Among 30 recipients of the award this year.
By Sreekanth A. Nair
Six Indian American students have been selected for the prestigious Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans 2016. A total of 30 students have been selected for the premier graduate school fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants.
“The thirty recipients, called ‘Fellows’, were selected for their potential to make significant contributions to US society, culture, or their academic field, and were selected from a pool of 1,443 applicants,” said a statement on the fellowship website.
The fellows will receive up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice.
Daisy M. Soros and Paul Soros (1926-2013) founded the Fellowship program in 1997, which has awarded more than 550 Fellowships over its 18-year history. The couple, both Hungarian immigrants, has contributed $75 million to the organization’s charitable trust.
Here are the Indian American students who won the prestigious fellowship according to the official website.
- Sharada Jambulapati, JD, UC Berkeley
Sharada is the daughter of Indian immigrants who came to the United States in search of educational opportunities for their children. Growing up on a farm in rural Georgia, Sharada experienced the complex web of dependence, racial backlash, and willful ignorance of the immigrant experience, which instilled Sharada with a deep commitment to pursuing civil rights and racial justice work in the Deep South.
At Stanford University, she deepened her passion for community organizing and activism. After college, she worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow. She advocated with those in the Deep South who are often forgotten, neglected, or even despised: immigrant children and young people convicted of crimes.
Sharada is pursuing a JD at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
- Akash Patel, JD, University of Michigan
Born in London, Akash Patel is the son of Indian immigrants. Akash’s family moved from India to England and then to the United States in the early 1990s in search of better opportunities. Akash was less than two years old when he arrived in America but was not afforded citizenship until the age of 23.
Akash founded Aspiring Americans in Oklahoma City as part of his honors research project at OU to assist other undocumented students in Oklahoma, which has raised over $200,000 in grants, scholarships, and in-kind resources.
Now, Akash is pursuing law in order to combine his community organizing experience with a legal acumen to advocate for all those who do not have a voice in the immigration and educational systems.
- Suhas Rao, MD/Ph.D., Stanford University
Born in Massachusetts, Suhas is the son of Indian immigrants who came to the US in the 1980s. While working at the Broad Institute as a Harvard undergraduate, Suhas became invigorated by the potential of the ‘genomics revolution’ to drive forward a new age in precision medicine and patient care.
After graduating from Harvard, Suhas continued his research on the three-dimensional structure of the genome at the Broad Institute and Baylor College of Medicine, resulting in two co-first authored publications in Cell and PNAS. This work, which resulted in the highest resolution maps of the 3D genome to date and revealed numerous structural principles of genome folding, was featured inTIME, NPR, The Atlantic, Forbes, and Scientific American, and was lauded on the floor of the US House of Representatives.
Currently, Suhas is pursuing an MD/Ph.D. at Stanford University School of Medicine. As a future physician-scientist, he hopes to tackle the fundamental problem of deciphering the information contained in the genome and to translate that into more precise modalities of patient care.
- Mubeen Shakir, MD, Harvard University
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Mubeen is the youngest son of Indian Muslim immigrants who came to the US in the 1970s. Mubeen graduated from the University of Oklahoma in three years, winning the University’s highest honor, and receiving a Rhodes Scholarship. As an undergraduate, he actively volunteered with a free health clinic, led mentoring programs at the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma City, and conducted cancer stem cell research.
Mubeen went on to earn master’s degrees in medical anthropology and public policy at the University of Oxford. He has worked at the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission on substance use disorders and is a leader of the Harvard Medical School Racial Justice Coalition.
Now a first-year medical student, Mubeen hopes to improve health systems at the city, state, and national level, helping to build a more equitable health system and just society.
- Vishwajith Sridharan, MD, Harvard University, and MIT
Vishwajith (Vish) was born and raised in southern India. At the age of nine, Vish, his mother, and his sister were reunited with his father in New Jersey, where Vishwajith began third grade with a name that was quickly shortened by his teachers and peers.
By the age of 15, Vish was working at Children’s Hospital in DC, where he spent multiple years developing novel HIV vaccine models, one of which was patented.
While Vish and his parents were making the most of the opportunities they sacrificed so much for, they also felt the burden of distance. The year Vish was admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a full scholarship, he lost his grandmother to abdominal cancer back in India.
Changing his focus to cancer, Vish’s NSF-funded college research on protein thermodynamics led to publications in Molecular Cell and the ACS Journal Biochemistry, and also earned recognition from the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation.
Vish is now working towards his MD in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, where he is investigating immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer. He is also pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School. He hopes to develop translational therapeutics in the lab, bring them to market, and make a difference in cancer care among underserved communities.
- Durga Thakral, MD/Ph.D., Yale University
Born in Illinois, Durga is the daughter of Indian immigrants. Her parents came to Chicago in pursuit of education and opportunity. As an undergraduate in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Thomas Steitz, Durga discovered a novel antibacterial compound. With support from the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, Durga earned a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale.
Durga’s work with communities with minimal healthcare resources has shown her the dire need for better access to medical care and affordable biomedical devices. She continues to find opportunities for selfless service wherever she can, sharing her enthusiasm for science with children and inspiring middle school girls to pursue careers in quantitative fields.
Durga is now an MD/Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Richard Lifton in genetics at Yale. Her clinical experiences remind her of what a joy it is to work with patients, and she hopes to take advantage of the vast and growing power of molecular medicine in her work to improve the human condition and empower others to pursue their dreams.