We asked all of the 2016 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows to take a photo with the New York Times full-page ad that announced the new class of Fellows. We encouraged them to take photos in an imortant place or at their university, and we also told them to have fun with it. Here is what they came up with:
Leen Katrib (2016 Fellow) is pursuing a master's in architecture at Princeton. Currently, she is a project designer at Peter Marino Architect. Leen was born in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates to Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. Her memory of the architectural, economic, and social inequalities between Sharjah’s concentration of forced migrants and Dubai’s rapid urbanization developed her passion in architecture and urbanism. After numerous threats of deportation to Syria, she relocated with her family to West Virginia when she was 14 years old to pursue permanent legal presence for the first time.
Born in Nigeria, Chidiebere Akusobi (2016 Fellow) and his mother immigrated to the United States when he was two years old. They reunited with his father who had immigrated two years earlier to attend nursing school. His parents left Nigeria due to political and economic strife and settled in the South Bronx, where they worked to build a better life for their children and the family they left behind in Nigeria.
As a child, Chidi dreamt of becoming a physician despite attending under-resourced inner city public schools where going to college was not the norm. He attributes the start of his academic journey to the Prep for Prep program, which prepared him to attend Horace Mann, a private school in The Bronx.
Now, he's an MD/PhD student focusing on infectious disease at Harvard Medical Student.
Here is Ania Jaroszewicz (2016 Fellow) jumping for joy at Carnegie Mellon where she is pursuing her PhD in behavioral decision research. Ania, who grew up in California and is the child of Polish immigrants, double-majored in economics and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley as an undergraduate. After graduating, she spent several years working with the federal government, first at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and then on consumer protection with the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Economics. Ania hopes to combine her firsthand experiences with financial struggle, her secondhand observations from her professional and volunteer work, and her training in economics and psychology to help combat poverty through research. In particular, her goal is to use behavioral economics to design psychologically informed poverty-alleviation and consumer protection policies.
When Binbin Chen (2016 Fellow) was ten years old, his father was imprisoned by the local Chinese government and sentenced to seven years in prison. His mother fled to the United States. After seven years of trying, Binbin was finally able to obtain his US visa and join his mother. Soon after arriving to the US, Binbin started studying at Georgia Tech where he was a biomedical engineering major. Binbin is now working towards his MD/PhD at Stanford University in the labs of Dr. Russ Altman and Dr. Ash Alizadeh, where he is developing bioinformatics tools to understand patient responses to immunotherapy. He is the co-president of Stanford LGBT Meds, which aims to address the health disparity among LGBT patient populations.
Heidi Vuletich (2016 Fellow) in front of the Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Heidi is pursuing a PhD in psychology. Heidi was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and moved to the United States at the age of five. Due to her family’s economic instability, however, she continued to move back and forth between the two countries until she started high school. By that time, Heidi had attended 16 different schools across two cultures and languages. Nevertheless, she dreamed of going to college in the US. As a PhD student, Heidi is investigating the psychological mechanisms by which socioeconomic status, stereotypes, causal attributions, and ethnic identity influence youth’s academic motivation and achievement. She is particularly interested in these issues as they pertain to racial/ethnic minority or disadvantaged youth, who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math careers.
Eric Chung (2016 Fellow) is the child of Chinese immigrants who emigrated from Vietnam to Canada and then to the United States after the Vietnam War. Eric became certified as an educator with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and taught civics for South Boston and Boston Chinatown immigrants. He has worked on social policy issues with a range of government institutions, including the Massachusetts Senate, US Department of State, and the White House. Now a student at Yale Law School, Eric is a student director of the Education Adequacy Project, a clinic representing disadvantaged youth in an educational rights case, and a member of the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic.
Denisse Rojas Marquez (2016 Fellow) was 10 months old when she and her family left Mexico for the United States. As a resident of Fremont, California, her family found new opportunities that enabled Denisse and her two siblings to attend college. Denisse co-founded a national organization called Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD) to provide advising, resources and advocacy for other undocumented youth like herself. In 2015, Denisse proudly became the first undocumented student to attend the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where she is working towards her MD.
