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Northwestern medical student receives Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Jenny Liu selected for grant honoring immigrant contributions to U.S.

Physician-scientist-in-the-making Jenny Liu is one of 30 recipients of the 2019 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a prestigious scholarship granted to immigrants or children of immigrants. 

Founded in 1997 by Hungarian immigrants Paul and Daisy Soros, the two-year fellowship provides up to $90,000 to cover the cost of the recipients’ graduate education. 

Liu’s fellowship will support her as she pursues a combined Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy in Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine’s elite Medical Scientist Training Program.

Born in Beijing, Liu immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 7 years old and grew up in Cleveland. Liu’s parents had trouble adjusting to the new environment due to their age, but wanted her to learn English and be well-rounded.

“My dad literally filled the house with lots of books,” Liu said. “He would get bags of books from places selling them by weight. I definitely enjoyed having a personal library at home.” 

Ever the bookworm, Liu initially dreamed of becoming an entomologist. Much to the horror of her parents, she wanted to study disease-carrying insects in the jungle.

“I was a very rebellious child; I wasn’t going to be a doctor,” said Liu, recalling an early interest in the intersection of research and clinical work.   

Liu decided she wanted to attend medical school her senior year of college at Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied biomedical and electrical engineering. 

Northwestern’s Medical Scientist Training program combines Liu’s interests in the structural mechanisms that enable bacteria pathogenesis and infectious diseases.

Now, under the mentorship of professors Luis Amaral and Sinan Keten, Liu is developing data-based tools to understand how proteins are controlled. She hopes these tools can be used for high-throughput characterization of protein dynamics as this type of data becomes more readily available with increasing computational power. 

Liu says her “Feinberg family” supports her in both academics and life. She also appreciates that the school teaches more than just the technical side of medicine.

“What I like about our curriculum is that it doesn't just say, ‘This is the pathology and this is what's wrong, and these are the drugs that treat it,’” she said. “It also tries to bring in the human element.”