Ishan Kalburge, Johns Hopkins Graduate, Receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Ishan Kalburge, a member of the Class of 2023, is one of 26 American students to receive the prestigious 2024 Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, offers full financing to about 80 excellent students from non-UK nations for a postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge.

“There is no greater privilege than to study at Cambridge with full support from the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which will give me access to a vibrant and diverse community of global leaders that can enrich my scholarship, leadership, and personal life,” Kalburge says in a statement.

Kalburge will work on a PhD in engineering with Máté Lengyel, a professor at Cambridge’s Computational and Biological Learning Lab, using probabilistic deep learning to examine how people create internal representations of uncertainty during decision-making.

Kalburge’s intellectual interests developed during his high school years. He recalls creating a habit of asking his grandfather to pronounce the Indian prime minister’s complete name every morning, as a way to keep his grandfather’s mind engaged. Kalburge got increasingly interested in the subtleties of his grandfather’s conduct as he spent more time caring for him. When his grandfather was subsequently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he was motivated to find ways to aid him.

Kalburge studied biomedical engineering, applied mathematics, and economics at Hopkins in order to gain a better understanding of the subject. Through this interdisciplinary course of study, he learnt to examine human behavior through the unique lens of neuroeconomics, a science dedicated to discovering the brain foundation of decision-making. He collaborated with Vikram Chib, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, on neuroeconomics research, using methodologies from behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience to investigate how psychiatric therapies can reverse the consequences of physical weariness.

“Ishan’s work ethic and intellectual curiosity make him a true stand out,” Chib said. “During my time working with him, I’ve witnessed how he can swiftly learn new concepts and integrate them into creative methods to solving scientific problems. I’m delighted to see him continue this as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Kalburge also did neuroeconomics research at Caltech, where he created a model to explain why humans act in bursts. These events, he claims, piqued his interest in applying computational neuroscience to investigate how decision-making occurs in the brain. He elected to conduct research at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, modeling human decision-making under uncertainty—a topic he will continue to examine while at Cambridge.

“We live in an uncertain world, so naturally we want to understand how the brain accounts for this uncertainty during decision-making processes,” he said. “Understanding uncertainty is not only important for having a better understanding of the brain in health and disease, but also in developing better artificial intelligence systems that are more trustworthy and can replicate human-level inference at human-level energy costs.”

Throughout his undergraduate studies, Kalburge sat on the board of the Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Society, most recently as president. He also served as a teaching assistant at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, eventually rising to the position of head teaching assistant for Intermediate Probability and Statistics. Despite his triple major and research obligations, he also serves as news and features editor for the Johns Hopkins News-Letter and plays piano in the Hopkins Jazz Band.

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