Here is Aya Saed (2016 Fellow) running through the hallways of Harvard Law School, where she is a student. Aya was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Sudanese parents. Her family migrated to the United States in 1999 to escape political and economic turmoil at home. Inspired by youth-led protest movements in the US and abroad, Aya spent two summers curating technologies for activists during the Arab-Spring protests as a Google intern. She helped to launch the Speak2Tweet product in 2012, which allowed protesters across Sudan and Ethiopia to tweet using their analog phones despite sporadic Internet connectivity. Aya is pursuing a joint JD at Harvard Law School and a Master’s in public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Born in Haifa, Eran Hodis (2016 Fellow) is the son of Israeli immigrants. When his father’s employer offered relocation to the United States, his parents jumped at the chance to pursue the American dream and one day become US citizens. Eran returned to Israel after graduating from Boston University to study computational biology as a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute of Science. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he moved back to Boston to be with his immediate family and resolved to refocus his research efforts on cancer. Eran’s subsequent research in cancer genomics at the Broad Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has led to landmark advances in the field. His ongoing training as an MD/PhD student at Harvard Medical School and MIT is supported by the NIH through the Medical Training Program Fellowship and by Harvard through the Herchel Smith Fellowship.
Aisha Saad (2016 Fellow) was born in Cairo, Egypt and immigrated to the United States with her family in the early 1990s. Aisha’s early childhood in Egypt and regular summer visits growing up gave her dual exposure to industrial development and its disparate impacts on a global scale. After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, Aisha pursued master’s and doctorate degrees at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, focusing on public challenges to the modern corporation and the development of effective corporate responsibility regimes. Aisha then spent two years as an assistant professor at the American University in Cairo, helping to launch a master’s in sustainable development and teaching courses on corporate social responsibility, and social and environmental policy. Now she is pursuing her JD at Yale Law School.
As a PhD student at Stanford, Abubakar Abid (2016 Fellow) will work on building medical devices that can stay in the human body for extended periods of time to provide unique, patient-specific biomedical information that can help diagnose diseases and provide real-time feedback to patients. By integrating research with continued mentorship, Abubakar hopes to inspire other immigrants to learn skills to solve the problems around them. Abubakar’s parents were able to come to the United States from Pakistan in the 1990s due in large part because they were medical doctors so they felt it their duty to ensure Abubakar would have a strong technical education.
Durga Thakral (2016 Fellow) is the daughter of Indian immigrants and was born and raised in Illinois. As an undergrad, Durga discovered a novel antibacterial compound while working in the lab of Nobel Laureate Thomas Steitz. She is now an MD/PhD student in the laboratory of Richard Lifton in genetics at Yale. Goran Micevic's (2016 Fellow) parents, Yugoslavian physicians, were on a temporary research fellowship in the United States when he was born. Soon after his parents’ fellowship concluded, the family had to return to Yugoslavia, where Goran grew up in the midst of turmoil and war. Goran was 18 when he decided to pursue his passion for medicine and science at Iowa State University. Now, as an MD/PhD student at Yale, Goran's melanoma research has led to awards from the American Skin Association, as well as a fellowship from the National Cancer Institute.
Daily Guerrero (2016 Fellow) was six years old when she immigrated to the United States with her mother from the Dominican Republic. She grew up in Utica, New York, a place the New York Times called “a city of refugees,” because a quarter of the population is made up of refugees. She left Utica to attend Harvard University, where she founded the Harvard College Dominican Student Association. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Daily went straight on to Columbia Law School. At Columbia she joined the new Immigrants’ Rights Clinic as a Spanish interpreter and later as a student-attorney.
Du Cheng (2016 Fellow) has a beautiful desk that overlooks the East River in New York City. Between him and his view is the lab pet lizard, who is pictured here with the New York Times ad. Du is pursuing his PhD research in Rockefeller University’s Dr. Cori Bargmann’s lab, and is an MD/PhD student at Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Memorial Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional Program. Born and raised in Zhengzhou, China, Du found himself constantly frustrated by the education system’s emphasis on memorization. Du wanted to debate, research, invent, and create. When he moved to the US halfway through his college career to attend Humboldt State University, he felt he could finally give back to the world of knowledge he had spent so long simply regurgitating. Soon enough, Du began microbiology and stem cell research, which led to 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals, four of which he was the first-author on, as an undergraduate.
