Five Indian-Americans are among 34 of the “most academically outstanding and socially committed U.S. citizens” selected to be part of the 2019 class of Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University of Cambridge. The U.S. Scholars were selected after interviews in Washington DC in February and will start their postgraduate degrees at Cambridge in October.
Two of the five Indian-Americans hail from the Tri-state area, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and Yale University, Connecticut; two from California – Stanford University, and University of California, Davis; one from both Stanford and Tsinghua University. The 34 scholars are from 37 universities, according to a Gates Cambridge press release.
The Indian-Americans include:
Sridhar Sriram will be pursuing an MPhil in Technology Policy from Hughes Hall. In his brief writeup on the Gates Cambridge website, Sriram says he was fortunate to have family that stressed that actions were only meaningful if they had a positive impact on those around. Fascinated by the interaction among people, Sriram took to short story writing. This pastime turned into a serious interest in societal interactions and a major in Public Policy. Alongside, his budding love for technology inspired him to pursue Computer Science and author short stories of impactful, real-world code. While hoping to use the mix of technology and public policy, Sriram quickly discovered that “contemporary technologies are riddled with biases that manifest themselves in the algorithms that power these tools.” He hopes his MPhil in Technology Policy, will help him gain a better an understanding of how best to regulate algorithmic bias without hampering the innovation process, while also exploring the technical frameworks necessary to tackle such biases. This in order to craft “necessarily diverse, inclusive, and equitable technologies of the future.”
Sriram is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy & Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, concentration in Urban Informatics.
Dhruv Nandamudi, a Psychology graduate from Yale University in New Haven, Conn, will be pursuing a PhD in Biological Science at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Downing College.
As an undergraduate researcher at the Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab, he became particularly interested in exploring the impact of psychosocial stress on neurological subsystems, he says on the Gates Cambridge website. As director of the Yale Wellness Project, he helped design and conduct a large-scale study aimed at better understanding the role of stress in student life, and mitigating its more deleterious neural effects through the implementation of targeted interventional efforts.
His studies at Cambridge will focus on exploring the neuroscientific relationship between stress and memory control. His work “bears particular relevance to mental health science for the clinical treatment of mood and anxiety-related disorders,” Nandamudi says. “My goal is to better understand the mechanisms guiding the interaction between stress and motivated forgetting in an effort to inform potential treatment methodologies for psychological disorders by enhancing cognitive emotion regulation,” he said.
Mika Jain, will be doing his MPhil Biological Science at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Churchill College. Originally from South Africa, Jain says he grew up in New York City, attended Stanford University, studying physics and computer science. He is interested in applying the experimental techniques of physics to study biological systems. He has also developed machine learning algorithms to analyze the large datasets these methods tend to produce. At Cambridge, he says he will use a combination of experimental and computational approaches to study the genetic basis of complex disease, he says on his biographical sketch.
Nitika Mummidivarapu, the only woman among the 5 Indian-American scholars-elect, will be doing her MPhil on the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at Newnham College. As an Indian émigré raised in the Silicon Valley, she says she found that the progressive views of the area juxtaposed the cultural and religious aspects of her heritage. “Balancing the fundamental ideologies of science and religion became an inherent struggle in my desire to understand how the world worked,” Mummidivarapy says in bio on the Gates Cambridge website. “Through my academic endeavors in the biological sciences and the humanities, I felt empowered to challenge the dichotomous view I had of the world.” While volunteering in her community, I discovered that poorly-written scientific literature had negative consequences in healthcare at the grass-roots level.
“At Cambridge, I hope to explore and understand if appealing to a group’s cultural and religious values will improve their understanding and acceptance of scientific theories,” she says, adding, “With a future in medicine and literature, I believe the merging of these two disparate fields will be a central mode for understanding how to improve healthcare in a diverse and modern society.”
Mummidivarapu is a graduate of the University of California (Davis) in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Kiran Sridhar, who will be getting his Masters from Tsinghua University in 2020, and a Bachelors from Stanford University in Economics this year, will be pursuing an MRes in Strategy, Marketing, and Operations from St John’s College.
“Throughout my life, I have been motivated to learn about and tackle big problems—including hunger and nuclear security,” says Sridhar in his biographical sketch on the Gates Cambridge website. He considers cyberwarfare a pressing problem, and contends that a cyberattack could imperil our health, security, or economic prospects. “This is a challenge my generation will face, particularly for those living in liberal democracies, like the US, where my parents immigrated to and which has provided me with so many opportunities,” he says, “I want to be a part of the solution.” Working with the Centre for Risk Studies, Sridhar hopes to conduct research in partnership with government agencies, insurance companies, and computer science researchers to elucidate the cyber threat.