ASEI Confers Excellence Awards at Virtual Convention

American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) hosted its 33rd Annual National Convention focusing on Global Engineering & Technologies (GET-2020). This virtual convention was held on December 5th and 6th, 2020. While the speakers and participants were on the Zoom platform, it was livestreamed worldwide through YouTube.  Attended by scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders across the USA, the two-day event featured keynotes and multiple interactive sessions with prominent business and technology leaders, scientists and engineering entrepreneurs. At the Finale session on the second day, ASEI recognized four engineering achievers and four service excellence and contributors to ASEI.
The convention started with a welcome by ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia. It was emceed by Anu Gopalakrishnan. The first keynote speaker Deval Desai, VP Magna Int. spoke about Contributions of Indian Technologists and weaved the storyline from mythology to history to modern era in a very short span of time. From making the best steel in the world to teaching the world to count, India was actively contributing to the field of science and technology long before the modern world evolved. One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has a strong tradition of science and technology. Many theories and techniques discovered by the ancient Indians have created and strengthened the fundamentals of modern science and technology. While some of these groundbreaking contributions have been acknowledged, some are still unknown to most, and he shared some of the profound inventions that have and will continue to shape the future of humankind. It was heartening to see the contribution of Indian women scientists and engineers highlighted in a field typically dominated by men. There were so many factoids about things and achievements of unsung engineering heroes that would make anyone hailing from the Indian subcontinent proud!
The first technical session Quantum computing by Dancing with Qubits was a keynote by Dr Robert Sutor, VP Quantum, IBM Research. Quantum computing aims to solve complex problems the world’s most powerful supercomputers cannot solve. Leading the race in this field is IBM, though Google, Microsoft, Amazon and lot of others are all putting heavy investment bets in Quantum as well. Considering application in life sciences, an example was presented as follows: On average, it takes 10 to13 years and more than $2.5 billion to bring a new medical therapy from the discovery bench to the patient. The odds of success are overwhelmingly weighted in favor of failure. Harnessing the power of quantum computing can deliver the potential to significantly accelerate the timelines for, and enhance the quality of various stages of pharmaceutical research and development processes. That was very futuristic and sounded exciting.
According to Dr. Sutor, Quantum promises to tackle classically challenging problems across a variety of industries, from optimizing traffic control to refining supply chain logistics, and from discovering new drugs to detecting fraud more rapidly. Also, anyone can now try out the power of quantum on the IBM cloud for free with toolkits and resources available freely!
The next speaker was Prof Solomon Darwin, often known as the “Father of Smart Village Movement.” Dr, Darwin spoke on Agritech innovations for a Smarter Village. Dr Darwin shared how UC Berkeley Haas School defines the concept and after that shared about his books and publications in addition to the agricultural innovations that have the potential to make villages smarter with minimal resources.
The next session was on User Experience Design (UXD), which is a design process whose sole objective is to design a system that offers a great experience to its users. Thus, UXD embraces the theories of a number of disciplines such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, information architecture, and Human Computer Interaction. The first speaker Urmila Kashyap, Senior User Experience Designer with VMware, talked about UX design systems for enterprise products based on her 10+ years of UXD experience working with large companies like Moody’s & VMware. Surbhi Kaul, GM and Head of Product at Juniper Networks, built on it and shared from her own experience of building and launching products over two decades at Netflix, Cisco, YouTube, Google and Juniper Networks covering why UXD is critical to a product’s success and highlighted design systems using examples of AIML products she has helped launch.
 
An engineering and technology conference can’t be complete without covering Artificial Intelligence (AI). One might imagine that artificial intelligence is only something the big tech giants are focused on, and that AI doesn’t impact your everyday life. In reality, Artificial Intelligence is increasingly penetrating both our work and personal lives. Yet, many organizations in traditional industries are still grappling with justifying the ROI beyond proof-of-concept stage and struggling with operationalizing AI/ML. From a research to engineering to business perspective, a complete CXO view is needed which was provided by an IBM Fellow and Master Inventor with over 45 patents to her name – Rama Akkiraju, CTO AIOps addressing this daunting challenge and shared some best practices in this session on Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise.
Autonomous Vehicles and Future Transportation is an interesting topic in which Jeff Hannah, Director, NA SBD Automotive & Akshay Desai, Associate Partner, McKinsey presented their POVs and tried separating fact from fiction about autonomous cars. Whether you are an automotive expert or newbie, one could gain valuable insights into the future of mobility and learn exciting ways to participate in this growing industry. Desai focussed on the future for autonomous vehicle adoption and the changing AV mobility market. The session was moderated by Convention Co-Chair Bhavesh Joshi.

