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Climate Scientist Sonali Shukla McDermid and Law Professor Neel Sukhatme Named Andrew Carnegie Fellows

Climate Scientist Sonali Shukla McDermid and Law Professor Neel Sukhatme Named Andrew Carnegie Fellows

Staff Writer
  • The 2 Indian Americans who will each receive $200,000 are among 26 individuals named to the 2021 cohort.

With the goal of applying scholarly perspectives to some of society’s most important issues, Carnegie Corporation of New York announced the 2021 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Climate scientist Sonali Shukla McDermid and law professor Neel U. Sukhatme are among the 26 individuals named to the 2021 cohort. They will each receive $200,000 in philanthropic support for “high-caliber scholarly research in the humanities and social sciences that addresses important and enduring issues confronting our society,” according to an announcement from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

McDermid, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Environmental Studies, is also an NYU alumni, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2006. McDermid’s research aims to identify modes of food production that are both environmentally responsible and responsive. To do so, she explores the impact of climate change and variability on agriculture, as well as agriculture’s impact on the environment and climate by considering the industry’s land-management practices. Her scholarship deploys a variety of methodological tools and datasets, including global climate and earth system models as well as process-based crop models. She holds masters, M.Phil., and doctoral degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science. 

As a Carnegie Fellow, McDermid will evaluate how alternative methods can be used to improve rice production while also diminishing the crop’s impact on the environment. The work will focus on key rice-producing regions in Asia and Latin America.

She is affiliated with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), where she helps develop the land surface component of a state-of- the-art climate model. She served as climate co-lead for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, a pioneering effort to assess the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A contributing author to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, she is a recent Fulbright-Kalam Scholarship awardee for her work on climate and agriculture, and serves as the food security section editor for CABI “Agriculture and Bioscience.”

As an economist and a law professor, Sukhatme has long infused his legal work with insights that only empirical research methods can deliver. Now the Carnegie Corporation of New York has awarded him a major prize to investigate a phenomenon the criminal justice system often overlooks: the long-term effects of criminal sanctions on individuals and their families.

Sukhatme, an Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and the Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholar at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, received his Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, where he was awarded the 2014 Towbes Prize for Outstanding Teaching. 

He received his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he served as Notes Editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, Sukhatme clerked for the Hon. Vaughn R. Walker in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and the Hon. Ann Claire Williams on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

Sukhatme is licensed to practice law in Illinois (inactive) and California, and he previously worked at Latham & Watkins LLP. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering (highest honors) with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Illinois. He also co-founded Spindrop, a music technology and Internet radio startup with a novel approach for automatically mixing songs. In 2020, the erudite lawyer co-founded Free Our Vote, a non-partisan, non-profit organization of data scientists, economists, and legal researchers that seeks to restore voting rights for former felons in Florida. 

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The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program honors research that addresses vital and enduring issues in society, granting researchers funding for a sabbatical period to study and write about them. The fellows are chosen by a jury of 14 scholars and academic and intellectual leaders from around the world. The program was launched in 2015 and conceived by Vartan Gregorian, a former history professor and past president of Brown University. Gregorian was president of the Carnegie Corporation from 1997 until his death on April 15. 

This year’s class of 26 fellows was selected from 311 nominations. The group is made up of 18 women and eight men, including one transgender person. The program seeks to include emerging (10) and established scholars (16) from across the country, and to represent public institutions of higher education (14) and private colleges or universities (12). 

As part of the nomination process, 700 individuals — including heads of independent research institutes, societies, and think tanks; university presidents; directors of major university presses; and editors of leading newspapers and magazines — were invited to recommend up to two individuals. All proposals undergo a preliminary, anonymous evaluation by leading authorities in the relevant fields. The top proposals are then forwarded to the jury for a final review and selection. The award is for a period of up to two years and its anticipated result is a book or major study.

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