In September, 2021, Quad partner countries Australia, India, Japan, and the United States announced the QUAD Fellowship — a first-of-its-kind scholarship programme designed to build ties among the next generation of scientists and technologists. Set to sponsor 100 American, Japanese, Australian and Indian (25 from each country) masters and doctoral students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to study in the United States from August 2023 to May 2024, each Quad Fellow will receive a one-time award of $50,000 which can be used for tuition, research, fees, books, room and board, and related academic expenses.
Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative, will operate and administer the fellowship programme in consultation with a non-governmental taskforce comprising academic, foreign policy, and private sector leaders from each Quad country.
In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Barbara Bush, Executive-In-Residence at Schmidt Futures, and Danielle Holman, Manager of Talent Selection at Schmidt Futures, who were in Bengaluru, talk about how the response from India has been to the fellowship and what it will be like to be a Quad Fellow.
Amidst the sustained clamour for ‘professional courses’, why did the fellowship focus on STEM?
Bush: The fellowship was started by leaders of the Quad countries, who acknowledged that there are so many current challenges that we are dealing with — COVID 19, climate crisis, etc. So they wanted to create a fellowship programme focused on STEM acknowledging that different STEM skill sets can address current problems that we experience right now, but will be critical in addressing future issues that we can’t even predict.
The application process opened in March. What has the response been like? Are there specific upper limits on the number of applicants from each country?
Holman: We have had enthusiastic interest across the countries, but certainly the most was from India, which was no surprise because it has the biggest population.
Bush: It closes on June 30. So, we want to make sure that any interested applicant in the STEM field should apply.
The USA has always been a top choice for students from many countries, more so from India, for higher studies. How does this fellowship come into play in such a scenario?
Bush: A big part of the Quad leaders’ vision is to work across the borders. So, we want our fellows to work across nationalities and also hope that they will, after studying in the US, return to their home countries to implement solutions based on the education and skills they have received.
How does the fellowship work?
Holman:Fellows receive a one-time personal award of $50,000, and it is flexible: it can be used for tuition, or room and board, or related academic expenses. There is a multi-day residential experience in one of the Quad countries in 2023 outside of the US. Next year, it will be in Australia and it will be on rotation. So, it will be a five-day opportunity for all 100 fellows from all four countries to come together, engage in workshops and programming on relevant STEM topics. .
The Quad consists of countries that have traditionally been known to produce some of the brightest minds in science and technology. Are there specific goals that the fellowship has in terms of pushing particular kinds of research?
Bush: The four Quad countries have goals together. But, what is equally or more so important is that they want to use their skills to benefit society, to use STEM for good and make sure that other people’s lives are better. So right now, what we can see as big challenges like COVID-19 and climate change and we would love for our Quad fellows to work on those. But we know they will be proximate to other problems and see innovations that we cannot even think of right now and solve those using their skills to advance society for the better.
Racial attacks have been of concern of late, including in the US. Would this have an impact on the preference of students?
Bush: It is a challenge around the world, unfortunately. We don’t know what is weighing on the minds of our applicants. We have yet to meet our fellows. But of course, the safety and security of anyone during this programme is important to us and to the universities as well.
More details can be found on https://www.quadfellowship.org/