Ten outstanding and accomplished Indian Americans have been named 2018 Guggenheim Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s board of trustees, which awarded a total of 173 Guggenheim Fellowships April 4 to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists.
The Indian American recipients and the fields in which they won the fellowships are: Astronomy-Astrophysics: Shrinivas Kulkarni; Engineering: Arup K. Chakraborty; Neuroscience: Aniruddh D. Patel; South Asian Studies: Archana Venkatesan; Choreography: Aparna Ramaswamy and Ranee Ramaswamy; Film-Video: Parvez Sharma and Nandini Sikand; Photography: Pradip Malde; and Poetry: Srikanth Reddy. In addition, Mequitta Ahuja, of African and Indian descent, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts.
Selected on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation’s 94th competition. In all, 49 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 69 different academic institutions, 31 states, and three Canadian provinces are represented in this year’s class of Fellows, who range in age from 29 to 80.
Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, said: “It’s exceptionally satisfying to name 175 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best.”
Shrinivas (“Shri”) R. Kulkarni is a George E. Hale Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science at California Institute of Technology. He received an MS in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California Berkeley. Kulkarni’s approach to research is to identify emerging areas of astronomy or use new methodologies that can be applied to existing areas of research. Over the past decade Kulkarni focused on systematic exploration of the night sky.
After an early career in guiding the engineering of polymers and catalysts using quantum mechanical calculations, since 2000, Arup Chakraborty’s work has focused on bringing together immunology and the physical and engineering sciences; more specifically, the intersection of statistical mechanics and immunology. He is currently the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, and professor of physics, and chemistry at MIT. After obtaining his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and postdoctoral studies, he joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in December 1988. In September 2005, Chakraborty moved to MIT.
Aniruddh (Ani) Patel is a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University, where he conducts research on music and the brain in the Department of Psychology. His primary work is with humans, and more recently he has also been studying how other animals process music as a window into the evolutionary foundations of music cognition. Patel received a BA in biology from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University.
Archana Venkatesan is associate professor of comparative literature and religious studies at the University of California, Davis. She received her A.A. from De Anza Community College, and her B.A, M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests are in the intersection of text and performance in South India, as well as in the translation of early and medieval Tamil ecstatic poetry into English.
Aparna Ramaswamy is co-artistic director, choreographer, and principal dancer of Ragamala Dance Company with her choreographic partner (and mother) Ranee Ramaswamy. As dancemakers and performers, their creative vision merges the rich traditions and deep philosophical roots of their Indian heritage with their hybridic perspective as first generation Indian Americans.
Filmmaker and author Parvez Sharma grew up in a small town in northern India, just 20 minutes from the Islamic seminary that gave birth to the Taliban, while enrolled at a Catholic (missionary) school called St. Mary’s Academy. In 2006, the U.S. government designated him an “Alien with Extraordinary Abilities.” Sharma took the title of this visa category to heart and for the past decade made fearless, multiple award-winning films about faith, identity, religious extremism, and social justice. With a filmography encompassing three continents, two of his best-known films are ‘A Jihad for Love’ and ‘A Sinner in Mecca’.
Born and raised in New Delhi, Nandini Sikand is a filmmaker, dancer-choreographer, author and cultural anthropologist. Her interdisciplinary work is informed by the fluidity of working between and within the fields of film and media, and dance and performance, in both India and the United States. Sikand is an associate professor at an interdisciplinary film and media studies program at Lafayette College, PA.
Pradip Malde is a photographer and teaches at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN. Much of his work considers the experience of loss and how it serves as a catalyst for regeneration. He is currently working in rural communities in Haiti, Tanzania and Tennessee, designing models for community development through photography
Srikanth Reddy is the author of ‘Voyager’, which was named one of the best books of poetry in 2011 by The New Yorker, The Believer, and National Public Radio. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the doctoral program in English at Harvard University, he is currently an associate professor of English at the University of Chicago.
Artist Mequitta Ahuja’s works have been widely exhibited at such venues as the Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, Saatchi Gallery, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Crystal Bridges, Baltimore Museum of Art and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $360 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Turing Award, National Book Awards, and other important, internationally recognized honors.