Indian American economist, NASA Scientist included in annual tribute to naturalized citizens serving society.
Two Indian Americans — International Monetary Fund’s Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and NASA Scientist Kamlesh Lulla — figure in Carnegie Corporation of New York’s annual list of Great Immigrants.
The 2021 list honors 34 individuals “who have enriched and strengthened our society and our democracy through their contributions and action,” the philanthropic foundation set up by noted industrialist Andrew Carnegie, announced June 30.
The 16th class of Great Immigrants, representing more than 30 countries of origin will be recognized with a full-page public service announcement in the New York Times on July 4 and through a social media campaign, it said.
Called “one of the world’s outstanding economists,” India- born Gopinath focuses her research on international finance and macroeconomics, her profile noted.
She has been widely published in top economics journals and has received numerous honors, including election as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 2019, she was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honor India’s government gives to overseas Indians and persons of Indian origin.
Gopinath says that her most important advice is to have inner strength because you really have to believe in what you are capable of to keep pushing your ideas forward.
“It’s exactly what the world is worried about: recession, jobs, inequality. It’s so clear to people these are important issues. And given my science background, I like that I’m bringing in some mathematical rigor … to understand these issues of the day.”
Growing up in India, Gopinath did not know anyone who worked in economics, the profile noted. It was more common for children to aspire to become a doctor or an engineer.
She studied science through high school and when her parents’ friends suggested that she would enjoy success working for the country’s administrative services, she went to Delhi to study economics.
This was in the early 1990s, when India was facing an economic crisis. Gopinath was hooked, and her interest in international finance and economics only continued to grow.
Gopinath took a “leave of public service” from her job teaching international studies and economics at Harvard University to assume the position as chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
India-born Lulla has trained astronauts, helped develop the International Space Station’s observational science capabilities, and published vital research on topics such as climate change science, according to his profile.
An internationally recognized scientist with a storied career at NASA that has spanned more than three decades, Lulla is the recipient of three NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals.
A widely published author, Lulla is a senior advisor for university research and technology collaboration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the former chief scientist for Earth Observations (Space Shuttle).
The president of Ohio University has called Lulla a “genuine people-to-people ambassador for the United States” who promotes understanding through science diplomacy.
He has been praised for his mentoring skills, and for how much he has done to develop young talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Lulla is committed to the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community, working to raise awareness about the role of Asian Americans in various fields, the profile noted.
Lulla’s honors include the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, one of the highest awards given by the government of India, and the Ellison Onizuka Award, named after the Asian American astronaut who inspired Lulla.
Lulla credits his successful career to values drawn from his Asian American heritage, including “high-level education (two PhD degrees); dedication to family and profession; integrity, respect for others, and hard work.
Carnegie Corporation invited Americans to celebrate the Class of 2021 emphasizing service to society by participating in its online public awareness campaign Great Immigrants, Great Americans, #GreatImmigrants.
Honorees include those recognized for helping others as medical providers and researchers; as advocates for the disadvantaged, disabled, and disenfranchised; and as changemakers in politics, voting rights, climate change, and teaching.
With a wide variety of backgrounds and careers, honorees include the chairman and CEO of Pfizer; the head of Google’s interactive design; the creator of language-learning software Duolingo; winners of the Pulitzer, Nobel, Vilcek and Beard prizes; and celebrities such as actress Helen Mirren and comedian John Oliver.
“The Great Immigrants initiative is intended to increase public awareness of immigration’s role in our country, reflecting the priorities of Carnegie,” the release said.
Established in 1911, Carnegie Corporation dedicated to the causes of democracy, education, and international peace, has honored more than 600 outstanding immigrants, to date.