Dr. Tessy Thomas is the Project Director and Key Scientist for the Agni-V project of India. She was also the key figure behind the development of Agni-V. The media also love to call her Agniputri, or one born of fire, after the missiles she has helped develop.
Dr. Tessy Thomas is an expert on all solid propellants systems, has a B. Tech from Thrissur Engineering College, Calicut. She started her career in the DRDO under Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s leadership and guidance. She also has an M.Tech in Guided Missile from the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune (now known as the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology).
She was born in 1964 to a small-businessman father and a homemaker mother at Alappuzha in Kerala. She grew up near a rocket launching station and says her fascination with rockets and missiles began then. She was named after Mother Teresa, the late Nobel laureate who worked with the poor in Kolkata.
Her husband is Saroj Kumar, now a commodore in the Indian Navy and they have a son, Tejas. an engineering student who shares his name with India’s indigenously developed light combat aircraft, also made by the DRDO.
In a glowing tribute in 2008, The Indian Woman Scientists Association did not forget to mention that “like most women, she also does a tight-rope walk between home and career, between being a mother and a scientist who is dedicated to her job. “We feel Tessy Thomas serves as a role model and an inspiration for women scientists to achieve their dreams and have their feet planted in both worlds successfully,” the group said.
As she recalls, while she was in her early 20s, she was picked a,s one of 10 youngsters from around the country for a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) program in 1985. She has not forgotten anything related to It because It provided her an opportunity to watch the world of missiles closely. At that time, she could only cherish the dream of becoming a part of the organisation which, later on, not only benefited from her valuable service but also put to good use all her experience and expertise to accomplish the seemingly scintillating and stunning task.
Tessy was associate project director of the 3,000 km range Agni-III missile project. She was the project director for Agni IV which was successfully tested in 2011. Tessy was appointed as the Project Director for 5,000 km range Agni-V in 2009 and is based at the Advanced Systems Laboratory in Hyderabad. The missile was successfully tested on 19 April 2012.
In January 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian Science Congress that Ms. Thomas is an example of a “woman making her mark in a traditionally male bastion and decisively breaking the glass ceiling“.
In 2011, three women scientists won the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, India’s top science prize, compared to 11 from 1958-2010 and one was for Ms. Thomas. “We are all proud of our country. Agni-V is one of our greatest achievements,” she says.
A multi-tasking scientist like her is indefatigable. It is by dint of such exemplary feats of excellent persons like her that India has been able to acquire for herself a respectable place among the mighty nations of the world.