From AI in Dementia to suicide detection system: Meet Six Indian-Origin Trailblazers who made Indian Immigrant Community Proud

Written on 04/20/2024
Asia91 Team

On April 17th, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans announced their 2024 class of fellows. This program, which focuses on supporting outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants in graduate school, chose 30 people from over 2,300 applicants. Each selected fellow will receive up to $90,000 to help fund their studies at top U.S. universities.


This year, six of the fellows are of Indian-American heritage. They include:




  • Born in Tirupati, India, Keerthana Hogirala moved to the U.S. at age six. Her early years were marked by her parents' long work hours to secure their immigration status and family's future, leading Keerthana to take on significant responsibilities from a young age.


  • Keerthana studied neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, focusing on child development and trauma-informed care. She led one of the nation's largest student volunteer organizations and engaged deeply with local nonprofits.


  • After college, Keerthana taught in a Title 1 early childhood special education program in Washington D.C., then moved to a central administrative role where she helped manage the city's school system during the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing significant operational and technological innovations.


  • Currently pursuing dual MBA and MPP degrees at the University of Chicago, Keerthana is exploring how technology and cross-sector collaboration can advance social development. She has earned prestigious scholarships and remains actively involved in governmental and community leadership roles.


  • Born in Kolkata and raised in Thailand, Vietnam, and Los Angeles, Shubhayu Bhattacharyay learned from his diverse cultural experiences, which fueled his interest in global healthcare challenges.


  • Graduated from Johns Hopkins with honors in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics, founded Auditus Technologies to create accessible hearing devices.


  • Pursued a PhD at Cambridge, developing A.I. tools for better TBI care in ICUs, resulting in impactful publications and software.


  • Now an M.D. student at Harvard, Shubhayu is researching bias in medical A.I. and aims to specialize in neurocritical or neurosurgical care, using big data to improve global TBI treatment.



  • Malavika Kannan was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and raised in a close-knit community of Indian immigrant families in Central Florida. Influenced by her heritage, she enjoyed activities like visiting the library, performing plays, and listening to Indian mythology stories told by her grandparents. She has aspired to be a writer from a young age.


  • Growing up in Florida, Malavika was deeply aware of gun violence, police violence, and racism. Her activism began at 16 when she organized a school walkout against gun violence. She continued her advocacy with organizations like March For Our Lives and the Women's March, shaping her future writing themes.


  • Malavika writes about identity, culture, and politics for notable publications, including The Washington Post and Teen Vogue, and has garnered an audience of nearly 50,000 online. Her young adult novel, "All the Yellow Suns," explores the life of a queer Indian American girl in Florida.

  • Now a senior at Stanford University, Malavika is studying creative writing, South Asian studies, and women's literature. She is working on two honors theses and plans to pursue an MFA in fiction to further her career as a novelist and literature professor, aiming to continue incorporating queer brown girls into her narratives.


  • Ananya Agustin Malhotra grew up in Georgia as the daughter of immigrants from Obando, Bulacan, Philippines, and New Delhi, India. Raised in a bi-cultural and interfaith household, her family's history deeply motivates her to advocate for a more just and peaceful U.S. foreign policy.


  • Ananya graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University, specializing in Public and International Affairs. Her undergraduate thesis focused on the human impact of the 1945 Trinity Test. At Princeton, she led the SHARE Peer Program, engaging in survivor-centered advocacy.


  • As a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Ananya earned an MPhil in modern European history with distinction. Her research has contributed to the understanding of decolonization's intellectual history and has been recognized in notable academic publications.


  •  Ananya has worked with the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC, advocating for nuclear disarmament and safer global policies. She also held roles at U.N. Women and the European Roma Rights Centre, and continues to influence policy through her writings and involvement in security networks.


  • Aayush Karan grew up surrounded by stories—from Indian folktales to fantasy novels—which were central to his childhood in Wisconsin, where his parents settled after emigrating from India. Encouraged by his parents, who were dedicated to cancer biology research, Aayush explored various creative outlets such as classical piano and creative writing.


  • Aayush's passion for storytelling evolved into a love for pure mathematics during high school, leading to significant research in low-dimensional topology. His work earned him recognition as a Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist and a Davidson fellow.


  • At Harvard University, Aayush pursued an undergraduate degree in computer science, physics, and mathematics, with a secondary in economics, graduating summa cum laude in 2023. His academic excellence was acknowledged with election as a marshal of the Junior 24 for Harvard's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the Sophia Freund Prize, and a Barry Goldwater Scholarship for his innovative research in scientific applications.


  • Currently a PhD student in the Quantum Science and Engineering program at Harvard, Aayush is focusing on classical and quantum computational learning. He aspires to advance the development of artificially intelligent systems, aiming to ensure their transformative potential is realized safely and effectively.



  • Akshay Swaminathan was born in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, into a family with deep roots in Tamil Nadu, India. His paternal grandparents, who moved to Westchester, New York in 1969, maintained a strong connection to their Indian heritage, which influenced Akshay from a young age through his learning of Carnatic music.


  • In high school, Akshay engaged with an online community of polyglots, sparking his passion for languages. He developed his own learning techniques and eventually became proficient in over ten languages, using his skills to connect with diverse communities.


  • At Harvard College, Akshay was the executive director of Refresh Bolivia, helping to build a healthcare clinic that serves 10,000 indigenous residents in Cochabamba. He also led the Harvard Chinatown ESL program, providing free English classes to Chinese immigrants and authored five textbooks for English learners.


  • As a data scientist, Akshay has applied his skills in various health-related settings, including at Flatiron Health where he developed methods for analyzing clinical data. At Cerebral, he led a team to deploy a suicide detection system that has reached over 500,000 patients. He is currently an M.D. candidate and Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University, pursuing a PhD in biomedical data science with a focus on using A.I. in healthcare.


  • Akshay aims to merge his expertise in data science with medicine to improve healthcare systems, especially in regions with limited resources.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships program


The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships program is designed to support immigrants and the children of immigrants who are pursuing graduate studies in the United States. Each year, the program selects a group of exceptional students from a large pool of applicants — this year, 30 were chosen from more than 2,300 candidates. These students are recognized for their potential to significantly contribute to the U.S. in various fields such as medicine, law, business, and the arts. Each fellow receives up to $90,000 over two years to help fund their education.

Since its inception 26 years ago, the fellowship has provided over $80 million to support students who bring diverse perspectives and backgrounds to their studies and future careers.

The 2024 class of Soros Fellows includes several notable firsts: It's the first time the fellowship has supported students with heritage from Portugal, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. It also includes students from several universities that haven't previously had fellowship recipients, such as the University of Central Florida, the University of Montana, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Texas State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, this year's group includes three Filipino fellows, increasing the total number of Filipino recipients in the program's history to ten.


Download Asia91 Mobile App Today: 

"A Must-Have and Unique App for Indians and South Asians in the U.S."

Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play