UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus Enrique Toloza ’17 has been awarded the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
This opportunity provides Toloza up to $90,000 for tuition, fees and stipend support for two years of graduate study in the United States in any field and any advanced degree-granting program. Each year, this merit-based competition seeks applicants who are either immigrants or children of immigrants who demonstrate creativity, originality, initiative and sustained accomplishment, ultimately selecting 30 winners.
Enrique Toloza was born in Los Angeles, California, to immigrant parents, one who came to the United States from Colombia for her Ph.D., and the other, from the Philippines, grew up in California and went on to medical school. His parents’ literal marriage of science and medicine left an early mark on Toloza, who has aspired to become a physician-scientist from a young age. Toloza owes everything, including his scientific curiosity, love of Spanish and sci-fi literature, and taste in music (both good and bad), to his parents.
After graduating from Carolina, Toloza joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscience, brain and cognitive sciences Associate Professor Mark Harnett’s laboratory for a gap year, during which he coauthored publications in several journals. He went on to enroll in the Harvard-MIT MD/Ph.D. program and is training as a physician-scientist, studying within the health sciences and technology MD curriculum at Harvard University and MIT.
For his Ph.D., Toloza is working with Harnett again, this time as a graduate student in physics at MIT, to conduct research on the biophysics of dendritic integration and the contribution of dendrites to cortical computations in the brain. Toloza will be using the award’s funds to continue this work.
During his time at Carolina, Toloza helped lead the interpreting team at UNC-Chapel Hill’s student-run health clinic and established a new interpreting service for Mandarin-speaking patients. Toloza’s passion for expanding health care access to immigrant populations stems beyond the scope of academia. At Harvard Medical School, he has continued to work with Spanish-speaking patients as a student clinician. In his free time, Toloza plays rock and metal guitar.
“My time at Carolina – as a student in physics and Spanish, as an undergraduate researcher, and as a student clinical interpreter – profoundly shaped the kind of physician and scientist I hope to be,” Toloza said. “I am forever indebted to the army of faculty, staff and fellow students who chose to invest in me based on very little and who continue to support me today.”