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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Fun Facts: 2015 Fellows

04.15.15
  • 2015 fellows 2
The 2015 Fellows come from all over the United States and the world; they represent the diversity and immense promise of New Americans in the country. To paint a more personal picture of the class, we asked each of them a few questions about what they read, watch and listen to-- and what and who inspires them. 
  • Mohamed Abedi

Mohamad Abedi

PhD in bioengineering at California Institute of Technology

Born in the United Arab Emirates; came to the US at 17; BS from UC Irvine; recipient of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship; developing tools to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Dream mentor: Chang Liu, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for Complex Biological Systems, UC Irvine

Favorite family food or dish: Kibbeh

Favorite TV show growing up: Seinfeld

Favorite form of creative expression: Spoken word

The question you most hope graduate school will help you answer: How can we understand and treat neurological and psychiatric diseases?

  • Oswaldo (Oz) Hasbun Avalos

 

Oswaldo (Oz) Hasbún Avalos

MD at Columbia University

Born in El Salvador; came to the US at 10; BS from Stanford University; leader and published researcher on medical language interpretation; recognized as a White House Champion of Change. 

Number of languages spoken: 3

Dream mentor: Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic

Favorite family food or dish: Pupusas

Favorite guilty pleasure TV show now: The Mindy Project

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to get the training I need to make a lasting impact on the lives and health of underserved communities. It will also give me a lifelong network of mentors and peers that will push me and challenge me to do even more.

 

  • Cecil Benitez

Cecil Benitez

MD at Stanford University

Born in Mexico; came to the US at 9; BS from UCLA; PhD in developmental biology from Stanford University; research on pancreas development published in peer-reviewed journals; certified Spanish interpreter.

Dream mentor: Dr. Saul Rosenberg, professor emeritus of oncology at Stanford School of Medicine

Favorite family food or dish: My mom's enchiladas

Dream job title: Dean of a school or Surgeon General of the United States

Favorite TV show growing up: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program is important to me because it gives me the financial flexibility to focus on issues that I want to address and connects me with talented and driven new Americans that have made lasting contributions to the United States. I look forward to learn from this group, so that I too can continue to contribute to this great country.

 
  • Shinichi (Shin) Daimyo

Shinichi Daimyo

MSN at Yale University

Born in California to Vietnamese and Japanese parents; BA from University of Southern California; MPH from Boston University; Partners In Health expert on developing and implementing community-based mental health programs in low-resource settings globally.

Dream mentor: Dorothea Dix (1802-1887)

Favorite family food or dish: Pho

Number of countries visited: 26

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Obasan by Joy Kogawa

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to transform the profession of nursing into the catalyst of change for addressing the significant burden of mental illness in low resource settings.

 
  • Daniela Delgado

Daniela Delgado

MD at Harvard University

Born in Colombia; came to the US at 12; BS from University of Miami; founded community-based research project for farmworker children; looking forward to a career serving immigrants.

Favorite family food or dish: Ajiaco

Favorite genre of music: Merengue

Go-to news source: The New York Times

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is important to me because it recognizes the efforts and the contributions of immigrants to this country, and it inspires me to continue using my medical training to promote social justice for immigrant communities.

 
  • Amal Elbakhar

Amal Elbakhar

JD at Harvard University

Born in Morocco; came to the US at 9; BA from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY; wrote award-winning honors thesis on Iran’s healthcare laws for women; continues to focus on women’s issues.

Dream mentor: Elizabeth Warren

Favorite mobile app: Scrabble

Favorite genre of music: Country

Favorite holiday: Eid al-Fitr

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

Favorite TV show growing up: Gilmore Girls

 
  • Asmaa Elsayed

Asmaa Elsayed

EdM in global education at Harvard University

Born in Libya; came to the US at 22; BA from George Mason and MA from American; worked for Oman Ambassador Hunaina Al Mughairy; helped develop early childhood education curricula in Arabic.

Dream mentor: Barack Obama

Dream job title: UN Ambassador

Favorite band: The Beatles

Favorite family food or dish: Masala

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to be just a student for once in my life, I have always had to work multiple odd jobs or work full time while also being a full time student to finance my education and pay off my student loans. I never had the luxury of being just a student and focusing all of my attention on my education.

