance, CA, states that his plan to develop a low-maintenance long-term device for detecting rocket fuels could result in significant savings for the ballistic missile defense system and other DoD components. The device can be flush mounted on a missile canister, and measurements would be made for possible leak at all times prior to launch of the missile.

Surveillance is an important aspect of homeland defense. Shantanu Gupta of Kiara Networks in Albuquerque is developing an ultrasensitive perimeter detection system that “can be strategic to the military for the protection of military encampments especially in foreign land, and for homeland defense applications such as for protecting nuclear plants, high-security buildings, airports and other key structures. Similar research in perimeter surveillance and monitoring as an important aspect of anti-terrorism and using advanced video imaging, omni directional cameras and tracking technologies is being done by Raghu Menon of Remote Reality Corp in Westborough, Massachusetts.

Amaresh Mahapatra of Linden Photonics in Westford, MA, is investigating the use of certain novel thermoplastic cartridge shell casings for small caliber ammunition that can be more cost effective than brass, which is currently in use. At Alameda Applied Sciences Corp in San Leandro, CA, Mahadevan Krishnan is developing a highly sensitive method for detection of fissile material for the army’s radiography needs.

Driven mainly by desirable properties, ease of processing, light-weight and low cost, Apoorva Shah of Triton Systems in Chelmsford, MA, is working towards the use of polymer based materials that can provide not only armor enhancements for military vehicles, helicopter and aircraft canopies, but also improved personal protection for US marines. The unique nanocomposite materials are expected to serve numerous military applications. Meanwhile Somesh Mukherjee, also of Triton, is demonstrating the feasibility of thin film photovoltaic arrays for solar cell technology for use in missile defense systems.

Vasanthakumar Narayanan of Nanosyntex in Knoxville, TN, is creating innovative lightweight nonwoven composites to enhance the performance of military personnel. He is developing a nonwoven textile composite fabric that is suitable for military applications such as battle dress uniforms, chemical and biological agents, protective uniforms, tents, etc.

Finally, Alok Srivastava of Bioscale Inc. in Boston is developing a genomics and proteomics-based diagnostic tool for early detection of cancer and infectious diseases in military as well as civilians settings. The hope is to ‘accurately detect specific disease states in individuals facilitating effective screening and therapeutic decision making in military settings.’ And T. S. Sudarshan of Materials Modification in Fairfax, VA, is helping develop components for next generation missiles. The idea is to use high-strength compacted Magnesium Fluoride nanopowders, which is known to possess superior dielectric and IR transmission properties, to help in accurate target recognition.

Our future studies will assess the extant of Indian American involvement at NASA, the National Laboratories, and among the top defense contractors.

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