A scholarly pursuit

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SASHIDHAR ADIVI
Published Jun 22, 2017, 12:21 am IST
Updated Jun 22, 2017, 12:21 am IST
Pratyusha Kalluri is the first Telugu girl to be awarded a $90k fellowship to support work towards her Ph.D. at Stanford University.
  Pratyusha developed a new algorithm to identify the gene pathway changes that underlie breast cancer
  Pratyusha developed a new algorithm to identify the gene pathway changes that underlie breast cancer

A child of immigrant parents from Andhra who moved to Hyderabad before migrating to the US in the late 1980s, Pratyusha Kalluri was recently awarded the prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship worth $90k to support work towards her Ph.D. at Stanford University. Pratyusha is also the first Telugu girl to receive the honour in the institution’s history of 20 years.

“I am delighted,” says Pratyusha, adding, “It is given only to a select 30 (from a pool of 1,700 applicants) immigrants and children of immigrants from all over the world who are pursuing graduate school in the United States. The recipients are chosen based on their potential to make significant contributions to US’s society, culture, or their academic fields. My family’s emphasis on education empowered me to pursue undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology back in 2016. I am connecting to people excited about the beautiful power of immigrants and New Americans.”

 

Earlier, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (MA), Pratyusha built systems to reveal the goings-on inside the human body. She developed a new algorithm to identify the gene pathway changes that underlie breast cancer. “I want to examine how to apply computer intelligence to existing practical endeavours, and open up new vistas into the human body. I created data mining software to analyse large datasets about many patients in order to enable scientists to spot the key genetic changes that signal the onset of an aggressive cancer. This passion made me understand the most fundamental principles of Artificial Intelligence — how to create systems that behave in smarter and human-like ways.”

 

As an undergraduate at MIT and subsequently, a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid, Pratyusha built AI systems modelling facets of human intelligence and human language processing. “I aim to build artificial intelligence that is more human-like and understandable by synthesising symbolic and statistical approaches in my Ph. D. programme, which is in Computer Science. However, I have the freedom to pursue the AI research that is most exciting to me. My fellowship does not put any restrictions on my doctoral studies and research in Computer Science. Professionally, the funding provided by the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship creates added research freedom,” she adds.

 

Pratyusha made the most of her recent visit to Hyderabad. “My parents Vijaya and Shree Kalluri studied at AU College of Engineering. They grew up in Vizianagaram and Guntur areas while my extended family lives in Hyderabad and Vizianagaram. I was very happy to visit them earlier this year too. I had a great time,” she shares.

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