OSA Foundation Announces Recipient of 2020 Milton and Rosalind Chang Pivoting Fellowship

Nirmal Punjabi will explore expanding the reach and application of optical sensors

WASHINGTON – The OSA Foundation (OSAF) is pleased to name Nirmal Punjabi, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India (IIT Bombay) as the 2020 recipient of the Milton and Rosalind Chang Pivoting Fellowship.

Each year, the Pivoting Fellowship provides US$ 50,000, in unrestricted funding to talented early career optical scientists and engineers who feel their expertise can be used beyond the lab bench to improve society. The Fellowship encourages people of exceptional talent to pivot towards a newfound passion.

Caption: 2020 Pivoting Fellowship winner, Nirmal Punjabi

“Nirmal was selected for his vision for closing the gap between the lab environment of sensor development and real world implementation of sensors for environment and health care applications,” said Janet Fender, 1997 OSA President and Selection Committee Member. “His ability to communicate his project and how he will pivot professionally set him apart from the other outstanding applications. We are excited to see his personal and professional growth in the coming year.”

Punjabi acknowledges the obstacles inherent between the research and the intended application of optical sensors. He hopes to use the Fellowship stipend to eliminate roadblocks by cultivating a platform that he says, “brings all stakeholders of the optical sensor ecosystem together.”

He is inspired by the idea that we can live “a world where the end user, anybody, can have access to the optical sensors; where they can check the quality of water they are drinking or air they are breathing and live a good life.”

Punjabi received his Master of Technology and Ph.D. in optical biosensors from IIT Bombay where he is currently a Project Research Scientist at the National Centre of Excellence in Technology for Internal Security. His work focuses on leading the design, development and validation of hand-held fiber-optic sensing devises for bacteria detection in water.

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