Three Indian-origin students among 2022 Gates Cambridge Scholars

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Three students of South Asian heritage from around the U.S., are among the 23 winners of the 2022 Gates Cambridge Scholars announced  Feb. 9, 2022.

Nisita Dutta who will be pursuing Chemistry at Cambridge’s St. Catharines College, Maya Juman, a PhD student in Biological Sciences who will join the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and Anjali Kantharuban who will pursue her M.Phil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Churchill College, are among those named for the prestigious scholarship.

Maya Juman. Photo: gatescambridge.org

Juman, who did Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Yale University, grew up in New York City and South India. That background, she said, made her develop, “a lifelong appreciation for biodiversity and curiosity about global change.”

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At Yale University, she conducted research on South and Southeast Asian mammal biogeography.

Upon graduating in 2020, she worked on COVID-19 response at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “My academic and work experiences have led me to explore the human-wildlife interface where viral spillover occurs,” she says in a brief account on the Gates Cambridge website.

She is completing a Fulbright fellowship studying deforestation in Malaysia, on completion of which she will be doing her PhD from Cambridge.   “My research employs a One Health approach to modeling anthropogenic drivers of zoonotic emergence from bat populations,” an area of study which she says will inform solutions to both biodiversity loss and future pandemics, particularly in regions with threatened habitats, high spillover risk, and limited health infrastructure.

Nisita Dutta. Photo: Gatescambridge.org

For Dutta, when a close family member was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was consumed with fear and concern.

During her undergraduate years at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), she started to channel those feelings into the chemistry, biology, and mathematics that she said she had become so familiar with. Through her Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChemBE) degree, she realized she could use the skills learned “to combine my passions in research, engineering, and medicine to design effective chemotherapy delivery methods that can help alleviate cancer patients’ pain.”

After earning her master’s degree in ChemBE at JHU, she started medical school at the University of Maryland Medical Scientist Training Program she expanded her interests in not only patient care, but in teaching, mentoring, and medical education as well.

For her PhD, she will be working to create novel nanobody-drug conjugates to treat pancreatic cancer in an international collaboration between the Cambridge Department of Chemistry and the National Institutes of Health.

Kantharuban is a Univesity of California, Berkeley graduate in Computer Science and Linguistics.

Anjali Kantharuban. Photo: Gatescambridge.org

A first-generation immigrant in California, Kanthuruban says, “As a non-standard dialect speaker, I have seen first-hand how globalized communication has intensified pressures to convert to specific languages in exchange for economic reward.”

While getting her bachelors, “I was exposed to natural language processing and its capacity to make information and tools more broadly accessible by allowing interactions with technology to take place in human languages.” At the same time, she noticed that the field still primarily focuses on a small set of languages.

“My goal is to make natural language processing equally functional for all languages, in all their variations, to prevent a further loss of linguistic and cultural diversity,” she says.

“Specifically, I want to create natural language interfaces for computational systems so minority language speakers can use them without altering their method of communication.”

Kantharuban can speak and has taught Tamil to kindergarteners, according to her Linkedin profile.

The Gates Cambridge Trust was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge. This remains the largest single donation to a UK university, the Gatescambridge.org website says.

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