The first day conference session ended with some amazing Youth Technology Exposition (YTE) finalist students, from high school to undergrad, showcasing their work. The objective of the YTE was to provide a forum for young engineers, students and budding scientists to showcase their projects in science, engineering and technology topics that can have an impact on our world. The finalist students faced a barrage of questions from the judges Amrish Chopra and Mutthu Sivanathan. This competition and session was conceived and coordinated by the Conference Content Chair and President of ASEI-Silicon Valley Piyush Malik.
It was a tight race to pick winners based on combining scores from responses to judges’ questions, audience poll and quality and depth of engineering and research in their submissions from prior rounds. Finally, the top 3 winners declared were: (1) Nidhi Mathihali (2) Jyoti Rani and (3) Isha Jagadish
The second day started with ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia welcoming the audience back and laying out the plan for the day. At the outset it became pretty clear to the audience that they would hear some high-powered content led by industry leaders lined up for the day. 
Opening keynote on Leadership in turbulent times was delivered by Dr. Satyam Priyadarshy, Chief Data Scientist & Technology Fellow, Haliburton. Leadership in turbulent times is a critically important topic and pertinent considering the current socio-geo-politico-economic scenario in the COVID era. Dr. Priyadarshy, is a globally recognized leader for his expertise in leveraging disruptive technologies, strategies and talent transformation to increase business value. He applied ancient Indian wisdom from Hanuman Chalisa to talk about a framework to face disruption in tumultuous times. According to Dr. Priyadarshy, every challenge from the past looks smaller. Paradigm shifts, Leading the transformation with a mnemonic “Karma Matters” and putting the essence of all management texts with 20 words from the religious prayer, he beautifully showed the audience some leadership lessons that have helped him as well as the teams he has led from academics to corporate life.
The next keynote session Career Management in a Disrupted Economy was delivered by Dilip Saraf who is an IIT Alumnus and has reinvented himself 5 times to be a Career and Life Coach besides being an Author and speaker. Dilip very succinctly brought out the problem and solution pertinent to those facing career challenges during this Covid-19 pandemic which has jolted us into action with a career wake-up call with uncertainty about how future jobs will emerge. Using examples from his own career shifts as well as couple of his high-profile clients, Saraf’s talk on career management was about strategies available to all of us to better manage our career and to develop resilient options for us to deal with this uncertainty and to stay in control of our own destinies.
The next session was an inspiring fireside chat conducted by Piyush Malik, SVP SpringML, with Naveen Jain, CEO Viome & Founder/Chairman – Moon Express on Exponential Technologies for Humanity’s Grand Challenges. The session saw both engaged in a high energy conversation on exponential technologies and life sciences. For the uninitiated, exponential technologies are those which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries and all aspects of our lives. For a technology to be “exponential,” the power and/or speed doubles each year, and/or the cost drops by half. As in Moore’s law!
Exponential technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR), data science, digital biology and biotech, medicine, nanotech and digital fabrication, networks and computing systems, robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges lie at the intersection of these exponential technologies.
In the next session Cybersecurity: Opportunity of Threat? the audience learned about the latest trends in cybersecurity from Anand Oswal, SVP and GM at PaloAlto Networks and was joined in conversation with popular cybersecurity strategist and influencer Matthew Rosenquist who is currently the Chief Information Security Officer at Eclipz
Cybersecurity has taken center stage in the enterprise executive mind as cases of ransomware and denial of services attacks and data breaches have kept the CISOs of the nation occupied. However, currently the biggest threats are often also the biggest opportunities. Cybersecurity is imperative for enterprises as well as nations today. Projections are that cybercrime will exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021 from $3 trillion in 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Probably the most significant factor driving this acceleration is the increasing efficiency of cybercriminals. The dark web has become a thriving black market where criminals of all means can gain the capabilities necessary to launch sophisticated cyberattacks.
Anand talked about the 3 concurrent mega transitions in enterprise IT that are impacting network security viz. Rise of a mobile workforce, Shift to hybrid cloud and Direct to app architectures. The fireside chat drew a number of interesting questions from the audience which kept the session flow lively.
The enterprise technology landscape has increasingly become difficult to manage for a CIO whose role has evolved from a Chief Information Officer to a Chief Innovation Officer in the past few years. With digital transformation mandate becoming table stakes, rapid adoption of Cloud and work-from -anywhere becoming a norm, the technology woes of an enterprise CTO or a CIO seem to be unending and may have been exacerbated due to the current pandemic.
Next session was the powerful CXO fireside chat focusing on Innovation in the Enterprise with Manoj Prasad, VP & Global CTO, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Prakash Kota, CIO Autodesk, moderated by Rakesh Guliani. What does a CTO of a public company worry about? How does the CIO become indispensable in M&A decisions? How will this pandemic change the pace of innovation in enterprise technology? These and many more topics were central to this conversation where we also found how Thermofisher Scientific is at the forefront of fight against COVID!
“Space – the final frontier” these words from Star Trek can hardly be erased from memory of those who grew up watching the science fiction TV series. Many of the innovations shown have transcended from fiction into reality as commercial space tourism is set to start and our exploratory missions to either colonizing the moon or to become a multi planetary species have been progressing well with many successful missions with robots to Mars and beyond in the past decade thanks to NASA, ISRO, European Space Agency, SpaceX and other commercial aerospace companies. The next session speaker was a super smart NASA/BAERI Space scientist Dr Sreeja Nag who also happened to be a Robotist at Nuro. Speaking on Robotics and Space, she shared her experiences on autonomous robots that work on earth as well as in the space. 
The last session of the Convention was the ASEI Awards which was anchored by ASEI Board Member Dr Thomas Abraham, Chair Awards Committee. Chief Guest was Ambassador Amit Kumar, Consul General India in Chicago. Consul General Kumar emphasized the importance of Indian American engineers and scientists pooling their talents to help India. He also presided over the function where 8 industry and ASEI awards were given out and each recipient gave a brief acceptance speech. The awardees are as follows:
ASEI Lifetime Achievement -Naveen Jain
ASEI Entrepreneur of The Year – Jyoti Bansal
ASEI Engineer of The Year (Mech/Solar) – Dr Yogi Goswami
ASEI Engineer pf The Year (Industrial Operations and Product Management) – Deval Desai
ASEI Service Excellence Award – Rakesh Patel
Hari Bindal ASEI Founders Award – Vatsala Upadhyay
Leadership and Contribution to ASEI – Rakesh Guliani and Sunita Dublish  
Dr Neeraj Bindal, son of ASEI Founder the Late Dr. Hari Bindal gave a moving tribute to his father as he presented the Founder’s award to Vatsala.    
 
