We are proud of Andre Shomorony and Ismael Fernandez, two outstanding Quest Scholars who recently were awarded The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. This fellowship supports the graduate education of 30 immigrants or children of immigrants in the U.S., selected from a pool of 1,200 applicants. Each fellow receives up to $90,000 in financial support over two years. Learn more about Ismael:
Name: Ismael Loera Fernandez
College: Emory University, Class of 2013
Majors: Chemistry and Economics
Hometown: Houston, TX
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico and lived there for about half my life. My parents moved from Mexico when I was 11 and brought my two younger siblings and I to live in Houston. I lived in Houston until I got the chance to go to Emory in 2009 and came back last summer to start my PhD program at Rice.
Why did you apply to college through QuestBridge?
I remember hearing about QuestBridge through a brochure for the College Prep Scholarship. To be honest I was a little skeptical at first but decided to apply anyways. I ended up getting the opportunity to fly to Stanford, which encouraged me to apply to the National College Match Scholarship. The more I learned about it, the more attending a top institution seemed like a real possibility. Before applying to QuestBridge, even the idea of attending any college seemed unattainable because of my undocumented status. I was lucky enough to be matched with Emory, as that decision put me where I am today.
How did attending your college open doors for you, and how did you become interested in your current academic pursuits?
Attending Emory put me where I am today. It made my dream of graduating with a college degree a reality and now I’m using what I learned to pursue a career in academia. I knew ever since I took AP Chemistry, but it wasn’t until I took organic chemistry during my first year of college that I decided to major in it.
Describe any research or work experiences that were particularly influential.
One of the most interesting jobs I had was being a Residence Hall Director after graduating from Emory. In this position, I managed a freshman building and was able to see the undergraduate experience through another lens. It was an eye opening experience seeing all the issues outside of academics that undergraduates struggle with and it helped me better understand what students go through on a daily basis. As I want to go into academia, I feel that being aware of what goes on in students’ lives will help me be a better professor and mentor in the future.
Were you involved with the Quest Scholars chapter on your college campus? If so, how did your involvement affect or shape you?
Yes, I was actually the chapter president during my junior year and I’m still connected with the chapter through the current president. I loved being part of the chapter because it connected me with a community of students that came from a similar background.
At Emory, I was part of the second class of Quest Scholars and the chapter was just getting started. What inspired me to build a strong chapter was the fact that there were a few Quest Scholars who were discouraged to be part of the chapter because they saw it as being labeled as someone who came from a low-income background. However, I worked alongside an executive board to make sure that the organization emphasized everyone’s achievements, and that we overcame so much to get where we are now. We also made sure that the chapter created a strong community and became a place where we as Quest Scholars could interact with other students who come from a similar background.
How will you use your PD Soros fellowship? What are your future academic or professional goals?
I will use the PD Soros fellowship in my graduate work. I’m currently a graduate student at Rice University’s Chemistry Department and work on synthesizing bismuth carboxylate compounds.
Do you have any tips or advice for Quest Scholars who might be interested in obtaining an award like the PD Soros fellowship, as they are navigating their academic careers in college?
I think they should definitely go for their dream fellowship, program, graduate school, etc… We have already accomplished a lot by being selected to be Quest Scholars and there’s no reason to think you don’t have a chance at your dreams. I almost didn’t apply for the fellowship, but I’m happy I was encouraged to do so.