 
  • Arash Fereydooni

Arash Fereydooni

MD at Yale University

Born in Iran; came to the US at 16; completing joint 4 year BS/MS at Yale University; master’s thesis on measuring neuronal traction forces; fellowships in robotic surgery; founded NGO to support Syrian refugees.

Number of languages spoken: 4

Favorite family food or dish: Khoresht Gheymeh

Favorite holiday: April Fools’ Day

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Lost in America By Sherwin B. Nuland

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to get to know inspiring New American leaders and problem-solvers, reflect on common challenges of first-generation Americans and utilize the Fellows' knowledge and expertise to improve the lives of newcomers to this country. Furthermore, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship makes my educational journey to become a physician much more financially manageable.

 
  • Minh-Duyen Thi Nguyen

Minh-Duyen Thi Nguyen

MD and MPH

Born in Vietnam; came to the US at 5; Gates Millennium and Philip Evans Scholar; BA from Swarthmore; recorded sex workers’ narratives as Watson fellow; focused on medical care for women.

Dream mentor: Catherine Hamlin

Favorite family food or dish:  Bún riêu

Favorite TV show growing up: The Simpsons

Dream job title: Director-general of WHO

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

Favorite genre of music: R&B

 
  • 150204 franaszek krzysztof 002 v2

Krzysztof Franaszek

MD at Harvard and MIT

Born in Poland; came to the US as a young child; BS & BA from University of Maryland; PhD in pathology at the University of Cambridge; focused on the intersection between biotechnology and medicine.

Number of languages spoken: 3

Dream mentor: Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal & Thiel Foundation

Favorite mobile app: The Economist Espresso

Favorite form of creative expression: Rowing

The question you most hope graduate school will help you answer: How can society create better therapeutics to counter age-dependent disease?

 
  • Ledina Gocaj

Ledina Gocaj

JD at Harvard University

Born in Albania; came to the US at 8; AB from Princeton; researches the regulation of US financial institutions; will clerk on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Number of languages spoken: 5

Dream mentor: Madeleine Albright

Dream job title: Secretary of state

Favorite band: Belanova

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to be part of a diverse community of scholars and practitioners who are dedicated to changing our world for the better – a community that would otherwise be unattainable in a single lifetime.

 
  • Ayan Hussein

Ayan Hussein

PhD in neuroscience at Yale University

Born in Somalia; came to the US at 16; Bill and Melinda Gates scholar; BS from University of Georgia; researching how dysfunction of inhibitory interneurons impacts development of brain circuits in disease.

Born in Somalia; came to the US at 16; Gates Millennium Scholar; BS from University of Georgia; recipient of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship; researching how dysfunction of inhibitory interneurons impacts development of brain circuits in disease.

Dream mentor: Torsten Nils Wiesel, 1981 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine

Dream job title: Professor of neuroscience

Favorite mobile app: WhatsApp

Number of countries lived in: 4

Favorite band: Passenger

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • Tiffanie Hsu - Hamilton article

Tiffanie Hsu

MFA in directing at UCLA

Born in Wisconsin to parents from Taiwan and China; BA from Harvard; award-winning filmmaker dedicated to telling stories that show people struggling with isolation.

Dream mentor: Jill Soloway, Six Feet Under, Afternoon Delight, Transparent

Go-to news source: National Public Radio

Current favorite guilty pleasure TV show: Game of Thrones

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to spend the next two years focused solely on developing and making films that best represent my voice as a filmmaker. It also gives me the opportunity to meet and hear the stories of New Americans who will be changing the world in the coming decades.

 
  • Evgenia Kim

Evgeniya Kim

MBA at Yale University

Born in Uzbekistan; ethnically Korean; came to the US at 14; ancestors exiled from Siberia; BA from Macaulay Honors Hunter College, CUNY; pursuing business strategy and economic development.

Number of countries visited: 32

Dream mentor: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Favorite form of creative expression: Sports

Go-to news source: The Wall Street Journal

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Current favorite guilty pleasure TV show: The Mindy Project

  • Ismael Loera Fernandez

Ismael Loera Fernandez

PhD in chemistry at Rice University

Born in Mexico; came to the US at 11; undergraduate campus leader; BS from Emory University; DACA recipient; works on synthesizing bismuth carboxylate complexes; passionate about higher education.

