N. Kalaiselvi is an Indian senior electrochemical scientist. On 7 August 2022, she came into the limelight when she was appointed as the first woman Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR). She was designated as the Director of the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI) at Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu on 22 February 2019. Soon after her appointment as the Director General of CSIR, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions mentioned in a media conference that she had been appointed for a period of two years. It stated,
Kalaiselvi has been appointed for a period of two years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post or until further orders, whichever is earlier.”
She has experience in the field of electrochemical power systems, especially in the development of electrode materials, and electrochemical evaluation of in-house prepared electrode materials for their suitability in energy storage device assembly.
Newly-appointed CSIR director general Dr N Kalaiselvi with MoS (Science and Tech) Jitendra Singh
N. Kalaiselvi was born in Ambasamudhram, Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. She has completed her PhD from Annamalai University in Chidambaram. Reportedly, N Kalaiselvi attained her entire education at government schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu. Her father, who was a teacher, brought up her like a boy. During her school days, she liked playing the boys’ games.
Hair Colour: Salt and Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Her father is a retired teacher. She has two elder brothers.
Husband & Children
She is married.
After completing her PhD from Annamalai University in Chidambaram, N Kalaiselvi began teaching organic chemistry at a private college for three years. In 1997, she started working at CSIR-CECRI in research as an entry-level scientist. At CSIR, N Kalaiselvi is known for her contribution to the field of lithium-ion batteries. She is known for inventing new materials used as electrodes for improving the storage capacities of lithium-ion batteries. In December 2000, N Kalaiselvi attended the 8-ACSSI program in Singapore and Malaysia. Over the years, 2007-2009, 2011-2013, and 2013-2015, N Kalaiselvi served as the Member of the Board of Studies at Karunya University, PSG Institute of Technology, Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College, Coimbatore; Serfoji College of Arts and Science, Tanjore; and Sri. GVG Visalakshi College for Women, Udumalpet. In August 2007, she was a part of a two-month Technical Discussion organised at Hanyang National University (South Korea).
Nallathamby Kalaiselvi posing at a batteries manufacturing plant
In 2011, “Ariga Ariviyal” – a Monthly Scientific Periodical appointed her as its Editor for promoting Science subjects in Tamil to rural students. In 2012, she was appointed as the Nodal Scientist for Multifunctional Electrodes and Electrolytes for Futuristic Technologies (MULTIFUN) and served the position till 2017. The National Mission for Electric Mobility was initiated under the guidance of Dr Kalaiselvi in 2013. Gradually, she rose to the position of director of the institute in 2019 and became the first woman to hold the position. Upon holding this position, she was given additional charge to work as the Theme Director of the Renewable and Non-renewable energy and devices of CSIR, the Chairperson and Member of the Administrative and Technical Committees of CSIR-CECRI, and the Chairperson of the SAC (Student Academic Committee) of CECRI. In November 2019, N Kalaiselvi was a part of the CSIR-DAAD Exchange Programme in Germany. In 2022, she was elevated to the position of Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) with an additional charge as secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Nallathamby Kalaiselvi while inaugurating a new research project at CSIR
N Kalaiselvi is a member of the Editorial Board at the International Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, Task Force Committee of CSIR for the “CSIR Integrated Skill Initiative and Jigyasa” Programme, and a member of the Internal Quality Assurance Cell of Alagappa University, Karaikudi.
In 1999, N Kalaiselvi was selected for INSA visiting fellowship [within INDIA] for the year. From 2003 to 2004, she attended the Brain Pool Fellowship Program in South Korea. In 2009-10, N Kalaiselvi was selected for the Raman Research Fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. In 2011, she was selected under the INSA-NRF Exchange Program of Scientists and visited KERI, Changwon.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
In 1999, 2000, & 2001, she was honoured with the Young Scientist Seminar Award of CECRI (3 times). In 2006, she earned a Citation in Marqui’s who is who in Science and Engineering in Asia. In 2007, she was ranked among the Top 100 Scientists of the year 2007 and International Scientist of the year. In 2007, she was appointed as the Reviewer of Elsevier, IOP, Wiley, RSC, and ACS journals. In 2008, she earned a Citation in the Special 10th Anniversary Edition of Marqui’s Who is Who in Science and Engineering. Her four research papers were chosen as the “HIGHEST CITED TOP 25 HOTTEST ARTICLES” by Elsevier in 2011. In 2015, she was felicitated with the Materials Research Society Medal (MRSI, Bangalore). In 2019, she was honoured with the C V RAMAN MAHILA VIJNANA PURASKARA at Twelfth National Women’s Science Congress held at Mysore.
Nallathamby Kalaiselvi while receiving an honour in 2014
- N Kalaiselvi, one of her former colleagues, stated in a media conversation that she was an enthusiastic public speaker, and during her college and initial job period, she often participated in various public speaking venues including the All India Radio. He said,
Kalaiselvi was a very active participant, and participated in some of these at the local All India Radio station. This has made her a formidable public speaker.”
Nallathamby Kalaiselvi during a public speaking conference
- Reportedly, when N Kalaiselvi joined CECRI in 1997, she did not have a background in electrochemistry and had an interest in teaching. In a media interview, she explained that CECRI provided her an opportunity to work as a teacher and researcher at the same time. She said,
I loved teaching. But, I was also aching for research. CECRI provided me an opportunity to do both.”
Nallathamby Kalaiselvi while speaking at a college
- CSIR mentioned the research interests of N Kalaiselvi on its official website. These interests include lithium batteries, supercapacitors, waste-to-wealth driven electrodes, electrolytes for energy storage, and electrocatalytic applications. According to Dr T Prem Kumar, one of her former colleagues, electric mobility was very close to N Kalaiselvi’s heart. In a media interview, Dr T Prem Kumar said that she had a great interest in those things that needed improved batteries. He said,
Electric mobility… that is something very close to her heart, and that needs improved batteries. Also, wider utilisation of renewable energies like wind or solar.”
- A fast-track construction program of a low-cost toilet unit while using the technology of CSIR-CECRI was initiated by her in Chennai in January 2022.
Kalaiselvi (in blue saree) during the inauguration of a fast-track construction of a low-cost toilet unit using CSIR-CECRI’s technology in Chennai
- CSIR-CECRI (Central Electrochemical Research Institute) and Hyderabad-based Godi India entered into a public-private partnership (PPP) to launch a lithium-ion cell manufacturing unit in Taramani, Chennai. This joint venture was initiated under the guidance of Kalaiselvi in July 2022.
Dr Kalaiselvi, Director, CECRI; Dr Shekhar C Mande, Former Secretary DSIR and Former Director General, CSIR and Mahesh Godi, Founder and CEO, Godi India in July 2022
- According to the official website of CSIR, she worked as a guide to 8 research scholars for their PhD. degrees and 6 researchers were pursuing their PhD till August 2022. Till 2022, she has worked on over 125 research papers and credited six patents to her name.
- Once, in a media conversation, she disclosed that she received her school education in Tamil medium school, which helped her to understand science subjects in her mother tongue. She added that learning subjects in her mother tongue helped her a lot in grasping the science concepts more easily in her college. She remembered,
In fact, it has helped me in quick grasping of science concepts and I built on that foundation when I joined college.”