Dr. Muthamilarasan, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) received the prestigious ‘G.D. Naidu Award for the year 2022 from Dr. K. Sivan, Ex-Chairman, ISRO, on August 8, 2022 at the Erode Book Fair, Tamil Nadu.
Dr. Muthamilarasan has contributed significantly to the structural and functional genomics studies of foxtail millet (Setaria italica). Millets are indigenous crops of India; however, little research was performed on minor millets to understand the genetics and genomics of agronomic, climate-resilience, and nutritional traits. Also, no genomic resources were available for deploying breeding approaches to develop cultivars with improved traits. In this direction, Muthamilarasan has firstly developed several large-scale genome-wide molecular markers to understand their associations with key agronomic and nutritional traits in foxtail millet. He has further demonstrated the use of these markers in genomics-assisted breeding of millet species. In functional genomics, he has characterized prominent gene families underlying climate-resilience and nutritional traits to gain insights into their precise roles in conferring the individual traits of interest. Further, his group was the first to dissect the transcriptomic dynamics of kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) to identify the key genes and pathways regulating drought stress. In this direction, Muthamilarasan successfully secured external mural grants to a tune of one crore at the stage of an early-career researcher. Noteworthy, he is a highly-published researcher with forty-three original research articles and twenty-three reviews published in internationally reputed and refereed journals. He has also published twenty book chapters and ten popular articles.
In addition to doing science, Dr. Muthamilarasan routinely travels to the rural areas of Tamil Nadu to deliver popular lectures in the area of career development to school and college students.
The award is conferred by “People’s Thinking Forum,” of Tamil Nadu to recognise the scientists under the age of 40 doing outstanding research work, as evidenced in publications. The award carries a shield and a cash prize of rupees one lakh.