Francisca Vasconcelos, a doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. (Photo courtesy of Francisca Vasconcelos)

Francisca Vasconcelos, a doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, has been chosen as a Paul and Daisy Soros fellow.

She will receive up to $90,000 to support her graduate education as part of the Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellowship, a merit-based program for immigrants and children of immigrants. Vasconcelos, whose parents immigrated from Portugal, is the first Soros fellow with Portuguese heritage.

“This is an incredible, diverse community of immigrants and first-generation Americans that I am excited to interact with and learn from. I am also very grateful for the fellowship funding,” Vasconcelos said. “As the first Portuguese recipient of this fellowship, I am proud to represent Portugal in this international community.”

Vasconcelos is one of two Berkeley students included in the 30-person 2024 cohort from 2,323 applicants. The program has spent more than $80 million since 1998 supporting 805 fellows from 103 countries pursuing U.S. graduate degrees in fields from medicine to law. The fellowship is currently accepting applications to join its 2025 fellows.

Vasconcelos was born in Boston, Mass., and grew up in San Diego, Calif. She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020 with a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering, computer science and physics. She then received the Rhodes Scholarship, allowing her to earn master’s degrees in statistical sciences and the philosophy of physics at the University of Oxford. 

After graduating from MIT, Vasconcelos also served as the founding academic director and a lead instructor of the Coding School’s Qubit by Qubit initiative. In that role, she helped teach thousands of students quantum computing fundamentals.

At Berkeley, Vasconcelos is a member of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab and computer science theory group and is advised by EECS professors Michael Jordan and Umesh Vazirani. She studies the intersections of quantum computation and machine learning in order to find impactful ways quantum computers can outperform classical computers.

“Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize our ability to solve many computational problems of societal import,” said Vasconcelos. “I hope to contribute to that revolution."