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Scholars With Exceptional Promise: Six Indian American Professors Among 171 Guggenheim Fellows of 2023

Scholars With Exceptional Promise: Six Indian American Professors Among 171 Guggenheim Fellows of 2023

  • They were chosen from a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants based on prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Five Indian Americans are among a diverse group of 171 Guggenheim Fellows of 2023 the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced this week. They include Prineha Narang (Physics), Anima Anandkumar and Venkatesan Guruswami, (Computer Science); Abraham Verghese (General Nonfiction); Projit Bihari Mukharji (History of Science, Technology, & Economics); and Leela Prasad (South & Southeast Asian Studies).

This year’s Fellows were “chosen from a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants based on prior achievement and exceptional promise,” the foundation said in an April 5 press release. Aged 31 to 85, they come from 48 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 72 different academic institutions, 24 states and the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.

According to Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, “the new class of Fellows has followed the calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding. We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”

Professor Prineha Narang is a renowned physicist and materials scientist, known for her groundbreaking work in the field of nanomaterials and their applications in energy and information technologies. Born in India, Narang grew up in several different countries, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, due to her father’s career as a mechanical engineer. Narang received her Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Toronto in 2007, where she was awarded the prestigious Governor General’s Medal for her academic achievements. She then pursued her graduate studies at Harvard University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Applied Physics in 2012. As UCLA’s Howard Reiss Professor of Physical Sciences. Narang’s research aims to better understand the dynamics of nonequilibrium states in nature. The physical world — from gas giants in the solar system to living organisms, and even particles — exists in a state of nonequilibrium, making her studies essential to understanding how complex physical events unfold. In addition to her research, Narang is also passionate about science education and outreach. She has organized numerous workshops and outreach events aimed at engaging young people, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, in science and technology. Narang is also a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in science and serves on several committees dedicated to promoting these values.

Anima Anandkumar is the Bren Professor of Computing at the California Institute of Technology. She is a director of Machine Learning Research at NVIDIA, a multinational technology company based in Santa Clara, California. Her research considers tensor-algebraic methods, deep learning and non-convex problems. research interests are in the areas of large-scale machine learning, non-convex optimization and high-dimensional statistics, according to her university profile. She received her B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and her Ph.D. from Cornell University. She did her postdoctoral research at MIT and an assistant professorship at the University of California Irvine. She has received several honors such as the IEEE fellowship, Alfred. P. Sloan Fellowship, NSF Career Award, and Faculty Fellowships from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Adobe. She is part of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network. 

Venkatesan Guruswami is a Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of EECS, a senior scientist at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, and a Professor of Mathematics at UC Berkeley. He received his B. Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in Computer Science. He was a Miller Research Fellow at UC Berkeley during 2001-02 and previously held faculty positions in Computer Science at the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University before moving to his current position in January 2022. His research interests span many areas of theoretical computer science and related mathematics, including error correction, approximate optimization, randomness in computing, and computational complexity. He has served the theory of computing community in several leadership roles, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the ACM and editor for Theoretics He is the recipient of a Simons Investigator award, the Presburger Award, Packard and Sloan Fellowships, the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award, and an IEEE Information Theory Society Paper Award. He was an invited speaker at the 2010 International Congress of Mathematicians. He is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 

Abraham Verghese is a professor and Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor, and vice chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the School of Medicine at Stanford University. He is also a best-selling author. He received the Heinz Award in 2014 and was awarded the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama, in 2015. Born in Addis Ababa in 1955, the second of three sons of Indian parents recruited by Emperor Haile Selassie to teach in Ethiopia, he grew up near the capital and began his medical training there. When the emperor was deposed, he briefly joined his parents in the United States, working as an orderly, or nursing assistant, in a series of hospitals and nursing homes before completing his medical education in India at Madras Medical College. After graduation, he left India for a medical residency in the United States and, like many other foreign medical graduates, he found only the less popular hospitals and communities open to him, an experience he described in a 1997 New Yorker article, “The Cowpath to America.” From Johnson City, Tennessee, where he was an internal medicine resident from 1980 to 1983, he moved to the Northeast for a fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine, working at Boston City Hospital for two years. He took a break from medicine to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He graduated in 1991 and returned to doctoring, taking a position as professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso, Texas. He wrote of his experience fighting the AIDS epidemic in his first book, “My Own Country,” published in 1994 to critical acclaim. His other books include “The Covenant of Water,” “Cutting for Stone,” and “The Tennis Partner,”

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Projit Bihari Mukharji is a professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His training was firmly within the Subaltern Studies tradition, and he continues to work within that tradition of scholarship, his university profile says. He is interested in issues of marginality and marginalization both within and through science. Currently, he is working on a history of human differences and race in 20th-century South Asia. He has authored two monographs — “Nationalizing the Body: The Medical Market, Print and Daktari Medicine (London, 2009) and “Doctoring Traditions: Ayurveda, Small Technologies and Braided Sciences” (Chicago, 2016) — alongside numerous journal articles and three co-edited volumes.

Leela Prasad is a professor of Religious Studies, and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University. Her primary interests are the anthropology of ethics, with a focus on South Asia, gender, narrative, colonialism & decoloniality, prison pedagogy and Gandhi, and religion and modernity, according to her university profile. She was elected vice president of the American Academy of Religion in November 2022. She will become its President-Elect in 2023, and President in 2024. She has a Ph.D. in Folklore & Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, and two M.A.s in English from the University of Hyderabad and also from Kansas State University. She has received fellowships and awards from the American Academy of Religion, the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Philosophical Society. Her first book, “Poetics of Conduct,” won the American Academy of Religion’s prize for “Best First Book in History of Religions.” Her second book, “The Audacious Raconteur” was published in 2020. She is co-convener of a Humanities Unbounded Lab at Duke titled “‘Asia’ in the Making of American Religiosity.”

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