Two Indian-Americans win Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for new immigrants

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Aseem Mehta, who is pursuing a JD at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, is one of two Indian-Americans to receive the $90,000 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for 2018. (Photo: PDsoros.org)

Two Indian-Americans are among the 30 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellows for 2018 announced April 17. The Fellowships are granted to “outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants” from around the United States, and those selected receive up to $90,000 over two years.

Aseem Mehta of Yale University and Suchita Patil Nety of Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Harvard University are the two Indian-Americans on the list of recipients. There are a total of four South Asian-American Fellows in this year’s list, including two Pakistani-Americans, Hamid Nasir, a captain in the U.S. Army, and Muhammad Saad Shamim studying bioengineering at Baylor College of Medicine.

Mehta , who is pursuing a law degree at Yale University, is studying legal strategies for supporting social movements. He works in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic.

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., “Mehta imagines a world without borders, real or imagined,” a press release from the Foundation said. “His vision is informed by interlocking histories: the Indian independence movement, social mobility through migration, and racial justice organizing in the United States. These forces shaped his family’s experiences …” the press release says.

Mehta, who is “committed to dismantling the laws, ideologies, and structures that deny communities agency and mobility” has worked as a Fellow with Immigrant Justice Corps, where he advocated alongside immigrant communities against deportation in New York and South Texas. While representing detained refugee families in Dilley, TX, he organized with incarcerated individuals to expose discriminatory policies and unjust conditions of confinement to national media outlets, building momentum for related litigation, according to the background provided by the Foundation. He also worked with the Urban Justice Center to advocate for fairer treatment of welfare recipients and helping to facilitate a campaign to bring faith leaders to the forefront of the fight for “net neutrality” with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

As an undergraduate studying Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale University, Mehta co-led the Visual Law Project where he co-directed a documentary film investigating the use of solitary confinement in maximum security prisons. The film premiered at the United Nations Association Film Festival and was screened for legislators, corrections officials, and communities across the United States, providing a platform for grassroots organizers to speak to new audiences.

Suchita Patil Nety, pursuing a degree in bioengineering/medicine at Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Harvard University, is one of two Indian-Americans to receive the $90,000 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for 2018. (Photo: pdsoros.org)

Nety’s award will go toward getting her medical degree in biological engineering at MIT and Harvard University. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University

Born in Sunnyvale, CA to immigrants from India who came to the United States to attend graduate school, Nety draws inspiration from her upbringing in Silicon Valley as well as her grandparents’ experiences as freedom fighters for Indian independence.

A local science fair sparked Nety’s interest in research at an early age. Her projects throughout middle and high school, including cancer imaging research conducted at Stanford, earned regional and national level-awards. She earned a BS in chemistry from Caltech and spent four years in the lab of Mikhail Shapiro. Her work with protein-based reporters for ultrasound imaging resulted in a patent, publications, presentations, and awards, including Caltech’s highest honor for undergraduate academics and research.

Nety, the press release says, is interested in forms of storytelling and healing that complement her future role in medicine. While at Caltech, she pursued her love for literature getting an English minor, won writing prizes, tutored in the campus writing center, and volunteered for a literacy nonprofit. She has professional level competence in Bharatanatyam and is an avid hip hop choreographer.

After completing MD/PhD training at Harvard and MIT, Nety hopes to serve patients as a medical oncologist while developing molecular tools to engineer robust and safe cell-based therapies.

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