Iris Cong, a 2017 UCLA Samueli Engineering alumna now studying physics at Harvard University, has received two major graduate fellowships in the past few weeks – the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and the Fannie & John Hertz Foundation Fellowship.
Cong’s research interest lies primarily in quantum computing. Her long-term goal is to employ physics, computer science and mathematics to advance quantum technologies and lay the foundation for the widespread adoption of quantum computers.
The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships support immigrants and children of immigrants who show great promise in making significant contributions to the United States. Cong was one of 30 recipients of the fellowship, out of more than 1,700 who applied this year. Cong was born in Los Angeles to immigrants from China. Her father, Jason Cong, is a distinguished professor of computer science at UCLA. The fellowship program was started in 1997 by the New York City-based foundation.
The Hertz Fellowships recognize the country’s top graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. in applied physical and biological sciences, mathematics and engineering. Cong was one of ten recipients of the honor, out of nearly 700 applicants. The foundation, based in Livermore, Calif., awarded its first graduate fellowships in 1963.
Cong bypassed high school and started UCLA as a 13 year old. Her interest in quantum computing took root during summer research internships at the Center for Quantum Information at Tsinghua University and at Microsoft Research Station Q at UC Santa Barbara. She has published four research papers as the first author, including one in Physical Review Letters.
Cong received her bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2017, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. She was the engineering school’s Outstanding Bachelor’s Student at commencement that year, and received the school’s Edward K. Rice Outstanding Bachelor’s Student Award at the school’s annual awards dinner last month.
Cong has also been recognized with the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship in 2017, and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2016.