Dave Epstein, BS’20, wins the 2022 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Epstein will use the fellowship, which honors the contributions of continuing generations of immigrants in the U.S., towards his PhD program in computer science at UC Berkeley.

Apr 12 2022 | By Allison Chen
Dave Epstein

Dave Epstein, BS’20, has won the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a fellowship that supports immigrants and children of immigrants in the U.S. and funds up to $90,000 towards a postgraduate degree program of the recipient’s choice. Epstein, one of 30 recipients selected from 1,800 applicants, is using his fellowship towards a PhD in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Epstein graduated from Columbia summa cum laude with a BS in computer science. He received the Theodore R. Bashkow Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research and an honorable mention for the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award.

His undergraduate research advisor, Computer Science Assistant Professor Carl Vondrick, introduced Epstein to the field of computer vision. Epstein became particularly interested in developing algorithms that could match the remarkable intelligence of toddlers without needing manual human annotations. He is continuing his research on machine intelligence at UC Berkeley, designing machines that can learn to compose and be creative. His main focus is, he says, on teaching machines to solve visual problems without labels and causing a creative understanding of the real world to emerge.

Born in San Jose, California, to Israeli parents, Epstein grew up attending an Orthodox Jewish Hebrew school in Sunnyvale. He was eager to go to a “regular” public high school but moved to Israel with his family when he was 13 years old. He returned to the U.S. for undergraduate study at Columbia University.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, founded by Hungarian immigrants Daisy M. Soros and her late husband Paul Soros, aims to demonstrate the “ingenuity and diverse perspectives that immigrants of all backgrounds bring to America’s graduate programs and to the country,” according to Fellowship Director Craig Harwood. The 2022 fellows join a prestigious community of previous award recipients that form an active alumni network, including U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Olympians Amy Chow and Patricia Miranda, U.S. Ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, and many more.

In addition to the children of immigrants, the Soros Fellowship supports green card holders, naturalized citizens, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) individuals, and those who have come to the United States as refugees or asylum seekers. All recipients are selected based on their potential to make significant contributions to U.S. society, culture, or their academic field.

Students interested in the Soros Fellowship are encouraged to connect with Undergraduate Research & Fellowships to learn more.