The convention was put together by ASEI President Jwalant Lakhia along with Convention Co-chairs Rakesh Patel and Bhavesh Joshi. The Program chair was ASEI Michigan Chapter President Vatsala Upadhyay. ASEI Silicon Valley Chapter President Piyush Malik served as Convention Content Chair.
About ASEI
The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization also has chapters in Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: www.aseiusa.org.

“House Of Spices” Set To Expand In The Us With 2nd Generation Family Owners Share New Vision For The U.S. Market

House of Spices, the oldest South Asian food company in the USA and is widely known by its brand “Laxmi,” has evolved over the years as a business leader in the South Asian food space with multiple leading South Asian food brands under its umbrella offering condiments, pantry items, snacks, candy, spices and frozen foods representing all regions of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Born out of the absolute need of a young family to be able to enjoy cuisines from their homeland while being away from home, it was founded in 1972 by Indian Immigrant G.L Soni who longed to enjoy authentic cuisine from India. As a South Asian immigrant couple living in New York, the Sonis, particularly Mrs. Shobhana Soni, faced challenges daily to find Indian ingredients for home cooking. This inspired Mr. Soni to start importing Indian cooking ingredients and founding the ‘LAXMI’ brand. Mr. Soni fittingly named it Laxmi in honor of his parents, Mr. Laxmidas and Mrs. Laxmibai. Also, since Goddess Laxmi embodies abundance, the name perfectly fit the company’s vision of providing authentic cooking ingredients in abundance to South Asian families living in the USA and helping them stay connected with their cultures through food.

