Two Johns Hopkins alumni, two graduate students named Paul and Daisy Soros Fellows (2024)

ByAleyna Rentz

/ Published

April 18, 2024

Four Johns Hopkins affiliates have been awarded the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. One of the most competitive scholarships in the United States, the Soros Fellowship honors the contributions of immigrants and children of immigrants to the United States. This year, 30 fellows were chosen from over 2,300 applicants. Fellows are awarded up $90,000 in financial support and are chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to their academic field.

This year's awardees from Johns Hopkins are Shubhayu Bhattacharyay, Engr '20; Min Jae Kim, Engr '22; James Occean, who is pursuing a master's degree in bioinformatics; and Michael E. Xie, who is pursuing an MD/PhD in the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Shubhayu Bhattacharyay, Engr '20

Shubhayu Bhattacharyay was born in Kolkata, India, and spent his early childhood in Thailand and Vietnam before settling in the South Bay of Los Angeles. At Johns Hopkins University, Bhattacharyay double majored in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics and statistics with a minor in Spanish. He was supported by the Milken Scholars Program and graduated with full departmental and Tau Beta Pi honors. As an undergraduate, Bhattacharyay founded Auditus Technologies, a company inventing individualizable, accessible hearing devices for adults living with dementia.

Bhattacharyay started to consider a medical career in the summer after his first year at Hopkins, when he met traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors participating in a brain-computer interface study. Their stories motivated Bhattacharyay to think of ways his interest in computational neuroscience might contribute towards an improved quality of life after TBI. Mentored by Robert Stevens, director of the Johns Hopkins Division of Informatics, Integration, and Innovation and an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine, Bhattacharyay invented and published results from the first computational bedside system to sense and classify motor function in TBI patients in the intensive care unit.

In 2020, Bhattacharyay received a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a PhD in clinical neurosciences at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of professors Ari Ercole and David Menon. For his thesis, Bhattacharyay developed artificial intelligence methods which improve the detail of information provided for prognostic counseling and suggest individually optimized treatment plans during the ICU management of TBI. His work has generated publications in leading digital health and neurotrauma journals, open access software packages, and invited talks at international conferences. During his graduate studies, Bhattacharyay volunteered at Headway Cambridge and Peterborough, a charity-run rehabilitation center for acquired brain injury survivors, where he helped start an evidence-based program for building psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bhattacharyay is currently pursuing an MD at Harvard Medical School with aspirations of becoming a physician-engineer in neurocritical or neurosurgical care. At Harvard, he is researching sources of bias in medical AI to protect patient safety and equity in the clinical deployment of decision support systems for TBI care. Bhattacharyay's mission is to enhance the precision and global accessibility of TBI care with big data.

Min Jae Kim, Engr '22

Min Jae immigrated from Korea to Fairfax, Virginia, when he was 14. He completed his undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins University in biomedical engineering and neuroscience.

As a college student, Kim became interested in studying underlying brain circuit dynamics and how selectively intervening in this circuitry through neuromodulatory therapies can improve clinical outcomes in movement disorders and epilepsy. He worked closely with Kelly Mills, director of the Movement Disorders Division and an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, to identify neural circuitry associated with cognitive impairment in patients with Parkinson's disease after deep brain stimulation. Additionally, he collaborated with Johns Hopkins neurologist Joon-Yi Kang and neurosurgeon William Stanley Anderson to investigate radiographic markers and circuits to enhance seizure freedom rates for epilepsy patients undergoing minimally invasive epilepsy surgery. From this work, Kim has held a patent as a lead inventor and was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar in 2021.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Kim pursued additional training in understanding neural circuitry in movement disorders and neuropsychiatric disorders with Andreas Horn at Network Stimulation Laboratory and Harvard Medical School before beginning his MD/PhD training at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout his training, Kim's goal has been to study circuit-level pathophysiology in neurological disorders and translate his research findings to revolutionize the clinical landscape of neuromodulation. He is currently investigating novel methods to optimize neuromodulatory therapies across numerous neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders at Penn Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia alongside multidisciplinary research and clinical faculty members, including professors Casey Halpern, Kathryn Davis, Benjamin Kennedy, Han-Chiao Isaac Chen, and Iahn Cajigas.

