Six Indian American students win $90,000 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships

Aayush Karan, Akshay Swaminathan, Keerthana Hogirala, Malavika Kannan, Shubhayu Bhattacharyay and Ananya Agustin Malhotra are among the 30 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows chosen for their achievements and their potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States across fields of study

NEW YORK (TIP): Six Indian Americans are among the 30 winners of the 2024 for new Americans, a merit-based graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants.
Selected from 2,323 applicants, the 30 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows are chosen for their achievements and their potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States across fields of study, according to a press release. They each will receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies at institutions across the country. Six Fellows with Indian American heritage in the 2024 class of distinguished new Americans are: Aayush Karan, Akshay Swaminathan, Keerthana Hogirala, Malavika Kannan, Shubhayu Bhattacharyay and Ananya Agustin Malhotra.
Since the Fellowship’s founding 26 years ago, the program has provided more than $80 million in funding, and recipients have studied a range of fields from medicine and the arts to law and business.
“As we welcome these impressive new Fellows to our community, I am filled with pride and hope for the bright futures they will have professionally and as they give back to our country. Their stories demonstrate the strength and vitality inherent in the immigrant identity—they aren’t afraid to take risks and think big,” Daisy Soros, co-founder of the program, said.
“Congratulations to the new Fellows. Celebrating the exceptional cohort of 2024 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows for New Americans, we highlight the remarkable achievements and boundless potential of these outstanding individuals.”
In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, the 2024 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows join a distinguished community of past recipients.
The alumni network includes US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is the first surgeon general of Indian descent and helped lead the national response to Ebola, Zika, and the coronavirus.
The application for the 2025-26 academic year is open and due by October 31, 2024.
Six Fellows with Indian American heritage:
Aayush Karan: Fellowship awarded to support work towards a PhD in quantum science and engineering at Harvard University
Aayush Karan was born to parents who emigrated from India to the United States to conduct research in cancer biology, moving throughout the country—largely in the Midwest—before eventually settling in Wisconsin.
From bedtime Indian folk tales to fantasy novels, to his own parents’ journeys, stories were a central feature of Aayush’s life, compelling him to pursue many avenues of storytelling growing up, including classical piano and creative writing.
His parents’ wholehearted encouragement of these pursuits along with their intense devotion to impactful research fostered a keen desire to establish meaningful relevance to broader audiences and communities—something that has strongly guided Aayush’s passion for scientific research.
Aayush first fell in love with pure mathematics in high school, publishing research in low-dimensional topology for which he was named a Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist and a Davidson fellow.
As an undergraduate at Harvard, he went on to concentrate in computer science, physics, and mathematics with a secondary in economics, graduating summa cum laude in 2023. Aayush was elected marshal of the Junior 24 for Harvard’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and awarded the Sophia Freund Prize for academic standing.
He was also awarded a 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarship for his undergraduate research extending his background in mathematics to highly relevant scientific applications, including designing folding algorithms for RNA sequences, factual correctors for large language models, and compilers for optimization problems on near-term quantum devices.
Aayush is now pursuing classical and quantum computational learning as a PhD student in the Quantum Science and Engineering program at Harvard. In the long run, he hopes to be actively involved in advancing the frontier of artificially intelligent systems and ensuring their broadly transformative potential is safely and effectively realized.
Ananya Agustin Malhotra: Fellowship awarded to support a JD at Yale
Born and raised in Georgia, Ananya Agustin Malhotra is the daughter of immigrants from Obando, Bulacan, Philippines and New Delhi, India. Raised in a bi-cultural and interfaith household, Ananya is deeply motivated by her mother and father’s family histories to advocate for a more just and peaceful future United States foreign policy.
Ananya’s interests lie at the intersection of global history, international law, and peace and security issues. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University with a concentration in the School of Public and International Affairs.
Her undergraduate thesis, based on oral histories with New Mexican Downwinders, explored the human legacies of the 1945 Trinity Test and the US nuclear age. At Princeton, Ananya served as president of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education (SHARE) Peer Program, where she was first introduced to survivor-centered advocacy.
As a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Ananya earned an MPhil in modern European history with distinction, studying the histories of empire and anticolonialism in shaping international order.
Her dissertation research explored the role of epistemology in the global intellectual history of decolonization and has been published in Global Histories and the Journal of the History of Ideas blog.
For the last four years, Ananya has advocated for nuclear disarmament and risk reduction through her research, scholarship, and public commentary. Ananya has worked in Washington, DC at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft to advance policies aimed at fostering a safer and more peaceful world.
