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Karan and Jiang Awarded Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Funds will support graduate studies in quantum science, applied physics

PhD students Aayush Karan and Abigail Jiang of the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have been awarded the prestigious 2024 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. The merit-based graduate school program, founded 26 years ago, celebrates the achievements and potential of immigrants and children of immigrants across the United States.

PhD student Aayush Karan holding a copy of the New York Times that lists the 2024 Soros New Americans
Soros New American Fellow Aayush Karan designs folding algorithms for RNA sequences as a PhD student in quantum science and engineering at Harvard Griffin GSAS.
Courtesy of Aayush Karan

Selected from a pool of 2,323 applicants, Jiang and Karan are among the 30 individuals to receive this honor this year. Each will receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies, recognizing their potential to make meaningful contributions to their fields.

"As we welcome these impressive new fellows to our community, I am filled with pride and hope for the bright futures they will have professionally and as they give back to our country,” said Mrs. Daisy Soros, co-founder of the program. “Their stories demonstrate the strength and vitality inherent in the immigrant identity—they aren’t afraid to take risks and think big. Congratulations to the new fellows.”

Aayush Karan, a PhD student in quantum science and engineering, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2023, concentrating in computer science, physics, and mathematics, with a secondary concentration in economics. Born to Indian parents who conducted research in cancer biology, Karan's passion for pure mathematics, nurtured from high school, led him to publish research in low-dimensional topology, earning him recognition as a Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist and a Davidson fellow. At Harvard, Karan's research extends his mathematical background to scientific applications, including designing folding algorithms for RNA sequences and compilers for optimization problems on near-term quantum devices.

“I'm honored and humbled to join the PD Soros Fellows community,” he says. “The fellowship will give me the academic flexibility to explore the full breadth of my research in generative machine learning and the potential for physics-based hardware to accelerate the resource-intensive components of its computation stack.”

PhD student Abigail Jiang
Soros Fellow Abigail Jiang’s PhD research focuses on synthesizing novel materials to explore fundamental phenomena in quantum physics and new applications in energy and sustainability.
Courtesy of Abigail Jiang

Pursuing a PhD in applied physics, Abigail Jiang’s research focuses on synthesizing novel materials to explore fundamental phenomena in quantum physics and new applications in energy and sustainability. Born to Chinese engineers who earned graduate degrees in the United States, Jiang's multicultural upbringing shaped their unique perspective. Despite initial resistance to studying engineering like their parents, Jiang discovered a love for the physical sciences. A graduate of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), they hold a dual bachelor of science in materials science and history. Beyond their academic pursuits, Jiang is known for their advocacy work, co-founding Caltech's Asian American Pacific Islander student organization and spearheading a STEM research program for first-generation, low-income high school students.

“I am so grateful and thrilled to join the 2024 PD Soros Fellows,” they say. “Applying to this fellowship was a rare professional opportunity to reflect on how my experiences as a child of immigrants continue to shape my academic aspirations, so being selected as a fellow feels personally meaningful beyond just educational achievements. The funds will support my interdisciplinary research efforts at the intersection of condensed matter physics and materials chemistry, co-advised by professors Julia Mundy and Jarad Mason.”

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans has provided over $80 million in funding since its inception, supporting a range of fields from medicine and the arts to law and business. This year, the program continues its tradition of investing in the future of the United States by supporting the studies of promising individuals like Karan and Jiang. Congratulations to the two winners from the Harvard Griffin GSAS community!

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