P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Syamantak Payra, 2022

PhD, Stanford University

Syamantak Payra is the child of immigrants from India

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University

Syamantak Payra grew up in Houston, Texas immersed in his grandmother's fragrant Bengali cuisine, his grandfather's Bengali folk tales, and the shared experience of devouring as many library books as the family could get their hands on. His academic upbringing was a blend of global span and local nuance: learning arithmetic over Yahoo! Messenger from his grandfather halfway around the world in India, experimenting at home with his scientist parents, conducting school projects partnered with NASA engineers at Johnson Space Center, and competing in spelling bees and science fairs across the United States. Through these avenues and activities, Syamantak not only gained perspectives on bridging gaps between people, but also found passions for language, scientific discovery, and teaching others. 

After watching his grandmother struggle with asthma & COPD and losing his baby brother to brain cancer, Syamantak devoted himself to trying to use technology to solve healthcare challenges. Syamantak's proudest accomplishments include building a robotic leg brace for his paralyzed teacher and conducting free literacy workshops and STEM outreach programs that reached nearly a thousand underprivileged students across the Greater Houston Area. 

In 2022, Syamantak completed his undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in electrical engineering and computer science, with minors in public policy and entrepreneurship & innovation. Syamantak worked in Professor Yoel Fink's research laboratory, creating digital sensor fibers that have been woven into intelligent garments that can assist in diagnosing illnesses, and in Professor Joseph Paradiso's research laboratory, where he contributed to next-generation spacesuit prototypes that better protect astronauts on spacewalks. Syamantak’s research has been published by multiple scientific journals, and he was inducted into the National Gallery of America’s Young Inventors.

By pursuing a PhD in engineering, Syamantak aims to create new biomedical devices that can help improve daily life for patients worldwide. In the long term, he hopes to draw upon his public policy training and shape American educational and scientific ecosystems that will empower upcoming generations to continue learning, creating, and improving healthcare for decades to come.

  • BS Electrical Engineering | Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 2022
  • PhD Electrical Engineering | Stanford University
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