Caltech graduate student Shreyas Vissapragada has been awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. The program awards outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States with a $90,000 graduate school fellowship.
"Being a new American has deeply informed the ways in which I try to contribute to my field, and, as such, it's a true honor to be named a P. D. Soros fellow, and to join such an incredible community of New American scholars," Vissapragada says. "Science is a collective story, one that we all tell together, and I'm beyond proud to represent my heritage while I participate in this grand endeavor."
Vissapragada has been at Caltech since 2017 studying the chemistry of planetary and pre-planetary systems. Among other things, he has recently searched for new molecules in Venus's atmosphere and measured the densities of super-Earths outside of the solar system. His work focuses on finding new ways to determine what a given planet is made of and, in turn, what that can tell researchers about that planet's history.
Vissapragada was born in Hyderabad, India, and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was a year old. He grew up in Detroit and Chicago's mostly Telugu-speaking Indian immigrant communities, whose collaborative spirit he credits as having a profound impact on his approach to problem-solving. He further credits NOVA and Bill Nye the Science Guy for inspiring an appreciation and interest in the cosmos, which ultimately led him to study astrophysics and computer science at Columbia University.
His research earned him several awards, including a Barry Goldwater Scholarship and a James B. Willett Educational Memorial Scholarship from the Universities Space Research Association. Since arriving at Caltech, Vissapragada has collaborated on research with Konstantin Batygin, assistant professor of planetary science and Van Nuys Page Scholar; Heather Knutson, professor of planetary science; Dimitri Mawet, associate professor of astronomy and JPL research scientist; and many others.
Vissapragada is among 30 fellows selected from a pool of 1,767 applicants. The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program was founded by Hungarian immigrants Daisy M. Soros and her late husband Paul Soros (1926–2013).