Kim has published more than 18 papers in many reputable journals such as Biological Psychiatry, Epilepsia, Neurosurgery, and Brain Stimulation. His research works have been recognized by both national and international organizations such as the American Epilepsy Society, International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society, and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. As a future neurosurgeon-scientist, he aims to develop next-generation neuromodulatory therapeutics to repair neurophysiological and network dysfunctions in neurological disorders.

James Occean

James Occean emigrated from Haiti to the U.S. at the age of 10. He later pursued a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida as a first-generation college student. Under the mentorship of Abraham Salinas-Miranda and Nicholas Thomas, he conducted epidemiological research to identify predictors and risk factors for intimate partner violence among women in his native country, Haiti. This effort culminated in James' first lead-author publication in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. James then expanded his research into the biological sciences to understand how trauma exposure increases susceptibility to psychiatric disorders, a phenomenon typically observed in trauma-exposed women in Haiti. He joined Monica Uddin's lab and studied genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that underlie PTSD. His first-author publication in Psychiatry Research revealed that DNA methylation at a stress-sensitive gene influences the likelihood of developing PTSD after experiencing certain traumas.

After completing his undergraduate studies, James received the post-baccalaureate IRTA fellowship from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. In Payel Sen's lab, he investigated how changes in epigenetic modifications and chromatin drive mammalian aging and related decline. During his two years in the Sen lab, James led and contributed to several peer-reviewed publications, secured over $140,000 in research grants for his work on DNA hydroxymethylation, and received the Early Career Scholar award from the American Aging Association.

Following his fellowship, James on track to earn his master's in bioinformatics at Johns Hopkins University in May. Concurrently, he works as a data scientist at Personal Genome Diagnostics within Labcorp Oncology, where he actively contributes to the verification and validation of noninvasive diagnostic assays designed to detect cancer-related and clinically relevant genetic alterations.

This fall, he will begin his PhD in Cancer Biology at Stanford. There, he plans to explore the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms driving tumor initiation, progression, and treatment resistance. His goal is to use this research to develop noninvasive cancer technologies and identify potential therapeutic targets.

Michael E. Xie

Michael E. Xie was born in New Jersey to immigrants from China, who came to the United States to pursue educational opportunities. As a child, Xie spent time living with his extended family in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces.Xie graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics and concurrent master's degree in statistics. As an undergraduate, he conducted research with Adam Cohen and developed an interest in neuroscience. In the lab, Xie was captivated by the modern ability to record detailed electrical signals from many individual neurons simultaneously, and he collaborated with Liam Paninski's group at Columbia University to develop new statistical tools that enable accurate interpretation of such recordings. His research resulted in a first-author publication in Cell Reports as well as co-authored publications in Nature and Cell. His undergraduate thesis also won a Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize from Harvard.

Currently, Xie is pursuing an MD/PhD in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Department of Biomedical Engineering and anticipates earning his degree in 2028. His PhD research, co-advised by Karel Svoboda and Adam Charles, uses novel neural recording techniques to examine the fundamental—but unanswered—question of what computations the individual neurons that make up the living brain can perform. With these insights, Xie hopes to build improved computational models of the brain that can help us understand how cognitive function may deteriorate with neuropsychiatric or neurodegenerative disease. Xie also leads a neurosurgery research project in the lab of Risheng Xu, assistant director, of the neurosurgery residency program, building deep learning models to improve patient outcomes.

To learn more about applying for the Soros Fellowship and other scholarships, visit the university's National Fellowship Program website.

Posted in Student Life, Alumni

Tagged alumni, fellowships, graduate students

Two Johns Hopkins alumni, two graduate students named Paul and Daisy Soros Fellows (2024)
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