This is Lindsey Osimiri (2016 Fellow) in front of the Campanile Tower at UC Berkeley where she is pursuing a PhD in bioengineering in a joint UC Berkeley UCSF program. Born in Texas, Lindsey is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. As a child, Lindsey watched her mother return to school to pursue a medical degree and her father run his own business, all while supporting four children and family in Nigeria. Through their example, Lindsey learned the importance of perseverance and the value of education. As an MIT undergraduate, Lindsey discovered her passion for computer science and engineering.
She plans to use algorithms to analyze and predict the functions of complex biological systems in her research, and later return to industry to create tools to make biological research more efficient.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Mubeen Shakir (2016 Fellow) is the youngest son of Indian Muslim immigrants who came to the US in the 1970s. Mubeen’s parents founded the first mosque in Oklahoma City and relished the opportunity to take part in not just their own Muslim community, but also in promoting an accepting and diverse society. From his parents, Mubeen learned the importance of building bridges among different communities and giving back to society. Mubeen graduated from the University of Oklahoma in three years, winning the University’s highest honor, and receiving a Rhodes Scholarship. Mubeen went on to earn master’s degrees in medical anthropology and public policy at the University of Oxford. He has worked at the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission on substance use disorders and is now a student at Harvard Medical School where he is a leader of the Harvard Medical School Racial Justice Coalition.
Nairi Hartooni (2016 Fellow) is pursuing a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology at UCSF. Born in Tehran, Iran, Nairi is a member of a minority of Armenians who have lived in Iran for centuries. Her parents, who were the first generation to live outside of their familial village and receive a formal education, noticed that post-revolution Iran would not fairly offer their daughter educational opportunities. Thus, they moved to Glendale, California where Nairi grew up surrounded by immigrants seeking a better life. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Nairi was a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar and double-majored in molecular biology and toxicology. Now, as a PhD student in the laboratory of David O. Morgan, she studies regulatory processes in cell division with particular interest in the enzymology of the anaphase-promoting complex.
Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Shadi Gaheri (2016 Fellow) both loved her cosmopolitan home and felt stifled by the constant expectations placed on her as a woman. Shadi was immersed in the arts from a young age. She played piano professionally and trained as a ballerina for nearly a decade. While attending Shahid Beheshti University, where she founded the theater club and was the first woman to direct campus theater, Shadi became a pioneer for women in the arts. Today, she's studying theater directing at the Yale School of Drama.
Veronica Manzo's (2016 Fellow) family emigrated from small towns in Michoacán and Jalisco to the United States to seek opportunity and employment as farm workers, picking crops in the fields of Northern California. Veronica attended Harvard, where she studied neurobiology and global health and health policy. As an undergraduate, she conducted research on glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly brain tumor, which resulted in a publication in Nature. The Fellowship is supporting Veronica's studies at Stanford Medical School, where she is pursuing her MD.
Yuxi Tian (2016 Fellow) is pictured in front of the introverted fountain at UCLA, where he is an MD/PhD student focusing on biomathematics. Yuxi was born in Germany to Chinese parents who both switched from careers in physics to computer programming so that they could better support their family. After early years with his grandparents in Shanghai, he moved at age four to be with his parents in Canada; they moved to Southern California when he was eight. While the transition to a new country was difficult, Yuxi quickly embraced the diversity, passion and drive so embedded in the United States. In high school, Yuxi excelled at academic competitions such as Science Olympiad and the USA Mathematical Olympiad. His love of math and science fueled his decision to attend UC-Berkeley, where he double-majored in physics and molecular and cell biology.
