Shyam Kiran Akula, Washington University Class of 2016, has been awarded The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a merit-based fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants.
30 Fellows were selected from 2,211 applicants for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States. They will each receive up to $90,000 to support their graduate work.
Akula was raised by immigrant parents who were forced to leave India in 1990 due to the Gulf War. Akula’s parents moved to southern California to bring stability to their lives.
At Washington University in St. Louis, Akula majored in neurobiology and worked in a pediatric neurology clinic at St. Louis Children’s Hospital where he became passionate about investigating rare diseases and caring for families facing these conditions.
Since his sophomore year of college, he worked in the laboratory of Joseph Dougherty, associate professor of genetics and of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, on neurodevelopmental disorder risk factors.
“Shyam is a wonderfully enthusiastic scientist - insightful and excited about everything he pursued, and a joy to collaborate with both personally and professionally. He had a lasting impact on our science as approaches he built in the lab we continue to use today. I am very happy to see him being honored by this award, and I look forward to seeing what his future will bring,” expressed Dougherty.
“Shyam is a wonderfully enthusiastic scientist - insightful and excited about everything he pursued, and a joy to collaborate with both personally and professionally. He had a lasting impact on our science as approaches he built in the lab we continue to use today."
His thesis work in the Dougherty lab under the mentorship of Dougherty and postdoctoral scholar Susan Maloney, who is now Instructor in Psychiatry, won the Department of Biology’s Quatrano Prize for its creativity and rigor.
“His achievements in our lab were celebrated by him receiving the inaugural Quatrano prize awarded for creativity in design, research methodology and broader scientific implications of his senior research thesis,” recalled Maloney.
“Shyam set the bar for undergraduate researchers - he excelled in his scientific training and had an understanding of the clinical relevance of our projects that few undergrads ever achieve - plus he was a pleasure to work with. We wish him all the best in what will no doubt be an incredible career,” continued Maloney.
Akula is currently enrolled in the Harvard-MIT MD/Ph.D. program where he is training as both a physician and scientist; he was named the 2017-2019 Harvard Stem Cell Institute MD/Ph.D. Fellow. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Professor Christopher Walsh; he is doing research on rare genetic diseases of cortical malformation to understand how specific genes influence normal human brain development.
More information about The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans and the 2020 Fellows can be found here.