Ananya has also worked or held internships at the Logische Phantasie Lab, UN Women, and the European Roma Rights Centre, and is a member of the Younger Generation Leaders Network on Euro-Atlantic Security (YGLN) and the British American Security Information Council’s Emerging Voices Network.
She has authored and co-authored several policy briefs and has collaborated on projects with Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. Some of her other writing and work can be found in Inkstick Media, Antonym Magazine, the American Oxonian, and the Oxford Review of Books.
Akshay Swaminathan: Fellowship awarded to support an MD/PhD in biomedical data science at Stanford University
Akshay Swaminathan was born in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey to Indian immigrants from Tamil Nadu, India. His paternal grandparents immigrated to Westchester, New York in 1969, where they were one of the only Indian families in the area.
They coped with this unfamiliar environment by maintaining a love and connection to their cultural roots, a tie that was inherited by Akshay early in his childhood through learning Carnatic music. His experiences learning Indian music and language taught him the importance of overcoming generational, linguistic, and social barriers to connect with others.
In high school, after discovering an online community of polyglots, Akshay began self-studying foreign languages, eventually developing pedagogical techniques that helped him learn over ten languages.
At Harvard College, he discovered joy in using languages to connect with and serve people from different backgrounds. He served as executive director of Refresh Bolivia, a global health nonprofit, where he and his teammates built a primary healthcare clinic that serves 10,000 indigenous residents in Cochabamba.
He also led Harvard Chinatown ESL, a program offering free English classes to adult Chinese immigrants, and he published five textbooks to teach English to Chinese speakers. He is the founder of Start Speaking —a platform to help language learners build spoken fluency—and has created resources for languages ranging from Quechua to Medical Chinese.
As a data scientist, Akshay builds data-driven tools for patients, clinicians, and policymakers with a focus on real-world deployment. He has over 40 publications applying quantitative methods to problems in healthcare and is the co-author of the book Winning with Data Science, published by Columbia University Press.
At Flatiron Health, Akshay developed methods to analyze observational clinical data to support FDA decision making. As Head of Data Science at Cerebral —a virtual mental health company—he and his team deployed a suicide detection system that has served over 500,000 patients across the US.
Akshay is an MD candidate and Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University and is now pursuing a PhD in biomedical data science. Under the mentorship of Nigam Shah, he is developing approaches to safely and effectively use artificial intelligence to deliver healthcare.
Akshay plans to become a physician who combines data science and medicine to strengthen health systems in low-resource areas.
Keerthana Hogirala: Fellowship awarded to support an MBA/MPP at the University of Chicago
Keerthana Hogirala was born in Tirupati, India and immigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother when she was six. From the outset, her parents worked long hours through multiple jobs to maintain the employment and finances required to extend their immigration and keep their family secure in their new home. To alleviate some of the pressure her parents felt, Keerthana took on responsibilities for her family’s well-being and her and her brother’s education from an early age.
After over a decade of persistent effort, uncertainty, and anxiety, her family finally gained citizenship. This experience taught Keerthana to take nothing for granted, always be prepared for the unknown, and do something meaningful with the opportunities her parents made possible for her.
That last motivator in particular pushed Keerthana to study neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she focused on child development, trauma-informed care, and social welfare.
She also led Volunteer Illini Projects, one of the largest student-run, student-staffed volunteer organizations in the country, and helped scale local non-profits serving marginalized populations. Eventually, during field research for her senior thesis, she realized she felt far more energized and hopeful about working directly with children than pursuing academia.
After graduating, Keerthana became a special education teacher for early childhood students at a Title 1 school in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DC Public Schools). She was confronted daily with structural failures that prevented her vulnerable students from receiving necessary wraparound supports.
To develop systems-level solutions for students, she transitioned to DC Public Schools’ central administration to work for the chief operating officer. In central administration, Keerthana was one of the core leaders managing DC schools’ COVID-19 pandemic response, overall operations, and eventual city-wide school reopening.
To meet the city’s urgent needs during an unprecedented crisis, she introduced innovative new approaches system-wide in operations, strategy, design, and technology. This led to her subsequent role as chief of staff for the chief technology officer where she oversaw the school system’s technology strategy, data governance, and multi-year digital transformation initiative.
Building off her professional experiences, Keerthana is pursuing an MBA and MPP dual degree at the University of Chicago to explore how technology and cross-sector collaboration can be leveraged to create effective, integrated systems of essential services.
