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Daniel Najera Receives the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Daniel Najera


The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants, recently announced their 2019 Fellows. Among this year’s recipients is Daniel Najera, doctoral student in chemistry and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Najera was born in Chicago, but grew up in Durango, Mexico. At sixteen, he moved to El Paso, Texas to escape economic hardship and pursue educational opportunities. Living in the border region allowed him to adjust to a new life and a new school system, in the United States, while maintaining a direct connection to his Mexican upbringing.

Graduating high school in the top ten of his class, he went on to pursue science at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). There, he received the UTEP Presidential Scholarship, which paid for his undergraduate tuition. Earning a BS in chemistry, he is the first member of his family to attend and graduate college.

Najera’s passion for chemistry led him to pursue teaching and research opportunities, including a peer-led mentoring program to help other undergraduate students succeed in chemistry. He joined a research group through the Partnerships for Research and Education and Materials (PREM) and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) programs. He also spent a summer in the Future Leaders in Advanced Materials (FLAM) program at the University of California Santa Barbara, which sparked his interest in synthetic inorganic chemistry. 

Currently, Najera is pursuing a PhD in chemistry at the University of Illinois under the direction of Alison Fout. He is a 2017 Sloan Scholar in the Sloan University Center for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) at Illinois. He hopes to become a faculty member with his own research group in order to mentor the next generation of scientists.

Selected from a pool of 1,767 applicants for their potential to make significant contributions to United States society, culture, or their academic fields, the 2019 Fellows are all the children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, green card holders, or naturalized citizens. In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, each new Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow will join the prestigious community of 625 recipients from past years.

Past recipients include former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (1998 Fellow), California Surgeon General Nadine Burke-Harris (1999 Fellow), AI leader Fei-Fei Li (1999 Fellow), CareMore Health CEO Sachin Jain (2004 Fellow), composer Lera Auerbach (1998 Fellow), and Lieutenant Governor of Washington Cyrus Habib (2007 Fellow).

Founded by Hungarian immigrants, Daisy M. Soros and her late husband Paul Soros (1926-2013), the program honors continuing generations of immigrant contributions to the United States.

Individuals can learn more about the Fellowship, the current Fellows and the application, as well as sign up for the Fellowship’s e-mail list and an informational session webinar, at the program’s website: