P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Vaibhav Mohanty, 2023

MD/PhD, Harvard University

Vaibhav Mohanty is the child of immigrants from India

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MD/PhD in Chemistry at Harvard University

Vaibhav Mohanty was born in Durham, North Carolina to his parents, Sangeeta and Bidyut, who immigrated from Odisha, India to the United States to pursue academic research careers in biology. When Vaibhav was two, he and his parents moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where Vaibhav grew up and began to gain his footing as a classical and jazz music composer, arranger, pianist, and saxophonist and as a scientific researcher.

Accepted to Harvard College at age 15, Vaibhav graduated in 2019 with a master's degree in chemistry (theory) and a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in chemistry and physics and a minor in music. While at Harvard, he was also inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society as part of Harvard's Junior 24 and received a 2018 Barry Goldwater Scholarship for his physics research. As an undergraduate and master’s student, Vaibhav’s published research papers spanned a number of interdisciplinary topics across the sciences and even music, including diffusion MRI physics, time-dependent quantum mechanics of graphene, and mathematical and geometrical models of voice leading in music theory.

He received a Marshall Scholarship in 2019 to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford’s Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics, where he worked in the Condensed Matter Theory group with Professor Ard Louis to use statistical physics and spin glass theory to investigate fundamental properties of biological evolution. Vaibhav received his first PhD (DPhil) in 2022, having submitted his dissertation titled “Robustness of Evolutionary and Glassy Systems” in under two years, at the age of 22.

Vaibhav’s current goal is to extend his physics-based theories of evolution to understand how molecular-level structural changes in proteins can induce changes in evolutionary fitness of viruses and cancers. He aspires to develop novel therapeutic approaches to combat diseases subject to evolution on fast timescales and to treat patients with such diseases. To pursue this endeavor, Vaibhav returned to Boston to attend the combined MD/PhD program between Harvard Medical School and MIT, where he is pursuing medical training as well as a second PhD (in chemistry) and working with Professor Eugene Shakhnovich.

As a composer, Vaibhav’s national award-winning large wind ensemble and chamber works have been published by JPM Music Publications (Missouri), Lighthouse Music Publications (Ontario, Canada), Radnofsky-Couper Editions (Massachusetts), and C.L. Barnhouse Publications (Iowa), and are distributed and performed regularly around the US and in many parts of the world. He also actively performs as a jazz pianist around the US.

Education
  • MD | Harvard University 2029
  • PhD Chemistry | Harvard University 2027
  • PhD Theoretical Physics | University of Oxford 2022
  • AB Chemistry and Physics | Harvard University 2019
  • AM Chemistry | Harvard University 2019
Awards
  • ODISHA SOCIETY OF AMERICAS ARTIST HONOREE
  • Marshall Scholar
  • Barry M. Goldwater Scholar
  • NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR MUSIC EDUCATION (NAfME) STUDENT COMPOSERS COMPETITION WINNER
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