Iris Cong Wins Soros and Hertz Fellowships

April 17, 2018
image of Iris Cong

Congratulations to G1 Iris Cong for winning two major fellowships: The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation's Graduate Fellowship Award and The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans!

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is a not-for-profit organization "dedicated to empowering America’s most brilliant minds in science, mathematics and engineering [...]. The 10 newest Hertz Fellows were chosen from nearly 700 applicants interested in pursuing graduate work in the United States. The 2018 class includes six women, the highest proportion of women of any class in the Foundation’s history, with Fellows’ research focusing on chemistry, electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and physics." (Read more on the Hertz Foundation's website.)

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants, selected 30 new Fellows from a pool of 1,766 applicants for their potential to make significant contributions to United States society, culture, or their academic fields, the 2018 Fellows are all the children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, green card holders, or naturalized citizens.


Born in Los Angeles, Iris Cong is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who epitomize the American Dream. Her parents came to the United States in 1985 for their graduate studies, with only $30 each. After overcoming many challenges, Iris’s father became a distinguished UCLA professor, and her parents founded and sold two tech startups. Their inspiring stories taught Iris three indispensable lessons: pursue the best education, dream big, and persevere.

Iris decided early on to pursue scientific research, so she took calculus at age 11. At age 13, she skipped high school to enter UCLA, majoring in computer science. Amongst classmates of much stronger academic backgrounds, Iris persevered and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. That year she received the only school-wide Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award.

Since Iris developed an equal passion for physics, computer science, and math, she decided to pursue quantum computing research. She studied quantum machine learning with Professor Luming Duan at Tsinghua University during summer 2015, and topological quantum computation with Professor Zhenghan Wang at Microsoft Station Q during the summer of 2016. Iris wrote four first-author publications, gave multiple invited talks, and won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Iris hopes to deepen her insight for designing and manipulating quantum technologies, and realize her dream: large-scale deployment of quantum computing.