A Conversation with Ramesh Raskar

by Margaret Church

April 20, 2017


A conversation with Ramesh Raskar was published as an Impact Spotlight  by the Lemelson Foundation.  

An excerpt is below.  Read the full article here

In September 2016, Dr. Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab and holder of more than 75 patents, was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his work in developing radical imaging solutions.

The Wall Street Journal called Raskar’s inventions “trailblazing,” citing a growing resume that includes the co-invention of an ultra-fast imaging camera that can see around corners, low-cost eye-care solutions, and a camera that lets users read the first few pages of a book without opening the cover. Dorothy Lemelson said: “Ramesh’s femto-photography work not only has the potential to transform industries from internal medicine to transportation safety, it is also helping to inspire a new generation of inventors to tackle the biggest problems of our time.”

Ramesh RaskarRaskar, 46, is the 22nd recipient of the annual prize, which recognizes outstanding mid-career inventors who are improving the world through technological invention and demonstrating a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Past prizewinners include Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse; biologist Leroy Hood; and Nick Holonyak, inventor of the light-emitting diode, or LED.

We caught up with Dr. Raskar for a conversation about his research, his passions, and his take on the future of invention education.

LEMELSON FOUNDATION: You were born and raised in India. What was your childhood like, and who were your early influences?

RAMESH RASKAR: My father served in the Army and came from an extremely modest background. He didn't make a lot of money in his career. But after he took an early retirement from military service, he dedicated himself in a focused way to the education of his children, and to helping others. After the army, he spent almost six years working in a hospital, assisting patients and doctors, leading offsite camps for children, and helping poor people navigate their financial conditions. He set an example of what it means to work hard and to help others.

LEMELSON: When did you realize that you were on a path to becoming an inventor?

RASKAR: I am the youngest of four children, and I had a lot of support from my father and my older siblings. My family members did not get the same educational opportunities and support that I was lucky enough to receive. But because I scored so highly on my exams from an early age, I found myself on a certain path, and certain doors were opened to me based on my academic abilities. I didn't realize until a bit later that I was interested in the connection between invention and social impact, however. But a lot of it came from my family, the support they provided, and the example our father set.

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