Stanford student named 2020 Schmidt Science Fellow

Mechanical engineering PhD student Deepak Krishnamurthy is among the 22 early-career scientists selected for the third Schmidt Science Fellows cohort of postdoctoral fellows.

Stanford mechanical engineering PhD student Deepak Krishnamurthy is among the recipients of the 2020 Schmidt Science Fellowship. He joins 21 other early-career scientists from across the globe as members of the third cohort of fellows.

PhD student Deepak Krishnamurthy is a recipient of the Schmidt Science Fellowship. (Image credit: Courtesy Deepak Krishnamurthy)

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected for this program. I am excited both for its focus on interdisciplinary scientific training and the lifelong fellowship which forms the core of it,” Krishnamurthy said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be given this opportunity at this stage of my career to pivot into a complementary discipline.”

The Schmidt Science Fellows program is a year-long, postdoctoral fellowship that aims to develop the next generation of science leaders through interdisciplinary research to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, including infectious disease, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Fellows receive a $100,000 stipend and are paired with an internationally accomplished and experienced senior scientist who provides mentorship. During the course of the program, fellows learn new scientific concepts, attend science symposiums and engage with other researchers, as well as business and policy professionals.

“This will go a long way in my training as an interdisciplinary scientist and will push me to take up scientific problems that impact global challenges,” Krishnamurthy said. “In particular, I am passionate about applying my engineering and physical biology training to understanding life in the ocean.”

Krishnamurthy is from the coastal city of Chennai in south India. He completed his undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering at the Birla Institute for Technology and Science (BITS-Pilani) in Pilani, as well as a master’s degree in fluid mechanics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bengaluru, India. At Stanford, he works with the Prakash Lab in the Department of Bioengineering. His doctoral research has encompassed organismal biophysics and developing new tools for biology, as well as understanding the swimming motility of the schistosomiasis parasite and human infection from a physical biology perspective. More recently, he and Prakash have been designing and building a novel tracking microscopy system.

“This microscope allows you to follow single cells as though they are in an infinite water column, for the first time enabling microscopy tools to be used in studying problems in ocean biophysics and ecology,” Krishnamurthy said.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Krishnamurthy aims to combine molecular and computational science to reveal how genetic and biochemical mechanisms in single-cell ocean organisms permit them to sense gravity and affect their behaviors. He hopes this work will lead to a better understanding of how changing oceans impact every scale of marine life.

The Schmidt Science Fellows 2020 cohort includes fellows from eight countries and 17 institutions. Stanford alum Kalli Kappel, who graduated in 2019 with a PhD in biophysics, is also one of this year’s fellows.

The Schmidt Science Fellows program is part of Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. The program was established in partnership with the Rhodes Trust, which awards the Rhodes Scholarship. Now in its third year, the Schmidt Science Fellows program currently has more than 50 emerging scientists working at universities, startups, nonprofit organizations and national research institutes.

At Stanford, the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education coordinates the selection of nominations, which are forwarded by individual schools and then reviewed by a committee of school representatives. Only a handful of nominees is submitted to the Schmidt Science Fellows program, which evaluates the nominations and invites a select number of students to apply. The program will announce its next cohort in spring 2021.