Her hope is to address critical public needs and advance social development, particularly for underserved populations. In recognition of her commitment to public service and leadership, Keerthana was one of three full-time students selected by the Booth School of Business to be a Neubauer Civic Scholar and given a full-tuition merit scholarship to pursue her MBA.
Within the Harris School of Public Policy, she is a Harris Merit Scholar and the sole recipient of the Knas Family Scholarship which together awarded her a 90% tuition merit scholarship to pursue her MPP.
Outside of school, she is a member of Leadership Now Project, a government advisor for US Digital Response, a Chicago fellow at New Leaders Council, and a long-time supporter of progressive political and advocacy campaigns.
Malavika Kannan: Fellowship awarded to support an MFA in fiction
Malavika Kannan was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and grew up in Central Florida in a tightly knit community of Indian immigrant families. Her parents both emigrated from South India in the 1990s, and Malavika’s earliest memories include regular visits to the public library with her parents, putting on ridiculous plays with her sister, and listening to stories of Indian mythology from her grandparents. She has known she wants to be a writer for a very long time.
Like many young people in Florida, Malavika grew up aware of the impacts of gun violence, police violence, and racism on her community. Her first consciously, proudly American experience occurred at 16, when she and her high school classmates organized a school-wide walkout against gun violence. As a teenager, Malavika organized safer, juster communities with organizations like March For Our Lives, the Women’s March, and Giffords.
Malavika’s formative experiences as an organizer influence her writing, an art form she views as inherently political, imaginative, and community oriented. Malavika writes about identity, culture, and politics for The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, and The San Francisco Chronicle, amassing an audience of nearly 50,000 online.
During the pandemic, Malavika began writing a young adult novel about a queer Indian American girl growing up, fighting violence, and finding love in Florida. That novel became All the Yellow Suns, a coming-of-age story published by Little & Brown in the summer of 2023. Malavika had the surreal experience of completing a five-stop book tour, being profiled by The Los Angeles Times, and seeing her book in the hands of girls all over.
Now a senior at Stanford University, Malavika has immersed herself in creative writing, South Asian studies, and women’s literature, and will graduate with a BA in comparative studies in race & ethnicity, submitting two honors theses: a research thesis on Dalit women’s environmental writing, and a literary novel about college students during the pandemic.
Malavika will pursue an MFA in fiction to hone her literary craft and prepare for a career as a novelist and professor of literature. She is grateful for all the opportunities she’s been given and hopes to continue writing queer brown girls into the narrative, and to make her family proud.
Shubhayu Bhattacharyay: Fellowship awarded to pursue an MD at Harvard University
Shubhayu Bhattacharyay was born in Kolkata, India and spent his early childhood in Thailand and Vietnam before settling in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Over long-distance phone calls and on the shared family bed, Shubhayu learned his native Bengali language and culture from his grandparents.
An appreciation of his heritage helped Shubhayu cherish the cultural diversity of his predominately immigrant neighborhood and perceive healthcare challenges shared between his communities in India and Los Angeles.
At Johns Hopkins University, Shubhayu double majored in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics and statistics with a minor in Spanish. He was supported by the Milken Scholars Program and graduated with full departmental and Tau Beta Pi honors. During college, Shubhayu founded Auditus Technologies, a company inventing individualizable, accessible hearing devices for adults living with dementia.
Shubhayu started to consider a medical career in the summer after his first year of college, when he met traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors participating in a brain-computer interface study.
Their stories motivated Shubhayu to think of ways his interest in computational neuroscience might contribute towards an improved quality of life after TBI. Mentored by Professor Robert Stevens at Johns Hopkins, Shubhayu invented and published results from the first computational bedside system to sense and classify motor function in TBI patients in the intensive care unit.
In 2020, Shubhayu received a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a PhD in clinical neurosciences at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professors Ari Ercole and David Menon.
For his thesis, Shubhayu developed AI methods which improve the detail of information provided for prognostic counseling and suggest individually optimized treatment plans during the ICU management of TBI. His work has generated publications in leading digital health and neurotrauma journals, open access software packages, and invited talks at international conferences.
During his graduate studies, Shubhayu volunteered at Headway Cambridge and Peterborough, a charity-run rehabilitation center for acquired brain injury survivors, where he helped start an evidence-based program for building psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shubhayu is currently an MD student at Harvard Medical School with aspirations of becoming a physician-engineer in neurocritical or neurosurgical care. At Harvard, he is researching sources of bias in medical AI to protect patient safety and equity in the clinical deployment of decision support systems for TBI care. Shubhayu’s mission is to enhance the precision and global accessibility of TBI care with big data.

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