5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Five Indian-Americans are among 30 recipients of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Founded by Hungarian immigrants, Daisy M. Soros and her late husband Paul Soros, the program honors continuing generations of immigrant contributions to the U.S.

Indian-Americans selected for the 2019 fellowships include Sunil Kumar Joshi, Shamik Masharak, Samir Paul, Indira Puri and Shreyas Vissapragada.

According to the foundation, this year’s fellows, selected from a pool of 1,767 applicants, are all the children of immigrants, green card holders, naturalized citizens, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients. In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, the new fellows join the prestigious community of recipients from past years, which includes individuals such as former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, economist Parag Pathak, among others.

5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Sunil Kumar Joshi 

According to his profile on the foundation website, Joshi is working on a MD/PhD in Medicine and Cancer Biology at Oregon Health & Science University. He was born in Vallejo, California, to immigrants from India. Joshi had to initially overcome his own struggle with English to take on part-time jobs to support his family. That, the foundation says, “instilled within Joshi a sense of confidence, leadership skills, and a strong work ethic.” He developed an interest in medicine and science stems from for his grandfather who suffered from hypertension and prostate cancer. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Joshi worked at UC San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a research associate and medical assistant at an outpatient HIV clinic. “His time at UCSF cemented his desire to become a clinician-scientist,” the press release says. Apart from his interest in medicine and science, Joshi, the press release says “is equally passionate about increasing and retaining racial diversity in the biomedical sciences and as such has been involved in numerous initiatives in Portland.”

5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Shamik Masharak

Born in Santa Cruz, California, Mascharak is currently enrolled in a PhD/MD program in Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine and Medicine at Stanford University. The importance of service to others and lifelong learning was instilled in Mascharak by his parents, who were educators, the foundation says. His father’s cholecystectomy prompted Mascharak to mull over the mechanisms underlying gallstone formation. He conducted a research on the subject and his project on the same won him first place award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. To connect his engineering research to real patients, he began shadowing and volunteering at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Stanford Cancer Center. Here, he confronted the stark gap between scientific and clinical realities, committed himself to serving patients as a surgeon-scientist, the foundation says.

5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Samir Paul 

Paul, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018, has worked as a field staffer for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, where he was in charge of five battleground counties in rural Wisconsin. The educator-activist is pursuing a JD in Law at Columbia University. He is committed to expanding economic opportunity and helping sustain and reform public institutions, the foundation says. Paul graduated with a computer science degree from Harvard University. He first came to teaching through Teach For America on an Amgen Fellowship, awarded to TFA’s top 50 nationwide science/math recruits. He earned his master’s in teaching from American University and worked as an Algebra II teacher in a majority-immigrant public high school. In 2011, he started the only AP Computer Science class in DC Public Schools, teaching extra after-school and Saturday-morning sessions to give his students additional class time. Later, he spent four years teaching computer science in the exact same Maryland public-school classroom where he had once been a student. In 2016, Paul was named Montgomery County Rising Star Teacher of the Year, and in 2017, the National Education Association identified him as one of its 30 Under 30 educators. Paul has been member and leader of his union, the Montgomery County Education Association, where he has helped organize the county’s 13,000 teachers. Paul also began the STEM Talent Pipeline program whichprovides three years of accelerated after-school math coursework to 40 female, low-income, and underrepresented minority third graders, setting them on a path to elite math and technology careers. Paul currently sits on the boards of the Committee for Montgomery, the Action Committee for Transit, and the Bethesda Urban Partnership, and he works as an instructional coach for the University of Maryland’s College of Education.

5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Indira Puri

Puri is a PhD candidate in economics at MIT. She was born in New York to Indian immigrants. With degrees in mathematics, computer science, and economics, Puri draws on her multifaceted experience in approaching research. Her awards include Stanford’s Firestone Medal, a best thesis award, the J.E Wallace Sterling Scholarship, for being one of the top 25 graduating students across Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences, being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa her junior year, chess and debate recognition at the national level, and being named a United States Presidential Scholar. Puri has served as president of Stanford’s chess organization, and graduate co-chair of Stanford Women in Computer Science.

5 Indian-Americans receive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Shreyas Vissapragada

Vissapragada was born in Hyderabad, India, and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was one. He grew up in tightly woven communities of Indian immigrants, mostly Telugu-speaking, in the suburbs of Detroit and Chicago. The frameworks of collaboration defining these communities had a profound impact on Shreyas’s approach to problem-solving.

This appreciation led him to study astrophysics and computer science at Columbia University, after which he began working on the chemical environments in which planets and their host stars are born. His research earned him a Barry Goldwater Scholarship and a USRA James B. Willett Educational Memorial Scholarship, and eventually took him overseas to Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, where he set the foundations for his bachelor’s thesis on complex chemistry in pre-planetary systems. Vissapragada is continuing his research into planetary and pre-planetary systems at Caltech.

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