Two MIT scholars receive 2024 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Two recipients of the 2021 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans are MIT graduate student Riyam Al Msari and alumna Francisca Vasconcelos ’20. Along with 28 others, they were selected for this prestigious fellowship.

The Soros program aims to support immigrants who show potential for significant contributions to U.S. society, culture, and academia. Each fellow receives $90,000 in financial support over two years to help fund their graduate studies.

Riyam Al Msari

Riyam Al Msari, originally from Baghdad, Iraq, underwent a challenging upbringing during the 2003 war. Her life took a traumatic turn at age 8 when her family’s home was bombed in 2006, forcing them to move to Iraqi Kurdistan. Despite facing educational and ethnic discrimination, Al Msari remained determined in pursuing her education.

After her father sought political asylum in the U.S. in 2016, Al Msari became her mother’s primary caregiver when she was diagnosed with cancer. Witnessing the limitations of standard cancer treatments inspired her to focus on developing innovative cancer therapies.

In 2018, Al Msari moved to the U.S. and continued her education in bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. She later joined MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering as a PhD candidate, focusing on cancer immunotherapy research.

Francisca Vasconcelos ’20

Francisca Vasconcelos, whose parents emigrated from Portugal to the U.S. in the 1990s, graduated from MIT in 2020. She conducted research on quantum computers and machine learning during her time at MIT.

Vasconcelos is currently pursuing a computer science Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on quantum computation and machine learning. She aims to develop algorithms to enhance quantum systems and simulations.

MIT students interested in applying for the Soros Fellowship can seek guidance from Kim Benard, the associate dean of distinguished fellowships at MIT.

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