U-M students chosen for new STEM fellowship

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Three University of Michigan doctoral candidates and an alumna have been selected for the inaugural cohort of the Quad Fellowship, a program designed to spur interdisciplinary scientific and technological innovation while building ties among the next generation of STEM leaders.

Fellows from Australia, India, Japan and the United States, known as the “quad countries,” will receive a one-time award of $50,000, which can be used for tuition, research, fees, books, room and board, and related academic expenses. The program also includes a cross-cultural exchange, cohortwide trips and mentorship.

Beginning in August and extending through the 2023-24 academic year, fellows will participate in regular virtual and in-person workshops on various themes, including the intersection of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and society, ethics and innovation and emerging technologies.

Doctoral candidates Elana Goldenkoff, Divya Ramesh and Mohammad Aamir Sohail are part of the inaugural cohort of 100 STEM students. A fourth fellow with U-M ties is Sophia Simon, who graduated from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology at the University of California, Davis.

“I applied to Quad because of its mission to use science to advance societal good and promote international and interdisciplinary science collaboration between the four countries,” said Goldenkoff, a School of Kinesiology graduate student.

“As a fellow, I will learn about the global research landscape, STEM-related foreign policy, and how to communicate about science to lawmakers and the public across the four quad nations.”

In addition to her Ph.D., Goldenkoff is active with the Big Ten Voting Challenge, Democracy and Debate, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy certificate program. She also works with Women in Science and Engineering to develop co-curricular activities to teach students skills in science communication, research ethics, and data usage in advocacy efforts.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to build a cross-cultural and knowledge exchange network with the other fellows and for the program’s mentoring and career development,” Goldenkoff said. “I will use the skills I develop as a Quad Fellow to empower the next generation of scientific leaders to be socially conscious and civically engaged in their local, national and global communities.”

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This cohort of Quad Fellows is a diverse and dynamic group of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. They are studying 16 fields, ranging from astronomy, oceanography and biology to engineering, computer science and mathematics.

As a Quad Fellow, Sohail wants to explore and interact with top leaders in science and technology and build a network between academia and industry.

“That will help me to bring the use of quantum computing to the ground for solving the enormous humanitarian crisis, including climate change, health care and disaster management,” he said. 

Earlier this year, Sohail took time from his normal work as an electrical and computer engineering doctoral student to help mentor a team of 11 students at the 10th annual NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in Abu Dhabi. The goal was to create a program that would apply one or more quantum algorithms to a social good problem.

“Being a part of such a prestigious cohort will always serve as a great source of motivation for me,” Sohail said. “Quantum computing is a promising advancing technology that has the potential to tackle countless societal problems.”

Ramesh explores algorithmic accountability models for ensuring safe interactions between marginalized users and high-risk artificial intelligence systems. She is a passionate advocate for equity and inclusion in spaces around her and strives to incorporate this lens in her research.

Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., Ramesh led the research efforts at CloudSight Inc., where she architected the company’s first human-AI interaction pipeline that powered the award-winning accessibility app, TapTapSee.

(Note: This article has been updated from its original version to include Divya Ramesh, who was inadvertently omitted intitially.)

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