P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Q&A: MD/PhD Student Gerald Tiu Looks Back At The Fellowship

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The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides two years of funding for outstanding graduate students who are immigrants and children of immigrants. After two years the Fellows join a lifelong community of past Fellows. We asked Gerald Tiu, a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to him.
Gerald’s parents, who are ethnically Chinese, emigrated from Myanmar to seek out new opportunities in the United States, and to escape institutionalized racism that barred them from pursuing their dreams. Through their example, Gerald, who was born in Anaheim, California, learned to put others before himself. Gerald, who graduated from Harvard College, is now working towards his MD/PhD at Stanford University in the lab of Maria Barna, where he is investigating novel layers of RNA-mediated gene regulation. 

What have the primary benefits of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship been for you?

I used the PD Soros Fellowship to help support my MD/PhD training in genetics. Aside from the financial benefits of the Fellowship, I think the primary benefit is the community and family that one becomes a part of when joining the Fellowship. Not only did I gain access to a community of diverse and successful mentors, I also formed close friendships with current and former Fellows. Despite being spread out across the country, we still take time to catch up with one another whenever we visit different cities, and we still communicate quite regularly over a group chat. I feel like the PD Soros community provides a safe and supportive space where one can not only celebrate achievements but also find love and guidance during difficult times.

Do you have any favorite memories from your Fellowship experience?

My favorite memory from the fellowship was the series of individual and group hugs we shared after some intense sharing sessions. It was at that moment that I felt like I belonged to not only a fellowship but also to a supportive and loving family that will be present for the rest of my life in both times of happiness and times of hardship.

I also really loved the moment when we were all watching Hamilton and Lafayette and Hamilton said the lines, “Immigrants, we get the job done!” It felt like the people on stage were speaking directly to us. We spontaneously broke out in loud cheers and again it felt like I finally was part of a unique community that I had unknowingly been seeking most of my life.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying?

If you’re thinking of applying to the Fellowship, the best thing you can do is to really sit down, think deeply, and reflect on how you, your past, your family, your heritage, your actions, and your goals and dreams fit together in the narrative of your life. You should talk to family members and friends and if there are challenging issues or events in your life that you have not fully resolved; the application is the perfect time to really grapple with those topics. I am a believer that life is a series of seemingly unrelated events that can become even more disorienting when facing many of the challenges that New Americans and children of New Americans face. The application gave me the opportunity to place a narrative on my life that in a way gave it meaning and allowed me to see how who I am can inform who I want to become and my goals for the future.

Where are you with your graduate program now? What’s next?

I am still trying to wrap up the PhD portion of my MD/PhD training over the next year and will head back into the clinic to finish my MD degree. Afterwards, I plan to go into medical residency (in a still undecided field but I am interested in pediatrics) and would ultimately love to continue pursuing a career as a physician-scientist.

How do you plan to stay active with the Fellowship community in the years to come?

I love the mentorship aspect of the Fellowship and will continue to mentor people applying to the Fellowship. A few years down the line, I hopefully will also have the opportunity to mentor younger Fellows following similar career or life paths. I will also try to reach out to mentors as well (both within the mentorship pairings that were set up as well as beyond). I also plan on continuing to attend Bay Area PD Soros gatherings and perhaps occasionally organize my own events when interesting opportunities arise.

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