The British Government and Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission recently announced its 2020 Marshall Scholars class, with two Indian Americans named among the 46 students chosen by the eight regional committees.

Among the scholars chosen for the opportunity to pursue two years of graduate study in any subject at any academic institution in the United Kingdom were Praveena Fernes and Amar Bhardwaj.

Fernes, of Tulane University, will head to the U.K. for studies at The School of Oriental and African Studies; Bhardwaj, of Columbia University, will pursue studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Fernes will study at The School of Oriental and African Studies in Environment, Politics, and Development in her first year and for a Master of Science degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Public Health in her second year. Fernes is from Fremont, California. She is Tulane University’s 24th Marshall Scholar.

​​​​​In 2018, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Tulane University, where she graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and with departmental honors.

Her honors thesis was entitled “Storytelling Used as a Public Health Tool: Healthy Living and Food Access in New Orleans” and her committee members included Professors Elisabeth Gleckler, Jylana Sheats, and Rebecca Mark.

This project serves as a testament not only to her intellectual curiosity and dedication to engaged scholarship, but to her commitment to leadership in the field of public health, promoting awareness and finding realistic solutions to pressing public health issues that have measurable impact on human lives, the Tulane bio said.

Fernes’ research includes the perspectives of those stakeholders whom such solutions affect, and to conduct her research, she incorporated a tool designed by Stanford University, which enlists citizen scientists to engage in storytelling through photography and geocoded audio narratives to identify and prioritize the most pressing issues in the affected community, in this case, the New Orleans community, the bio notes.

At Tulane, she was inducted into the prestigious William Wallace Peery Society and was awarded the Community Service Fellowship and the Presidential Scholarship.

Fernes was awarded a U.S. Student Fulbright Grant in 2019 to pursue a research project in Rasi Salai, Thailand. She is conducting citizen-science research in dam-affected wetlands communities along the Mekong River with Stanford University’s Our Voice Framework to better understand community health and built environment issues.

In addition, since 2017, Fernes has served as director of Storytelling and Partnerships with the Radical Grandma Collective. Here she connects traditional Thai weavers to the global marketplace so they can sell their scarves to raise funds to combat environmental injustice in their community of Na Nong Bong. She also develops online storytelling content and initiates partnerships with National Geographic to promote women supporting women in environmental justice work, according to the bio.

Working jointly with Professors Daniel Esposito of chemical engineering and Ngai Yin Yip of earth and environmental engineering, Bhardwaj has already spent two years investigating catalysts for solar fuels and new techniques for seawater desalination, aiming for innovations that can make sustainable technologies more competitive in the marketplace, according to his Columbia bio.

It’s a passion that the Santa Monica- and Hong Kong-raised Bhardwaj discovered in his first year, as a Science Research Fellow at Columbia College, when he began to explore Esposito and Yip’s work. Soon, he was invited to help start up a new joint project between their two labs, ultimately transferring to Columbia Engineering, it said.

“I started this project mostly from scratch with one other undergrad, and not as a direct continuation of previous work,” said Bhardwaj, a C. Prescott Davis Scholar. “For the last year, I’ve been working on it alone—it has been a bit of an atypical arrangement, but it has taught me to take the lead on a research project and think independently on how best to conduct it.”

In 2018, Bhardwaj was among just five college sophomores selected alongside 45 juniors nationwide to receive the prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship recognizing leadership and public service on issues including the environment. The honor came with up to $7000 for his studies and a five-day orientation in Tucson with fellow scholars, Udall alumni, and an array of professionals.

In 2019, Bhardwaj received the fellowship again as a junior, as well as the Goldwater Scholarship, which honors students who show "potential to make a significant contribution to their field."

Bhardwaj strives to raise awareness of environmental issues and help others adopt more sustainable lifestyles. He is lead writer for Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development, overseeing a team of student contributors and serves as the Engineering Student Council’s sustainability representative. He also co-leads Columbia’s EcoReps recycling committee, which works to implement better recycling infrastructure and messaging on campus, the bio added.

The Marshall Scholarship program annually receives over 1,000 applications from top students representing higher education institutions across the United States. Around 40 scholars are selected each year.

The 2020 class will take up their studies at institutions across the UK beginning in September next year.

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