Pratyusha Kalluri (2017 Fellow) hiking with her parents.
I found the PD Soros Fellowship because, in Fall 2016, I knew that I had fallen in love with AI research, I was applying to PhD programs in computer science to dive deeper into this research, and I was looking for fellowships that would support me—with funding, acknowledgement, and community. But I almost didn’t apply. In fact, after reading several previous Fellows’ profiles, I messaged a friend to say that these stories were beautiful, and also intimidating, leaving me unsure if my experiences, my research, and the ways I spent my time were impactful enough and “New American” enough. Of course, the answer is there is no one way to be impactful, and no one way to be a New American. Eventually, I did apply to the PD Soros Fellowship, because, in the short-term, I really wanted to write the application—to reflect and write a piece of my story—and in the long-run I really wanted to have a community like this.
My fellow PD Soros Fellows! They are artists, musicians, doctors, scientists, political scientists, writers, and leaders. They are thoughtful, playful, and kind. I am grateful for the moments when I have gotten to be in conversation with them as they wax poetic about jazz, send me queer Indian literature, ruminate on their responsibility to their hometown, make big moves, experience devastating failure, experience failure as meditative and simple, tell funny stories, laugh, and support each other. I am lucky to have this group of people believing in me.
In academia, and particularly in science, I often feel like I am supposed to leave myself at home so that I can walk into my research “clear-eyed and sharp.” In reality, I am at my best—as a human and as a researcher—when I bring my whole self into everything I do. The PD Soros Fellows give me examples of what it looks like to be deeply oneself and do beautiful things.
If you’re wondering if you’re qualified to apply, you’re qualified to apply! As you prepare to write your application, I encourage you to reflect and then tell a piece of your story, whatever that is. Applying itself can be joyful—I actually found writing my New American essay to be a pretty meaningful experience!
I am currently two years into my PhD at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where I am co-advised by brilliant and supportive Professors Stefano Ermon and Dan Jurafsky. This summer, I am also doing research on the Clarity Team at OpenAI. My research focuses on discovering and creating conceptual reasoning inside machine learning models.
Every day, I am learning to do great AI research. Many days, I am also doing work to foster inclusion in AI and to facilitate radical AI. I hope to contribute to a more beautiful and equitable AI future.