Meet Akash Patel (2016 Fellow) who is heading to the University of Michigan Law School this coming fall. Akash was less than two years old when he arrived in America, but was not afforded citizenship until the age of 23. Protracted wait times meant that Akash’s family lived as undocumented immigrants for 16 years until they could adjust their status. As a result, Akash founded Aspiring Americans in Oklahoma City as part of his honors research project at OU to assist other undocumented students in Oklahoma, which has raised over $200,000 in grants, scholarships, and in-kind resources. Aspiring Americans also provides training and workshops about maximizing all educational opportunities for students in Oklahoma regardless of citizenship status.
Vishwajith (Vish) Sridharan (2016 Fellow) was born and raised in southern India. His grandmother, who had no more than a third grade education, cared for him while his mother worked many jobs and his father sent money home from the United States. At the age of nine, Vish, his mother and his sister were reunited with his father in New Jersey, where Vishwajith began third grade with a name that was quickly shortened by his teachers and peers. By the age of 15, Vish was working at Children’s Hospital in DC, where he spent multiple years developing novel HIV vaccine models, one of which was patented. Vish is now working towards his MD in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, where he is investigating immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer. He is also pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School. He hopes to develop translational therapeutics in the lab, bring them to market, and make a difference in cancer care among underserved communities.
Of Western European and Middle Eastern heritage, Jenna Nicholas (2016 Fellow) was born in New York City, New York but spent most of her formative years in London, England. Inspired by the bold pioneering spirit of enterprise, positivity and action so prized in the American dream, Jenna decided to return to the United States for college.
In her freshman year at Stanford, Jenna learned about the idea of investment for social good from a graduate class she was taking. This captured her imagination and she ran with it. The motto of the business school to “change lives, change organizations and to change the world” equally fits in with this ethos. She's the founder and CEO of Phoenix Global Impact.
Here is Suan Tuang (2016 Fellow) in what he describes as is "natural habitat," the basketball gym at Harvard Medical School's Vanderbilt Hall. Tuang is an MD/PhD student at Harvard and MIT. He was born and raised in a rural town called Tedim in northwestern Myanmar. His family, practicing Christians and members of the Zomi ethnic group, immigrated to Orlando, Florida when he was 16. In 2014, after receiving his BS from MIT, Tuang became a United States citizen. Every day, he goes back to the same Bible verse, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Iris Hu (2016 Fellow), who is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants is an MFA student at Columbia, where her focus is on visual arts. As an undergraduate at UCLA, Iris was drawn to feminist discourse, as she was struck by art that questioned who held power to write history, make images, produce culture, and for whom. Iris began creating performance art and colorful, large-scale paintings that reframed the stories of war and displacement through a diasporic feminist lens. At that point, she realized that she was destined to make art informed by the marginal experiences of American history in hopes of creating spaces for those historically left out. She has exhibited her work in national and international galleries, alternative spaces, and public settings, and is the co-founder of the collaborative experimental art publication "baumtest."
Here is Akbar Hossain (2016 Fellow) in front of the Toll Public Interest Center at Penn. Akbar was born in Bangladesh and later moved to Saudi Arabia, where his father was a migrant worker. His family immigrated to the United States on September 9, 2001, through the Diversity Visa Lottery. After the passing of his father, Akbar learned the importance of perseverance and community, as members of his hometown, Norristown, Pennsylvania supported and helped raise his family. Akbar is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and a 2012 Truman Scholar. He has interned for the White House, the US Department of Homeland Security, and served as a Truman-Albright Fellow at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Akbar serves on the Young Friends Steering Committee for KIPP Philadelphia Schools and has been appointed by the Norristown City Council to serve on the city's Planning Commission. Now he is a student at Penn Law School.
Sharada Jamulapati (2016 Fellow) is the daughter of Indian immigrants. Growing up on a farm in rural Georgia, Sharada experienced the complex web of dependence, racial backlash, and willful ignorance of the immigrant experience, which instilled Sharada with a deep commitment to pursue civil rights and racial justice work in the Deep South. At Stanford, she deepened her passion for community organizing and activism. Today, Sharada is pursuing a JD at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. By working at the intersection of the immigration and criminal justice systems, Sharada hopes to continue civil rights advocacy and racial justice work on the behalf of historically underserved minority communities in the South.