Vaibhav Mohanty named 2023 Hertz Fellow

Vaibhav Mohanty

Harvard file photo

3 min read

Harvard graduate student Vaibhav Mohanty is among the 15 doctoral students named 2023 Hertz Fellows.

Founded in 1957, the John and Fannie Hertz Foundation accelerates solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, from enhancing national security to improving human health. Through the Hertz Fellowship, the foundation identifies the nation’s most promising young innovators and disruptors in science and technology, empowering them to become the future leaders who keep our country safe and secure

Mohanty works at the intersection of theoretical physics, chemistry, and evolutionary biology to develop mutational “traps” to combat the rapid evolution of proteins in infectious pathogens and in cancer. Mohanty received his first Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. In 2019, Mohanty received a master’s degree in chemistry and a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in chemistry and physics with a minor in music from Harvard University, where he was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. He is now pursuing physician-scientist training in the Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology M.D.-Ph.D. Program, with his second Ph.D. in chemistry.

By funding their graduate studies for five years, Hertz Fellowships provide each new fellow the freedom to tackle some of the most significant challenges facing our nation and the world today. Their research promises to improve human health, usher in advances in artificial intelligence and quantum technologies that redound to the greater good, yield a deeper understanding of our universe, contribute to our economy, and strengthen our national security. We project such outcomes with confidence based on the collective accomplishments of the more than 1,200 Hertz Fellows whose ranks they are joining.

“There’s a unique character to Hertz Fellows — curious, self-aware — they have a fire in their bellies and a desire to share their research,” says Stephen Fantone, chair of the Hertz Foundation Board of Directors. “For over two centuries, incredible achievements have emerged from the values fostered in this country and the synthesis of intellectual minds. The Hertz Foundation today plays an integral part in driving such innovation by enabling the freedom to innovate and helping these extraordinary scientists and engineers realize their potential.”

Hertz Fellows comprise a true, multi-generational community of dedicated scientists, a unique engine for professional development and collaboration. That collaboration has borne significant fruit. Among past recipients are Nobel laureate John Mather, a NASA astrophysicist and project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope; Kimberly Budil, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Nathan Myhrvold, founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures, founding director of Microsoft Research, and former chief technology officer at Microsoft; Kathleen Fisher, deputy office director for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Information Innovation Office; and neuroscientist Ed Boyden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is developing optogenetic technologies to understand and treat brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.