Several Indian-Americans among 2019 Davidson Fellows

Several Indian-American students are among this year’s Davidson Fellows, chosen by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development for their achievements. The Fellows will receive $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships and will use the funds to further advance their knowledge and research.

Among this year’s Davidson Laureates, receiving a $50,000 scholarship each, are Varun Kumar of Woodclif, New Jersey and Natasha Maniar of Sunnyvale, California. Among Davidson Fellows, receiving $25,000 scholarships are: Aayush Karan of Muskego, Washington; Neeyanth Kopparapu of Herndon, Virginia; Isha Puri of Chappaqua, New York; and Siona Prasad of Vienna, Virginia.

Fellows who will receive a $10,000 scholarship include: Arita Dattamajumdar of Sunnyvale, California and Vishnu Akash Polkampally of Ossining, New York.

Founded by Bob Davidson in 1999, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development recognizes, nurtures and supports profoundly intelligent young people, and provides opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.

The Institute offers support through a number of programs and services, including the Davidson Fellows Scholarship and the Davidson Academy of Nevada.

Kumar, 18, a graduate of the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey, developed a combination therapy that may help reverse resistance to a drug commonly used (Temozolomide) to treat glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor in adults.

According to the Davidson Institute press release, Kumar “showed that combination therapy with Temozolomide and Dihydrotanshinone, an analogue of which is in clinical trials, effectively targeted cancer cells more than either drug alone.” His research also showed that showed that “combination therapy with Temozolomide and Dihydrotanshinone, an analogue of which is in clinical trials, effectively targeted cancer cells more than either drug alone,” the press release said.

Maniar, 17, a freshman at MIT, developed a computational approach to identify sources of atrial fibrillation (AF). Davidson Institute says that “despite affecting more than 33 million people worldwide, diagnostic imaging of electrical conduction through the heart remains relatively subjective and continues to rely heavily on visual interpretation by experts.” Maniar addressed this as a two-fold problem.

She first developed an algorithm to analyze the heart’s chaotic electrical signals and then interpreted those results using her computational tool. Her code identified the AF sources inside the heart with greater accuracy than trained experts. This tool improves AF treatment by streamlining and standardizing the catheter ablation procedure, making it globally accessible. 

Karan, 17, a freshman at Harvard, was chosen for his project “Generating Set for Nonzero Determinant Links Under Skein Relation.” Knot theory studies the behavior of intertwined tangled loops known as links. One of the driving objectives behind knot theory is determining when two such link structures are actually equivalent — in other words, can we reconfigure one link via twists and turns to obtain the other?

Kopparapu, 17, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Herndon, Virginia, developed PDGAN, presents the first automatic diagnosis system for Parkinson’s disease from an MRI scan with a 96.6 percent accuracy. The end-to-end system also has the capability to synthetically generate lifelike MRI images to aid future research attempts at understanding Parkinson’s Disease. PDGAN integrates powerful technology to assist neurologists and Parkinson’s Disease patients with the diagnosis and their lives.

Prasad, 18, created a comprehensive system to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions. Using carbon dioxide sensor technology, drone platforms and inversion modeling, Siona successfully predicted an emission inventory for Washington, DC. Her methodology takes a crucial first step towards enforcing mitigation strategies and government-set limits and, ultimately, combating climate change.

Puri, 18, developed a scalable and freely accessible machine learning based application for the early detection of dyslexia, the world’s most common neurological learning disability which affects 1 in every 10 people worldwide.

And though it has been proven that an early diagnosis can significantly reduce learning difficulties later in life, screenings for dyslexia remain inaccessible to a majority of the world because of their prohibitive cost and their need for specialized scientific equipment.

The goal of this research was to harness the differences in eye movement patterns between dyslexic and non-dyslexic children while reading to create an application that utilized only the standard inbuilt-computer-webcam to screen for dyslexia. Dattamajumdar, 17, a senior at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, California, developed an early warning AI-powered portable system to reduce workload and inspect environmental damage after natural disasters. 

Polkampally, 17, a recent graduate of Ossining High School designed a project that would utilize sugar derived glassy matrices to test a controversial mechanism for N2O3 production within the red blood cell.

Along with the Fellows, Indian-Americans who received Honorable Mentions include Sanjit Bhat, Acton, Massachusetts (Technology); Ayush Krishnamoorti, Bellaire, Texas (Science), Anusha Murali, Concord, New Hampshire (Science), Saaketh Narayan, Phoenix, Arizona (Science), Ruhi Sayana, Cupertino, California (Science), Sharmi Shah, Colonia, New Jersey (Science) Koushik Sridhar, Charlotte, North Carolina (Technology), Paritosh Suri, Plano, Texas (Engineering), and Visala Tallavarjula, Santa Clara, California (Science).

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