Today, 48 years later the next generation of the family carries the torch and enhanced vision into the expanding marketplace. The children of the founder, Neil & Amarpali Soni have taken over the company with their sights set on aggressive business expansion, new branding, marketing and distribution, while maintaining the family and company values.

The South Asian Market is the fastest growing population in the U.S. since 2000 with a total population of 6 million and growing – a 81% growth over the last 10 years! Furthermore, the Asian Indians have a combined disposable income of $88 billion and an estimated annual buying power of $20 billion and these numbers are growing.  The brother and sister duo know that the time is now to leverage this strong growth of the South Asian segment and do so by delivering authentic ethnic South Asian cuisines and ingredients. They strive hard to ensure that every item with their brand name is delivered with purity, quality and value.

The recent rebrand of their logo also demonstrates an effort from the young leaders of the company, to be more inclusive towards the overall South Asian diaspora and representative of the hospitality and abundance that are trademarks of their culture. The new Laxmi logo is contemporary, universal and visually appealing and the icon represents a modernized red and gold Lotus with auspicious royal overtones. But despite the changes and the new vision of the co-presidents, the signature product line encompassing the ‘Laxmi’ Brand stays true to its authentic Indian roots providing the community a way to stay connected to their culture and cuisine. With aspirations to take their product line to the mainstream market, House of Spices is poised to bring the Indian grocery store items into our neighborhood big box grocery retailers and give a new spin to cooking with healthy, authentic and fresh Indian ingredients.

Fauci Warns, US May See ‘Surge Upon Surge’ Of Virus In Weeks Ahead

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon a surge” of the coronavirus in the weeks after Thanksgiving, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, in a major reversal, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said the nation’s largest school system will reopen to in-person learning and increase the number of days a week many children attend class. The announcement came just 11 days after the Democratic mayor said schools would shut down because of rising COVID-19 cases.

“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week” that the level of infection in the U.S. would not “all of a sudden turn around.”

“So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line … we may see a surge upon a surge,” he said.

Fauci addressed the school issue, saying that spread “among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected. So let’s try to get the kids back, but let’s try to mitigate the things that maintain and just push the kind of community spread that we’re trying to avoid,” he said.

Fauci also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he made similar remarks, adding that it’s “not too late” for people traveling home after Thanksgiving to help curb the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups of people.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Since January, when the first infections were reported in the U.S., the nation’s total number of cases has surpassed 13 million. More than 265,000 people have died.

Fauci said the arrival of vaccines offers a “light at the end of the tunnel.” This coming week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss a rollout of the vaccine, he said.

He added that President-elect Joe Biden should focus on distributing vaccines in an “efficient and equitable way.” Fauci also said he planned to push the new administration for a rigorous testing program.

Health care workers will likely be among the first to get the vaccine, with the first vaccinations happening before the end of December, followed by many more in January, February and March, he said.

“So if we can hang together as a country and do these kinds of things to blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this,” Fauci said.

Other experts agreed that the coming weeks would be difficult, especially since so many traveled over the holiday and held in-person dinners indoors.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Americans who traveled this past week should try to avoid people over 65. She said that those who were around others for Thanksgiving “have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected and you really need to get tested in the next week.”

Meanwhile, a busy travel weekend continued, despite warnings for Americans to stay close to home and limit their holiday gatherings.

Aside from the Thanksgiving holiday itself, anywhere from 800,000 to more than 1 million travelers made their way through U.S. airport checkpoints on any day during the past week, according to Transportation Security Administration statistics. That’s a far cry from the 2.3 to 2.6 million seen daily last year. But it far surpasses the number of travelers early in the pandemic, when daily totals fell below 100,000 on some spring days.

