P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Iris Cong, 2018

PhD, Harvard University

Iris Cong is the child of immigrants from China

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a PhD in Physics at Harvard University

Born in Los Angeles, Iris Cong is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who epitomize the American Dream. Her parents came to the United States in 1985 for their graduate studies, with only $30 each. After overcoming many challenges, Iris’s father became a distinguished UCLA professor, and her parents founded and sold two tech startups. Their inspiring stories taught Iris three indispensable lessons: pursue the best education, dream big, and persevere.

Iris decided early on to pursue scientific research, so she took calculus at age 11. At age 13, she skipped high school to enter UCLA, majoring in computer science. Amongst classmates of much stronger academic backgrounds, Iris persevered and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. That year she received the only school-wide Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award.

Since Iris developed an equal passion for physics, computer science, and math, she decided to pursue quantum computing research. As an undergraduate, she studied quantum machine learning with Professor Luming Duan at Tsinghua University during summer 2015, and topological quantum computation with Professor Zhenghan Wang at Microsoft Station Q during the summer of 2016. Iris wrote four first-author publications, gave multiple invited talks, and won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. She is a 2018 Hertz Fellow as well.

Iris is now a graduate student in Professor Mikhail Lukin's lab at Harvard, where she has been working to develop and facilitate cutting-edge applications for near-term quantum devices. She plans to continue researching in these fields for many years to come, and hopes that her work will help achieve the large-scale deployment of quantum technologies. 

  • BS Computer Science | University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 2017
  • PhD Physics | Harvard University
  • UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 2017 Outstanding Bachelor of Science
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2017)
  • Barry Goldwater Scholarship (2016)
  • 2018 Hertz Fellow
Select Publications
  • I. Cong, Z. Wang. Topological Quantum Computation with Gapped Boundaries and Boundary Defects. arXiv:1710.07197(2017). Survey paper, to appear in Proceedings of Contemporary Mathematics.
  • I. Cong, M. Cheng, Z. Wang. Hamiltonian and Algebraic Theories of Gapped Boundaries in Topological Phases of Matter. Comm. Math. Phys. (2017)355: 645. doi:/10.1007/s00220-017-2960-4
  • I. Cong, M. Cheng, Z. Wang. Universal Quantum Computation with Gapped Boundaries. Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 170504 (2017). doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.170504
  • I. Cong, M. Cheng, Z. Wang. On Defects Between Gapped Boundaries in Two-Dimensional Topological Phases of Matter. Phys. Rev. B. 96, 195129 (2017). doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.96.195129
  • I. Cong, L.-M. Duan. Quantum Discriminant Analysis for Dimensionality Reduction and Classification. New J. Phys. 18, 073011 (2016). doi:10.1088/1367-2630/18/7/073011
Related Articles

The Opportunity You Shouldn't Pass Up: Apply

The 2025 application is open. Are you a New American who will be 30 or younger as of October 31, 2024, and who will be in graduate school full-time for the 2025-2026 academic year? Check out our eligibility requirements, learn about the Fellowships,...

Read More

Q&A: Physics PhD Student Iris Cong Looks Back At The Fellowship

Born in Los Angeles, 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Iris Cong is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who epitomize the American Dream. Her parents came to the United States in 1985 for their graduate studies, with only $30 each. After overcoming many...

Read More

The Summer Awaits: How Recent Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows Are Spending Their Summers

From trips to visit family around the world, to internships and research in and out of the lab, the 2018 and 2019 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows have a lot to look forward to this summer.

Read More

2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows Announced In The New York Times

Read More
transform="translate(188.000000, 15.000000)"