Two Indian-Americans have been named among the 168 fellows as the recipient of Guggenheim fellowship this year.
The Guggenheim fellowship announced its fellows for this year on April 9, 2019 and two Indian-Americans have made it to the list. Tabla maestro Sandeep Das and chemistry professor Dr Neal K. Devaraj have been recognised for their exceptional work in the field of art and science.
The fellowship is awarded by John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for further development of artists and scholars who have established themselves in their field of work. The foundation receives approximately 3000 applications each year which undergo a rigorous selection procedure where they are reviewed by a network of advisers, processed by the committee of selection and then approved by the board of trustees.
With a career spanning over 28 years, Das is an accomplished tabla virtuoso who debuted at the age of 17 at a concert with sitar maestro Pt. Ravi Shankar. He has not only performed with many of the legends of classical music but also collaborated with many artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Paquito D’Rivera and played with orchestras like the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His concerts are held regularly at major music centres around the globe and he has also performed at coveted events such as the 150th anniversary of the UNO at the General Assembly Hall (NYC) and for dignitaries like the Queen of England, the Queen of Thailand and the Pope.
His collaboration “Sing Me Home” with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (SRE) won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2017. He has also received the prestigious Brother Thomas Fellowship in 2017 and Live Arts Boston Grant from Boston Foundation in 2018.
“When [Sandeep] plays the table, he is a creator of myths, a master communicator and an orchestra, all in one. In my decades of collaboration around the world, he is easily one of the greatest artists I have ever met,” said Yo-Yo Ma in Guggenheim. In 2009, Das founded HUM ( literally meaning ‘we’ in Hindi) an acronym for (H)armony and (U)niversality through (M)usic to promote cross-cultural music exchanges and provide financial support to specially-abled children with aptitude in arts.
The other Indian-American fellow on the list is Dr Neal K. Devaraj, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. His major focus of research is in understanding how non-living matter such as simple organic molecules can assemble to form life. He has also developed the approaches for the in-situ synthesis of synthetic cell membranes by using selective reactions to “stitch” together lipid fragments. His lab has worked to enable the first demonstration of perpetually self-reproducing lipid vesicles and artificial membranes that can dynamically remodel their chemical structure.
Devaraj’s work has been recognised by the National Fresenius Award in 2016, the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry in 2017 and the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry in 2019. He was also named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar in 2016 and selected as the Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry in 2018.