6 Indian Americans among 180 Guggenheim Fellows this year



There are six Indian Americans among the 180 scientists, writers, scholars and artists chosen from more than 2,500 applicants for the 97th Guggenheim Fellowships, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced April 7.

In all, 51 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 81 different academic institutions, 31 states and the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces are represented in this year’s class of Fellows who range in age from 33 to 75.

Close to 60 Fellows have no full-time college or university affiliation. The projects of many of the Fellows directly respond to issues like climate change, pandemics, Russia, feminism, identity and racism.

“Now that the past two years are hopefully behind all of us, it is a special joy to celebrate the Guggenheim Foundation’s new class of Fellows,” Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation and 1985 Fellow in Poetry, said in a press note.

“This year marks the foundation’s 97th annual Fellowship competition,” he continued. “Our long experience tells us what an impact these annual grants will have to change people’s lives. The work supported by the foundation will aid in our collective effort to better understand the new world we are in, where we have come from, and where we are going. It is an honor for the foundation to help the Fellows carry out their visionary work.”

The six Indian-American Fellows are Manisha Sinha(Above middle), Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut; Jyoti Puri(First from left), Hazel Dick Leonard Chair and professor of sociology, Simmons University; Suparna Rajaram(Above top Right), distinguished professor in cognitive science, Stony Brook University of New York; Manjul Bhargava(Above bottom Right), Brandon Fradd, Class of 1983, professor of mathematics, Princeton University; Shrikanth Narayanan(Above bottom Middle), University professor and Nikias Chair in Engineering, University of Southern California; Prashant K Jain(Above bottom Right), professor of chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Prof Sinha, who has received the fellowship in the Historian category, is a leading authority on the history of slavery and its abolition in the United States and the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Born in India, she received her PhD from Columbia University, where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft Prize.

She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina, named one of the 10 best books on slavery by Politico in 2015 and featured recently in The New York Times newspaper’s 1619 Project.

Her multiple award-winning second monograph, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, was long listed for the National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

Prof Puri of Simmons University, who has been honored in the Sociology category, writes and teaches at the crossroads of sociology, sexuality studies, death studies and postcolonial feminist theory. Her most abiding interests relate to issues of sexuality, gender, race, nation, state, death, and religion from a transnational/postcolonial feminist lens.

Prof Rajaram, who has received the honor in the Psychology category, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Academy members are world leaders in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy and public affairs.

“Our lab conducts research on human learning and memory with an emphasis on the social aspects of memory,” she said. “The aim is to understand how social influences shape memory and learning, the transmission of memory in groups and social networks, social shaping and transmission of emotional memories, and the emergence of collective memory.”

The professor, who hails from Bengaluru, co-chairs the Psychonomic Society’s Carbon Neutrality Task Force (2020-2024) and serves as a member of the Psychonomic Society Covid-19 Work Group. She is also a member of the AAAS Electorate Nominating Committee (2020-23) and is serving a three-year term as an elected member on the American Psychological Association’s Board of Scientific Affairs (2021-23).

Princeton University mathematician Manjul Bhargava was awarded the 2014 Fields Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics, in recognition of his work in the geometry of numbers. The International Mathematical Union (IMU) presents the medal every four years to researchers under the age of 40 based on the influence of their existing work and their “promise of future achievement”.

Prof Shrikanth Narayanan, who has been awarded the fellowship in the Computer Science category, currently holds the Niki and Max Nikias Chair in Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) and is a professor in the Signal and Image Processing Institute of USC’s Ming Hsieh Electrical and Computer Engineering department with joint appointments as Professor in Computer Science, Linguistics, Psychology, Neuroscience, Pediatrics and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

He received his MS, Engineer and PhD in electrical engineering from UCLA in 1990, 1992 and 1995, respectively, and his Bachelor of Engineering in electrical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy (Madras, India), in 1988.

From 1995 to 2000 he was with AT&T Labs Research, Florham Park, and AT&T Bell Labs, Murray Hill, first as a senior member and later as a principal member of its technical staff.

He is serving as the inaugural vice-president for education for the IEEE Signal Processing Society since 2020.

His research and inventions have led to technology commercialization including through start-ups he co-founded: Behavioral Signals Technologies focused on the telecommunication services and AI-based conversational assistance industry and Lyssn focused on mental health care delivery, treatment and quality assurance.

Prof Jain, who has received the fellowship in Chemistry, received his BTech. from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai and his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Georgia Tech. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley, following which he joined the University of Illinois faculty.

He has affiliations with the Materials Research Lab, the Department of Physics and the Beckman Institute. His research focuses on the understanding and control of light-matter interactions on the nanoscale and the use of confined light for artificial photosynthesis and imaging atomistic dynamics of complex solids and catalysts.

Prof Jain is a member of the IDA/DARPA Defense Science Study Group and lead developer of nanoDDSCAT and nanoDDSCAT+, an open-source computational toolkit for nano-optics and photonics, which has been used to launch over 800,000 simulations by users across the world. He has served as associate head of major projects in the department of chemistry and chair of the chemical physics PhD program.