Four Indian-Americans among Paul & Daisy Soros 2021 Fellowships

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Sita Chandrasekaran, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow 2021. Photo: PDSoros

The board of directors of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a merit-based graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants, announced the program’s 2021 Fellows.

Archana Podury, Ashwin Sah, Pooja Chandrashekar and Sita Chandrasekaran the four Indian-Americans among the 30 Fellows chosen from a pool of 2,445 applicants, the most the program has ever received, according to a press release from the organization.

Archana Podury, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow 2021. Photo: PDSoros

They awardees were selected for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States, and will each receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows demonstrate the immense contributions that immigrants of all backgrounds make to the U.S., according to Fellowship Director Craig Harwood.

“Each 2021 Fellow is a reminder of what is best about this country. Their stories and work fill me with a deep sense of hope for our nation’s future,” he said in the press release.

2009 Fellow Shantanu Gaur, the cofounder and CEO at Allurion Technologies said the fellowship liberated him from the traditional path he was expected to follow.

Podury was awarded the fellowship awarded to support her work towards an MD at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Born in Mountain View, California, Podury studied neural circuits underlying motor learning in her undergraduate degree at Cornell University.

At Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Neuralink she discovered how brain-machine interfaces could be used to understand diffuse networks in the brain.

Podury was awarded various fellowships, including the Hunter R. Rawlings Presidential Research Scholarship and the Zuckerman Prize for Bioengineering Research.

While she was working at a syringe exchange in Ithaca, New York, she witnessed firsthand the mechanics of court-based drug rehabilitation, which paved her path towards medicine.

Now in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, Podury is interested in combining computational and social approaches to neuropsychiatric disease.

In the Boyden Lab at the MIT McGovern Brain Institute, she is developing human brain organoid models to better characterize circuit dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Concurrently, she is working in the Dhand Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to apply network science tools to understand how patients’ social environments influence their health outcomes following acute neurological injury.

Ashwin Sah, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow 2021. Photo: PDSoros

Sah was awarded the fellowship to support his work towards a PhD in mathematics at MIT. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, some of Sah’s earliest and fondest memories are of his mother teaching him arithmetic.

He developed a passion for mathematics research as an undergraduate at MIT, Sah’s talks on his work, and his research in varied areas of combinatorics and discrete mathematics culminated in receiving the Barry Goldwater Scholarship as well as the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student.

Additionally, his work on diagonal Ramsey numbers was recently featured in Quanta Magazine.

Beyond research, Sah has taken opportunities to give back to the math community by helping to organize or grade competitions like the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament, Mathematical Olympiad Program and the USA Mathematical Olympiad. He was also an instructor for the Monsoon Math Camp, a virtual program aimed at teaching higher mathematics to high school students in India.

Sita was awarded the fellowship to support her work towards a PhD in bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.

Raised in the Bay Area, Sita’s affinity for science was inspired by her father’s work as an aerospace engineer. She studied biochemistry at San Francisco State University where she learned the importance of inclusive communities in conducting purposeful and rigorous research.

There, Sita worked in Raymond Esquerra’s biochemistry and biophysics lab, where she near-peer mentored over two dozen students in laboratory research and biochemical methods.

Sita joined the first cohort of PINC (Promoting Inclusivity in Computing) students, a minor program for biologists with peer-mentorship to train and increase retention of diverse students in computer science. As she moved through the program, she became a mentor herself, teaching students Python and facilitating research projects.

After spending a summer working part-time refining microscopes for observing plankton behavior in drops of water with Simone Bianco’s lab at IBM Research through the Center for Cellular Construction NSF-STC, Sita was inspired to join the UCSF-UCB joint bioengineering PhD program.

She then joined the lab of Patrick Hsu at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, upon which the lab switched focus to developing a fast and scalable diagnostic. After finishing her training, Sita aims to have a research career in developing therapeutics.

Pooja Chandrashekar, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow 2021. Photo: PDSoros

Pooja was awarded the fellowship to support her work towards an MD/MBA at Harvard University.

Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Pooja is the daughter of immigrants from Bangalore, India.

As an undergraduate at Harvard College, Pooja received an AB in biomedical engineering. She developed a medical device to provide behavioral therapy for autistic adolescents as well as an online platform to detect environmental health hazards.

After graduating, she pursued a Fulbright Scholarship in Goa, India, where she researched the impact of stigma on autistic children in rural communities.

These experiences led her to pursue health policy research at the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Health Service England, and Crimson Care Collaborative.

Pooja is currently a medical student at Harvard Medical School where her work focuses on improving healthcare delivery for underserved populations. She also serves as the managing assistant editor for Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Most recently, she started the COVID-19 Health Literacy Project to create and translate COVID-19 information into 40+ languages for non-English speaking patients sidelined during the pandemic.

For her contributions, she was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 Healthcare list.

Pooja is also the founder and CEO of ProjectCSGIRLS, an international nonprofit dedicated to encouraging middle school girls in STEM, for which she received the Harvard Medical School Dean’s Community Service Award.

Pooja aspires to pursue a career as a physician and leader dedicated to building a more equitable healthcare system.

 

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