Andrey Sushko was reading about physics at age 8.
By age 10, he was showing a knack for engineering and electronics, building remote-control model boats.
At 12, “I was programming things,” he said.
So it’s no surprise that at 23, Sushko — who graduated from Hanford High School in Richland before going onto Stanford University and now Harvard University — is the recipient of a prestigious fellowship.
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He’s one of 30 young people chosen to be a 2017 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow. He’ll receive up to $90,000 for his graduate studies.
The fellowship is a thrill and an honor, he said Tuesday.
It comes on the heels of another major accomplishment for Sushko. He also was named a Hertz Foundation Fellow.
That fellowship goes to doctoral students in applied physical, biological and engineering sciences.
Sushko is the son of Peter and Maria Sushko of Richland, both scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
He was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and moved to the United Kingdom with his family as a boy.
In the UK, he “spent much time in a group of friends united by passion and self-taught skill in a broad range of STEM fields,” according to his Soros biography.
When he was 15, Sushko moved again — this time to Richland.
At a time when the national conversation seems to be on what immigrants are taking away, we are putting the spotlight on what immigrants from diverse backgrounds contribute to the United States.
Craig Harwood, Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans
He excelled in the Tri-Cities, acing his classes at Hanford High and interning at PNNL. He created a new kind of electric motor as a senior in high school, winning second place in the national Intel Science Talent Search.
Sushko was one of Hanford’s valedictorians when he graduated in 2012.
At Stanford, he earned degrees in physics and mathematics. While he was there, he “pursued his longtime research interest in experimental physics, while dabbling with industry over the summer by developing navigational sensors for spacecraft at SpaceX,” his biography said.
He also helped develop a novel high-altitude balloon flight control system that broke world records.
Sushko has been Harvard since last summer, pursuing a PhD in physics. He’s “working to advance the frontier of controllable, engineered, quantum systems by leveraging techniques from both condensed matter and AMO (atomic, molecular and optical) physics,” his biography said.
Nearly 1,800 students applied for this year’s Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. The awards go to immigrants and children of immigrants in the U.S. who have the potential to make significant impacts in their fields.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib are among past recipients.
“At a time when the national conversation seems to be on what immigrants are taking away, we are putting the spotlight on what immigrants from diverse backgrounds contribute to the United States,” said Craig Harwood, who directs the fellowship program, in a statement.
Paul Soros was a businessman and philanthropist. He and his wife, Daisy, who both immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary, started the fellowship program in 1997.
Sushko said the Soros and Hertz fellowship application processes were tough, and it feels good to be selected.
“I’m honesty quite surprised (to have received both)” he told the Herald. “I’m very happy, it goes without saying.”
To learn more Sushko and the rest of the 2017 Soros Fellows, go to pdsoros.org.