Four Yale students win Soros Fellowships for New Americans

A medical student who studied by candlelight while living with the violence of civil war in his home country of Syria and a law student who spent her early years living in poverty in El Salvador are among four Yale students who have been selected as 2022 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows.

Each year, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships support 30 “New Americans” — immigrants or the children of immigrants — who are pursuing graduate school in the United States. The fellows were selected from a pool of more than 1,800 applicants from across the country for their potential to make significant contributions to the country. Each receives up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate study.

The Yale winners are Anis Barmada ’29 M.D./Ph.D., Andrea Alejandra Deleón Cruz ’24 J.D., Edward Friedman ’24 J.D., and Kingson Lin ’23 M.D./Ph.D.

“Immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are an essential part of the United States,” said Craig Harwood, director of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, in announcing this year’s winners. “The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows demonstrate the ingenuity and diverse perspectives that immigrants of all backgrounds bring to America’s graduate programs and to the country as a whole.”

In addition to receiving $90,000 in funding for their graduate program, the 2022 fellows join an active community of past recipients of the merit-based fellowship. Previous Soros Fellowship recipients include U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; Olympians Amy Chow and Patricia Miranda; U.S. Ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso Pataleón; Stanford AI leader Fei-Fei Li; computational biologist Pardis Sabedi; composer Paola Prestini; Maine Centers for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah; Aspiration CEO Andrew Cherny; award-winning writer Kao Kalia Yang; and more than 700 other individuals.

Biographies of the Soros Fellows from Yale follow. More about the winners can be found on the fellowship website.

Anis Barmada grew up in Damascus, Syria, where he lived for four years amid the civil war. He continued to go to school during the war, studying by candlelight, with the hope of a better future. At the age of 17, he immigrated with his mother and two brothers to Illinois. At his high school there, he took advanced placement courses while simultaneously learning English.

Barmada was awarded the four-year President’s Award Program Scholarship at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he double majored in chemistry and biological sciences, earning highest distinction in both, and minored in mathematics. Throughout his undergraduate years, he worked 11-hour shifts at a restaurant on weekends. Despite commuting daily to and from college on weekdays, he made the time to volunteer as a clinic assistant, college tutor, and research mentor, and he served on several campus leadership committees. He maintained a perfect G.P.A., was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and won the Riddle Prize as the university’s most outstanding graduate.

As a Gates-Cambridge Scholar, Barmada earned an M.Phil. in genomic medicine. He has published biomedical research and conducted research on COVID-19 at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom. Passionate about science communication and health policy, he has contributed opinion pieces in such media outlets as Scientific American, Daily Herald, and The Scholar.

Andrea Alejandra Deleón Cruz was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador, where she and her single mother struggled with poverty and safety. She immigrated to the United States at the age of six with her mother and lived in a low-income community in Los Angeles, where she saw how the cycle of income inequality and housing segregation contributed to high crime rates. Witnessing friends and family members become victims of mass incarceration, Deleón Cruz became aware of the institutionalized racism embedded in the criminal justice and immigration systems.

A Questbridge Scholar, Deleón Cruz was the first person in her high school accepted at Stanford University. However, due to family obligations she attended the University of California-Los Angeles as a Regent Scholar and Achievement Scholar before transferring later to Stanford. She majored in philosophy and researched public policy solutions to societal injustices. While she was an undergraduate, she interned at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and in the nonprofit sector.

After graduating, Deleón Cruz served as project manager at Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, helping nonviolent inmates who had been sentenced to life under California’s Three Strikes Law get their sentences overturned. When COVID-19 ran rampant in the prisons, she created and managed a pro bono program in which 35 attorneys not affiliated with the project represented clients that the Three Strikes Project was unable to represent.

As a Yale Law School student, Deleón Cruz is involved in the Capital Assistance Project, for which she conducts research and writes legal memos summarizing death penalty precedent in Alabama appellate courts for the Federal Defenders Program in the Middle District of Alabama. She is also part of the Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic, providing legal representation in federal sentencing proceedings and Connecticut state resentencing hearings.

Edward Friedman was raised in Brooklyn, New York, the child of Jewish refugees who immigrated to the United States with their families from Moscow and Kyiv. Born with cerebral palsy and a power (motorized) wheelchair user, he is a disability justice advocate. He was the policy and intergovernmental affairs coordinator at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities before coming to Yale Law School.

At Yale, Friedman serves on the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and is a voice for students with disabilities on the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility Resources. He is living independently for the first time in New Haven but remains involved with New York City politics and the city’s disability community.

Freidman is a graduate of The City University of New York (CUNY). He graduated as valedictorian from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY in 2018, majoring in political science with certificates in public policy and human rights and with minors in legal studies and international relations. He plans to pursue a career at the nexus of legal advocacy and public policy implementation with the goal of advancing accessibility for all.

Kingson Lin was born in New York City to immigrant parents from the rural fishing province of Fujian, China. Shortly after his birth, he was brought to Fujian to live with his grandparents. After five years in Fujian, he was reunited with his parents and lived in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens before moving to the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Lin attended the University of Pennsylvania as a first-generation, low-income student. He deepened his passion for chemistry at Penn, where he performed pioneering research on a novel paradigm for organic synthesis utilizing photoredox/nickel dual catalysis to make previously difficult chemical bonds with the potential for widespread applications in basic science and in the pharmaceutical industry. He served as a tutor, first-year mentor, residential adviser, and a peer counselor for the PENNCAP Pre-freshman Program. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A in biochemistry, and M.S. in organic chemistry, and a minor in Spanish.

At Yale, Lin is completing doctoral work under the mentorship of Professors Ranjit Bindra and Seth Herzon. He is researching the design, synthesis, and evaluation of novel chemotherapeutics for drug resistant brain cancers. He also cofounded a company with his mentors to rapidly translate the results of his research for clinical care of patients.

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