A past pupil of Jaffna Hindu College, Prof. Sivalingam Sivananthan, who is currently serving as Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has been named a White House Champion of Change. He was presented with the honour at a ceremony held on Thursday (30) at the White House in Washington D.C.
The honour recognizes immigrant innovators and entrepreneurs — "The best and brightest from around the world who are helping create American jobs, grow the economy and make our nation competitive in the world," the White House said in a media release.
Sivananthan's work with a semiconductor material, mercury cadmium telluride or MCT, is at the heart of night vision technology and made the raid that took down Osama Bin Laden on a moonless night possible. Developing 'technology that protects our protectors' has given him the opportunity to give back to his adopted country, Sivananthan said.
"Immigrants have long made America more prosperous and innovative, and the Champions we are celebrating today represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service," US Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, said, adding, "We are proud to recognize these leaders who work everyday to grow our economy, advance science and technology, and support their home communities."
Sivananthan is the founder of the high-tech, Bell-Labs-styled incubator, Sivananthan Laboratories, Inc. in Bolingbrook, Ill. The Laboratories' focus is on infared technology, radiation detection, materials research and biosensors.
As at its most fundamental, MCT technology is about transforming light into electricity, Sivananthan is also leading an effort to develop next-generation solar power. To that end, he helped found INSPIRE (the non-profit Institute for Solar Photovoltaic Innovation, Research, and Edu-training), whose mission is training Illinois's workforce and exciting Illinois undergraduate and high school students to create a renewable energy and solar eco-system in Illinois.
At his laboratories, Sivananthan is promoting economic growth by fostering cutting-edge, fundamental research and development that bridges the gap between academia and industry.
Sivananthan credits much of his success to the support he received from UIC from his days as a student to his continuing engagement on the faculty.
"UIC is a community of individuals that has treated me with respect for who I am," he said.
"I have been blessed with having talented people around me. I can take credit only for hiring them. Our success has been and always will be a product of team work," Sivanathan further said.
Prof. Sivananthan hails from Chavakachcheri, Jaffna.