Four Stanford graduate students and one alumnus awarded 2018 Soros Fellowships for New Americans
Four Stanford graduate students and one alumnus have been awarded Soros Fellowships, which provide financial support for study in any degree-granting graduate program in any field at any U.S. university. Soros Fellows are immigrants and the children of immigrants who are chosen for their creativity, initiative and sustained accomplishment.
Four Stanford graduate students and a Stanford alumnus are among the 30 people awarded 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.
The late Paul and Daisy Soros, Hungarian immigrants and American philanthropists, established the program in 1997 and awarded the first fellowships the following year. The couple wanted to give back to the country that had given so much to them and their children, to address an unmet need by assisting “young New Americans at critical points in their educations” and to call attention to the extensive and diverse contributions of immigrants to the quality of life in the United States.
Each fellow receives tuition and living expenses that can total as much as $90,000 over two academic years. Recipients can study in any degree-granting graduate program in any field at any university in the United States. Recipients, who are immigrants and the children of immigrants, are selected based on merit, with an emphasis on creativity, originality, initiative and sustained accomplishments.
Chung-ha Oh Davis will use the Soros Fellowship to support work toward a doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford, where he is a first-year doctoral student.
Davis, who was born in Incheon, South Korea, grew up in the United States as a result of the love and generosity of an aunt and uncle. His aunt had met and married an American service member when he was stationed at the U.S. Air Force Base in Osan, South Korea. The family eventually adopted the young man, and he took their last name.
Davis said the sacrifices his birth parents and adopted parents made on his behalf have played a foundational role in his sense of identity and purpose, and he hopes to “pay his parents’ sacrifices forward” by pursuing his passions with relentless energy.
Davis, who gravitated toward science at an early age, became fascinated with anatomy and physiology. His interests solidified as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated with a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in neuroscience. In his research with Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, an associate professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, Davis played a leading role in discovering a novel mode of intercellular communication in the nervous system called transmitophagy. This finding was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Davis seeks to utilize cutting-edge techniques in molecular genetics and neuroscience to help scientists better understand the biology of the nervous system. Due to experiences in life and the field of science, Davis also seeks to be a mentor and to help foster a diverse scientific community.
Wendy De La Rosa Felipe will use the Soros Fellowship to support work toward a doctorate in consumer behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
De La Rosa Felipe, who was born in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, is the daughter of a political activist who fought for the working class. Amid economic uncertainty, she immigrated to the United States in hopes of a better life and settled in a small apartment in the Bronx with her large, extended family. It was in that apartment that her interest in financial decision-making began. She entertained herself by observing how her family managed its limited finances.
De La Rosa Felipe graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in economics, with a concentration in finance and management. After graduation, she became a private equity investor, working for Goldman Sachs and Centerbridge Partners.
Later, she pursued her love for research, working as a research assistant for Adam Grant, a professor of management and of psychology at the Wharton School, and Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. She also helped start Google’s behavioral economic research unit and cofounded Common Cents Lab, a research lab aimed at improving financial well-being for low- to moderate-income people living in the United States. Her research has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, and Scientific American. She was included in the 2018 Forbes’ 30 under 30 finance list for her work improving the financial lives of low to-moderate-income individuals.
De La Rosa Felipe, who studies consumer behavior and financial decision-making, plans to become a professor and hopes that her research can influence public fiscal policy.
Samuel H. Kim will use the Soros Fellowship to support work toward an MD/PhD in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Stanford, where he is working to understand unexplored elements of genome structure and to develop and deploy the necessary technologies to propel epigenomics into the clinic in order to address incurable diseases and provide personalized patient care.
Kim was born in New Jersey to immigrant parents from South Korea. The family moved back to South Korea for a time, then returned to the United States, settling in Los Angeles, when Kim was 10 years old. Kim discovered a passion for medicine – and its ability to empower the most vulnerable people – while working at a cardiology clinic and practicing his Christian faith.
As an undergraduate majoring in chemistry at Princeton University, Kim developed a novel technology to study epigenetics by combining chemical synthesis with CRISPR/Cas9 genome targeting, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. During this time, he worked in low-resource clinical settings in Bolivia and continued his work at the cardiology clinic, through which he recognized a disconnect between the cutting edge of scientific discovery and the clinical understanding and care available.
As a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where he earned a master’s degree in chemistry, Kim developed a method for rapid and accurate genome synthesis and replacement that was published in Nature. While working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, he worked to translate epigenetics for a potential therapy to Rett syndrome, a rare, non-inherited genetic postnatal neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls and leads to severe impairments, affecting nearly every aspect of the child’s life: the ability to speak, walk, eat, and even breathe easily.
Through his work, Samuel saw the potential for capturing and understanding epigenomic information to provide appropriate care to each patient in need. Therefore, he chose to become a physician-scientist in order to bridge the cutting-edge tools of science to the context of clinical experience and care.
Seul “Kathy” Ku will use the Soros Fellowship to support work toward an MD at Stanford Medicine and an MBA at Harvard Business School. She is currently a medical student at Stanford.
Ku, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, immigrated to the Chicago area with her family when she was 3. She attended a high school with a predominantly low-income student population that spoke more than 60 languages. The free clinic in the basement of her high school helped to spur her interest in providing much-needed resources to underserved populations.
At Harvard, Ku earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology and a master’s degree in engineering. During her first summer break, she traveled to Uganda to teach a health course at a girls’ academy focused on pregnant mothers. While living with a host family that often fell sick to waterborne illnesses, she was inspired to design a water filter that would be affordable, effective and socially accepted. As a result, she took a year off from school to start SPOUTS of Water, a local manufacturer of ceramic water filters. During this time, Ku also worked as an intern at McKinsey & Co. and the Boston Consulting Group in an effort to better understand how to distribute and deliver filters across the region and build a sustainable company.
After graduating from Harvard, Ku moved to Uganda for three years, helping to build a sustainable company that has since provided more than 100,000 people with access to clean drinking water. Currently, SPOUTS employs more than 40 people in Uganda and continues to grow as an organization.
At Stanford, Ku manages a free health clinic and conducts cost-effectiveness research to maximize care. She hopes to use her diverse experiences to deliver health care more effectively in the future.
Anthony Veasna So will use the Soros Fellowship to support work toward a master of fine arts degree at Syracuse University in New York.
So, a native of Stockton, California, was born to refugees who survived the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge army.
At Stanford, So helped write and illustrate two graphic novels through the Stanford Graphic Novel Project. He also served as the editor-in-chief of The Stanford Chaparral humor magazine and hosted Stanford’s comedy open mic. He spent a summer in Los Angeles and New York City performing as a standup comedian.
After graduating in 2016, So taught literature and writing at The Urban School of San Francisco, an independent high school, and at Next Generation Scholars, a college-access nonprofit organization in San Rafael, California, that serves low-income students. He is particularly proud of helping first-generation students earn admission to several prestigious universities, including his alma mater.
Currently, So is completing his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction at Syracuse University, where he is a University Fellow. He is working on a collection of stories interspersed with comics and a novel about a Cambodian-American rapper. His stories and comics have been published or are forthcoming in n+1, Ninth Letter, Hobart and elsewhere. His work can also be viewed on his website. He also serves as the prose editor for The Adroit Journal.