Dream Mentor: Robert Woodward (1917 –1979), chemist

Favorite family food or dish: Mole

Current favorite guilty pleasure TV show: Scandal

Favorite form of creative expression: Experimenting in the Lab

Favorite US city: Miami

Favorite TV show growing up: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 
  • Allen Lin

Allen Lin

PhD in systems biology at Harvard University

Born in New Jersey to Taiwanese parents; MEng and BS degrees from MIT; MPhil in technology policy and MSc in public health as a Marshall Scholar; focused on cost-effective HIV vaccinations and therapies.

Dream mentor: Bill Gates

Favorite family food or dish:  Stir-fried sticky rice cakes (Nian gao)

Go-to news source: The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The New York Times

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is important to me because it provides a supportive community of leading thinkers and doers, who have all drawn from their rich experiences as immigrants or as children of immigrants. The fellowship highlights how much immigrants have to offer to the continual progress of our country.

 
  • Paras Singh Minhas

Paras Singh Minhas

MD and PhD in neuroscience at Stanford University
Born in Maryland to Sikh parents from India; BS from University of Pittsburgh; awarded Amgen, Goldwater, and Marshall scholarships; founded NGO that serves orphans in Ghana and India.

Dream mentor: Sidney Poitier

Go-to news source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Current favorite guilty pleasure TV show: House of Cards

Dream job title: Endowed professor & department chair

Favorite city in the US: Pittsburgh

Number of organizations you've founded: 3

  • Polina Nazaykinskaya

Polina Nazaykinskaya

DMA in music composition at The Graduate Center, CUNY

Born in Russia; came to the US at 21; BA from Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory College; MM from Yale School of Music; 2015 recipient of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the AAAL.

Dream mentor: Arvo Pärt

Favorite family food or dish:  Potato pierogi

Dream job title: Composer

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? Being a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will allow me to continue pursing my dream of becoming a professional composer. Through my music I would like to transform the listening experience into an awakening of the soul as success for me is defined primarily in terms of the ability to touch the hearts of the audience and allow them to experience a profound sense of reverence for beauty and for life.

 
  • Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo

MD at University of California, Davis

Born in Nigeria; brought to the US at 11; was undocumented for 12 years; BS from California State University, East Bay; co-director of a student-run clinic; plans to specialize in neurosurgery.

Dream mentor: Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Favorite family food or dish:  Jollof rice

Favorite mobile app: RunKeeper

Dream job title: Neurosurgeon

Favorite holiday: Christmas

Go-to news source: NPR

 
  • Sandra Portocarrero

Sandra Portocarrero

PhD in sociology at Columbia University

Born in Peru; came to the US at 16; BA from UC Berkeley; McNair and Haas Scholar; studying the effects of the US prison system on the lives of Latino immigrants.

Number of languages spoken: 4

Dream mentor: Hillary Clinton

Favorite form of creative expression: Writing

Dream job title: Professor of Sociology (with tenure!)

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: Immigrant America: A Portrait by Alejandro Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut

Go-to news source: The New York Times

 
  • Yakir Reshef

Yakir Reshef

MD and PhD in computer science at Harvard University and MIT

Born in Israel; came to the US at 6; BA from Harvard; developed a statistical method for detecting new relationships in large data sets, published in Science; Fulbright scholar in Israel.

Dream mentor: Claude Shannon (1916 – 2001), mathematician and computer scientist

Favorite form of creative expression: Playing the fiddle

Dream job title: Professor of medicine and computer science

Current favorite guilty pleasure TV show: Friday Night Lights

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is important to me because it symbolizes the values that make America a vibrant and dynamic place. I'm proud to count myself among a group of people so committed to those ideals.

 
  • Raeuf Roushangar

Raeuf Roushangar

PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University

Born in Oman; discriminated against in Egypt because of Bahá'i faith; came to the US at 20; homeless for 6 months; findings published on genetic interactions in human orofacial clefting syndromes.

Dream mentor: John Von Neumann (1903 –1957),  

Ahmed Zewail, 1999 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Favorite family food or dish: Kushari

Favorite US city: East Lansing

Favorite genre of music: Neo soul

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is important to me because it will give me the freedom to tackle novel research problems and keep up with the latest scientific developments, without any financial burdens. The resulting independence will make it easier for me to develop my own individual creative spirit. In doing so, I will be inspired not only to work towards becoming a scientist, but also to further develop my own philosophy of American citizenship and how I can make it a part of my everyday professional life.

