Preeti Aghalayam is an esteemed alumna of IIT Madras, making history as the first woman to lead an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Her recent appointment as the director in charge of the newly established IIT in Zanzibar, Tanzania, marks a momentous achievement in the academic world, breaking barriers and promoting gender inclusivity and academic excellence.
Aghalayam earned her BTech degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1995, followed by a PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2000. She subsequently joined IIT Madras as a professor in the Chemical Engineering department. Her exceptional contributions to the scientific community led to her recognition as one of the 75 women in STEM by the Principal Scientific Adviser’s office.
At IIT Madras, Aghalayam actively participated in the Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) Program, which aims to foster gender equality within the institution. This demonstrates her commitment to empowering women in academia.
It is worth noting that women continue to challenge strict gender norms at IITs, including IIT Madras, where they represent a minority, with only 12 out of 100 faculty members being women. While efforts have been made to enhance gender inclusivity, more work is required at both student and faculty levels as awareness still remains relatively low. Aghalayam’s appointment at IIT Zanzibar reinforces the importance of striving for gender balance and equality.
Source: Times of India