More COVID-19 restrictions were in store for California starting Monday. Los Angeles County will impose a lockdown calling for its 10 million residents to stay home. Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, is banning all high school, collegiate and professional sports and imposing a quarantine for anyone traveling into the region from more than 150 miles away.

Back in New York, some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs will resume classes Dec. 7, a week from Monday, the mayor said. Others will take longer to reopen.

The plan for reopening middle and high schools is still being developed, de Blasio said.

About 190,000 students will be eligible to return to classrooms in the first round of reopening, just a fraction of the more than 1 million total pupils in the system. The great majority of parents have opted to have their kids learn remotely by computer.

De Blasio said that many of those returning in person will be able to attend five days of class a week, up from one to three days previously.

Elementary school students attending in person will be required to undergo frequent testing for the virus. Previously, the city set a target of testing 20% of teachers and students in each school building once a month. Now the testing will be weekly.

The mayor said the city was doing away with its previous trigger for closing schools, which was when 3% or more of the virus tests conducted in the city over a seven-day period came back positive.

New York exceeded that threshold early in November, and infections have slightly worsened since then. More than 9,300 residents have tested positive for the virus over the past seven days.

(By TAMARA LUSH)

12th Anniversary Of 26/11 Mumbai Attack Commemorated In New York

A commemorative meeting was held to remember the horror of the Nov. 26, 2020 terrorist attack in Mumbai where the city was held hostage for four days and 174 people were killed, including 6 Americans and some 300 wounded. The Lashkar-e-Taiba operating with leaders of the group in Pakistan are considered the masterminds behind the attack.

The meeting was held virtually and was organized jointly by the American India Public Affairs Committee and American Jewish Committee in New York.

The participants included Jagdish Sewhani, president of The AIPAC, India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal and Deputy Consul General Shatrughna Sinha, Rabbi David Levy, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, Adva Vinchinsky, Consul for Public Diplomacy at AJC, and Israel Nitzan, acting consul general of Israel in New York. Speakers addressed the issue of terrorism and the need for Pakistan to do away with havens for these elements to operate from.

Calling 26/11 as the most “ghastly attack unknown (in the) annals of history, Consul General Jaiswal is quoted in the press release as saying that it is important for the global community that those responsible are brought to book and that Pakistan must do what is required to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. Terrorism needs a very strong global cooperation, Jaiswal added, and called on the international community to ensure that the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which India sponsored at the United Nations, is adopted at the earliest.

Jagdish Sehwani, president of the American India Public Affairs Committee, center zoomed in, with other participants in the virtual commemoration meeting for the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. Photo: courtesy: American India Public Affairs Committee

“We will never forget those four days in 2008. It’s etched in our memory for ever,” Sewhani is quoted saying in the press release. He also praised India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with “unprecedented co-operation” from Israel and the United States for making India “a much safer place.”

However, despite Pakistan being relatively isolated, terrorists continue to operate from Pakistan, Sehwani noted and urged the AJC to support “impress upon the next Biden Administration not to restore financial aid to Pakistan” and that President-elect Joe Biden and his choice of Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, have expressed zero tolerance for terrorism in South Asia.

Israel Nitzan, acting Consul General of Israel in New York said his country was shocked by the barbaric attacks carried out against innocent civilians and foreign tourists across Mumbai in November 2008. He stressed that Israel, India and U.S. share deep bonds based on shared experiences and that the horrific Mumbai attack “strengthens our deep bond and friendship.”

“We will not allow terrorism to break us, the attack is a lesson about our resiliency. The objective of attack in mumbai was to cripple the economy, society and its vivid and wonderful culture and they (terrorist) failed miserably,” Nitzan said. Deputy Consul General of India in New York Shatrughna Sinha said that 12 years after the heinous attack the perpetrators are still roaming free.

Sinha also shared profiles of a few individuals and foreign nationals who lost their lives in the Mumbai Attack. Among them were Rabbi Gavriel and his wife Rivka, who was five months pregnant at the time, who was killed when terrorists stormed Nariman House. The couple ‘s son Moshe Holtzberg was saved by their Indian caregiver Sandra Samuel.

Rabbi David Levy regional Director of American Jewish Committee and Adva Vilchinski Consul for Public Diplomacy also spoke at the event.