 
  • Eugene Rusyn

Eugene Rusyn

JD at Yale University

Born in Kiev; Russian mother and Carpatho-Ruthenian father; came to the US at 4; BA from NYU; worked with Tony Judt on several books and articles; focused on constitutional and environmental law.

Dream mentor: Georgia O'Keeffe

Number of countries visited: 16

Number of languages spoken: 4

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? This Fellowship will allow me to study without worrying about taking on debts that would narrow what I do. I can follow my interests freely—the most important gift of all.

 
  • Andre Shomorony

Andre Shomorony

MD at Harvard and MIT

Born in Brazil; moved to Miami at 15; BS from Yale; directed award-winning a cappella group; researched micro-tissue engineering and cancer biology; hopes to work at intersection of engineering and surgery.   

Number of languages spoken: 4

Dream mentor: Dr. Brian Labow, Boston Children's Hospital

Favorite genre of music: A cappella

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Favorite holiday: Purim

Favorite band: Lake Street Dive

 
  • Sahar Soleimanifard

Sahar Soleimanifard

MD at Johns Hopkins University

Born in Iran; BS from Sharif University; came to US at 23; developed MRI methodology as PhD student at Johns Hopkins; Siebel Scholar; hopes to apply engineering to her medical career.

Dream mentor: Sheryl Sandberg

Favorite family food or dish: Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew

Favorite mobile app: Foodspotting

Favorite US city: Washington, DC

Favorite form of creative expression: Furniture design, especially mid-century modern

Favorite TV show growing up: Friends

 
  • Stephanie Speirs

Stephanie Speirs

MBA at MIT

Born in Hawaii to Chinese and Korean parents; BA from Yale; MPA from Princeton; youngest-ever director at the White House National Security Council; Acumen global fellow; co-founder of US-based solar social enterprise.

Number of countries visited: 26

Dream mentor: Barack Obama

Favorite TV show growing up: X-Files

Favorite US city: New Orleans

Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving

Favorite American landmark: Koolau Mountains, Oahu Hawaii

 
  • Gerald Tiu

Gerald Chunt-Sein Tiu

MD and PhD in genetics at Stanford University

Born in California to Burmese-Chinese parents; BA from Harvard; third place in team Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology; now researching novel layers of RNA-mediated gene regulation.

Dream mentor: Fred Sanger

Favorite family food or dish: Oh Noh Kauswer (Burmese Coconut Noodle Soup)

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Favorite form of creative expression: Dance

Go-to news source: CNN

The question you most hope graduate school will help you answer: What processes regulate gene expression in development? How are these progresses dysregulated in developmental genetic disorders?

 
  • Katherine Trujillo

Katherine Karmen Trujillo

MA in law and diplomacy at Tufts University

Born in California to parents from Mexico and Honduras; BA from UC Berkeley; Mitchell Scholar finishing MA degree at Ulster University; hopes to be a civic leader in South Central Los Angeles.

Dream mentor: Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations

Favorite TV show growing up: The Wonder Years

Dream job title: President of the United States

Go-to news source: BBC and NPR

What will the PD Soros Fellowship allow you to do? Being a 2015 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow will equip me with the knowledge and training I need to empower impoverished communities--economically, socially, culturally and politically--and create cycles of prosperity that allow residents to take charge of their own futures. It will help me continue to pay-it-forward as others have done for me. 
  • Mark Minghao Xue

Mark Minghao Xue

MS in computer science at Stanford University

Born in China; came to the US at 5; BA from Columbia; coached NYC Math Team; served as a marine officer and helicopter pilot for 8 years; created software to improve pilot safety.

Dream mentor: Donald E. Knuth, computer scientist and mathematician

Favorite TV show growing up: Batman: The Animated Series

Favorite form of creative expression: Programming

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan

Why is the PD Soros Fellowship important to you? The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is important to me because it will help me transition from military service to public service as a computer scientist. It will afford me the opportunity to contemplate hard problems in computer science, and the ethical and societal implications of software in society.

 
  • Julie Zhu

Julie Zhu

MFA in combined media at Hunter College, CUNY

Born in Michigan to Chinese parents; BA from Yale; carillonneur for St. Thomas Church in Manhattan; art focuses on intersection of music, mathematics and visual representation.

Number of countries visited: 21

Dream mentor: Yoko Ono

Favorite mobile app: The Free Dictionary

Go-to news source: Hyperallergic and The New York Times

Favorite US city: Sitka

Favorite book about the immigrant experience: In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman