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Sita Chandrasekaran, Pooja Chandrashekar, Archana Podury And Ashwin Sah Named Soros Fellows


Sita Chandrasekaran, Pooja Chandrashekar, Archana Podury and Ashwin Sah are among The 2021 Class of Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows of 30 outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants from all over the country and world who are pursuing graduate school here in the United States. Selected from 2,445 applicants, each of the recipients was chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States and will receive up to $90,000 in funding over two years. 

Sita Chandrasekaran

Raised in the Bay Area, Sita Chandrasekaran is the daughter of Indian immigrants. As a child, Sita’s parents encouraged her connection to her roots, and she grew up learning classical South Indian music and dance, performing at local community centers, such as the Livermore Temple, with her sister. 

Sita’s affinity for science was inspired by her father’s work as an aerospace engineer. With her parents’ steady support of her curiosity, Sita became deeply interested in biology and biochemistry. She studied biochemistry at San Francisco State University where she learned the importance of inclusive communities in conducting purposeful and rigorous research. 

While at SF State, Sita worked in Raymond Esquerra’s biochemistry and biophysics lab, where she near-peer mentored over two dozen students in laboratory research and biochemical methods. She also led multiple research projects, resulting in a publication with co-authorship and poster presentations at multiple national and local conferences. Sita joined the first cohort of PINC (Promoting Inclusivity in Computing) students, a minor program for biologists with peer-mentorship to train and increase retention of diverse students in computer science. As she moved through the program, she became a mentor herself, teaching students Python and facilitating research projects.

After spending a summer working part-time refining microscopes for observing plankton behavior in drops of water with Simone Bianco’s lab at IBM Research through the Center for Cellular Construction NSF-STC, Sita was inspired to join the UCSF-UCB joint bioengineering PhD program. She then joined the lab of Patrick Hsu at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, upon which the lab switched focus to developing a fast and scalable diagnostic. After finishing her training, Sita aims to have a research career in developing therapeutics.


  • BS Biochemistry, Computer Applications, Chinese Language | San Francisco State University 2019
  • PhD Bioengineering | University of California, Berkeley

Pooja Chandrashekar

Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Pooja Chandrashekar is the daughter of immigrants from Bangalore, India who came to the United States to pursue their graduate educations. Pooja’s parents are both engineers and taught her to think critically and build solutions to problems around her, while her great-grandfather’s role as a leader in the Indian independence movement inspired her commitment to equity and public service.

As an undergraduate at Harvard College, Pooja received an AB in biomedical engineering. She pursued projects at the intersection of engineering and medicine, including developing a medical device to provide behavioral therapy for autistic adolescents and an online platform to detect environmental health hazards. After graduating, she pursued a Fulbright Scholarship in Goa, India, where she researched the impact of stigma on autistic children in rural communities. These experiences highlighted the profound impact of health inequities and led her to pursue health policy research at the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Health Service England, and Crimson Care Collaborative.

Pooja is currently a MD/MBA student at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School. Her work focuses on improving healthcare delivery for underserved populations. At CareMore Health and SCAN Health Plan, she developed recommendations for improving the care of frail and vulnerable seniors through telemedicine and home-based care. She has published more than a dozen papers in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored an upcoming book chapter on reforming the US healthcare system for older adults. Pooja also serves as the managing assistant editor for Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation, a peer-reviewed medical journal. Most recently, she started the COVID-19 Health Literacy Project to create and translate COVID-19 information into 40+ languages for non-English speaking patients sidelined during the pandemic. For her contributions and passion for advancing healthcare, she was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 Healthcare list.         

Pooja is also an ardent advocate for education equity. She is the founder and CEO of ProjectCSGIRLS, an international nonprofit dedicated to encouraging middle school girls in STEM, for which she received the Harvard Medical School Dean’s Community Service Award. To date, the organization has reached over 15,000 girls in 12 countries. Pooja speaks widely about the importance of diversity in science and has given three TEDx talks on the subject. Pooja aspires to pursue a career as a physician and leader dedicated to building a more equitable healthcare system.


  • AB Biomedical Engineering, Global Health and Health Policy | Harvard University 2018
  • MD Medicine | Harvard University
  • MBA Business | Harvard University

Archana Podury

Archana Podury was born in Mountain View, California, to parents who emigrated from India in search of educational opportunities for their children. Shortly after, her family returned to India for five years so Archana could share the daily lives of her grandparents and deeply explore her heritage. With a childhood divided between two countries, Archana acutely felt her parents’ selflessness as she understood the home that they gave up for their children’s futures.

Watching her grandmother live with neuropathic pain shaped Archana’s desire to understand complex, yet perturbable, networks in the brain. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, she worked with Professor Jesse Goldberg to study neural circuits underlying motor learning. Her growing interest in whole-brain dynamics led her to the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Neuralink, where she discovered how brain-machine interfaces could be used to understand diffuse networks in the brain. Archana was awarded various fellowships in support of her work, including the Hunter R. Rawlings Presidential Research Scholarship and the Zuckerman Prize for Bioengineering Research.

While studying neural circuits, Archana worked at a syringe exchange in Ithaca, New York, where she witnessed firsthand the mechanics of court-based drug rehabilitation. Listening to patients’ stories deepened her conviction that science alone could not capture multiple dimensions of health and disease, which paved her path towards medicine.

Now in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, Archana is interested in combining computational and social approaches to neuropsychiatric disease. In the Boyden Lab at the MIT McGovern Brain Institute, she is developing human brain organoid models to better characterize circuit dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders. Concurrently, she is working in the Dhand Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to apply network science tools to understand how patients’ social environments influence their health outcomes following acute neurological injury. She hopes focusing on both neural and social networks can lend towards a more comprehensive, and compassionate, approach to health and disease.


  • BA Biological Sciences (Neurobiology & Behavior) | Cornell University 2018
  • MD Medicine | Harvard University

Ashwin Sah

Ashwin Sah is the son of Indian immigrants who came to the United States in pursuit of higher education. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, some of Ashwin’s earliest and fondest memories are of his mother teaching him arithmetic. Ashwin’s parents imparted a deep respect for learning, and his family supported him in all his academic endeavors, including his participation in mathematics competitions which deepened his early interest in mathematics.

Ashwin developed a passion for mathematics research as an undergraduate at MIT, where he had the fortune to work with Professor Yufei Zhao, as well as at the Duluth and Emory REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs. Ashwin has given talks on his work at multiple professional venues, and his research in varied areas of combinatorics and discrete mathematics culminated in receiving the Barry Goldwater Scholarship as well as the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student. Additionally, his work on diagonal Ramsey numbers was recently featured in Quanta Magazine.

Beyond research, Ashwin has taken opportunities to give back to the math community that has supported him, helping to organize or grade competitions such as the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament and the USA Mathematical Olympiad. He has also been a grader at the Mathematical Olympiad Program, a camp for talented high-school students in the US, and an instructor for the Monsoon Math Camp, a virtual program aimed at teaching higher mathematics to high school students in India.

Ashwin is now engaged in a PhD in mathematics at MIT, continuing to work with Professor Zhao. 


  • BS Mathematics | Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 2020
  • PhD Mathematics | Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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