The journey through her life is intertwined with that of India’s missile programmes – Tessy Thomas, director of Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), started her career at DRDO the day the first Prithvi missile was test-fired. From that day on, in past two and a half decades, India has joined the club of a handful of countries having missile systems capable of striking in the range of 500 to 5,000 km even with nuclear warhead and has experimented with different propulsion systems.
Thomas was in Ahmedabad on Saturday at Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) to deliver 10th Dr Lalita Iyer Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Women in Scientific Achievements.’ She talked at length about her formative years, her initiation in defence science and the road ahead.
“It was my mother’s dream to see us all educated and working in jobs. In those days, there was nobody to provide career guidance, but I was very much interested in mathematics and dreamt to be an engineer even before I could understand its meaning,” said Thomas. “However, I got into electronic engineering at Thrissur and after completion of BTech got an opportunity to do MTech in guided missiles,” she said.
Among the few women scientists at the defence technology at that time, she got an opportunity to work at DRDO with Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.
“Right from the word ‘go’, he was a constant inspiration. I started with the work on gyro-less intertial navigation system,” said Thomas. “After Prithvi, Agni programme was envisioned as the technology demonstrator, and we made a lot of improvisations, overcoming all odds, like making navigation more effective, missile casings heat-resistant and the body lighter,” she added.