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Two medical students awarded 2019 Soros Fellowships for New Americans

An aspiring surgeon and an aspiring stem cell biologist, both currently medical students at Stanford, are among the winners of this year’s Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.

Harriet Kiwanuka

Two second-year medical students, Harriet Kiwanuka and Shamik Mascharak, have been awarded 2019 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Paul Soros, who died in 2013, and his wife, Daisy Soros, established the fellowship program in 1997 to support graduate study for immigrants to the United States and their children.

Each fellow receives as much as $90,000 for tuition and living expenses over two academic years. Recipients are selected for fellowships based on merit, with an emphasis on creativity, originality, initiative and sustained accomplishments. They can study in any degree-granting graduate program in any field at any university in the United States. 

Kiwanukawill use the award to support work toward her medical degree. Her parents emigrated from Uganda, and she was born in Norwood, Massachusetts. She traces her passion to pursue medicine to the time her parents were severely injured in a house fire.

Kiwanuka is a member of the Gurtner laboratory, which is interested in the mechanism of blood vessel growth following injury, and how pathways of tissue regeneration and fibrosis interact in wound healing. Her research is focused on CRISPR-cas9 engineered stem cell burn therapy. She hopes to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specializing in burn management.

Shamik Mascharak

Mascharak, who earned a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering at Stanford,will use the award to support his work toward an MD-PhD in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

He was born in Santa Cruz, California, to parents who emigrated from India.

As an undergraduate, Mascharak did research in the Heilshorn biomaterials group, where he explored new grafting materials to be used in vascular bypass surgery, which relies on grafts to reroute blood flow. Current graft materials are notorious for integrating into the vascular system very slowly — if at all — and often fail, requiring more surgery. In the lab, Mascharak used a particular recombinant protein, called elastinlike protein, to manufacture a family of biomaterials that could one day be used as vascular grafting materials — research that resulted in his honors thesis.

Mascharak is a member of the Longaker laboratory, where he is working alongside surgeons to better understand the complex biology of wound healing and tissue regeneration.

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