One research experience laid the foundation for Shellaina Gordon’s career as a scientist.
The summer after her first year at Northeastern, Gordon, COS’21, attended a research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). It was her first experience with research, but it changed everything.
“I determined that research will be an integral portion of my career,” she said recently via email. “I was able to meet encouraging, caring mentors, attend cutting edge scientific sessions and develop the confidence and skill set to launch me into more scientific endeavors.”
Gordon’s UMMS summer, as well as her entrance into the University Honors Program, spurred on her journey as a physician-scientist. She entered the Honors Program in Fall 2018 at the beginning of her second year at Northeastern.
“I wanted to be challenged intellectually and think interdisciplinarily. The Honors Program provided a niche that I was looking for, it has given me the opportunity to pursue research in the sciences, yet explore other things I would not regularly expose myself to,” she said.
In addition to access to Honors Academics, Gordon took advantage of the extensive support Honors provides for research. She received an Honors Early Research Award for her work exploring antibiotic resistance in multidrug resistance Acinetobacter baumannii in the Geisinger Lab. Additionally, she received support from the Honors Conference Travel Award to attend the 2019 Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference in Honolulu, HI.
“Both these experiences were incredibly rewarding in exposing me to new science, networking and further solidifying my goals of being a scientist,” she said.
All this success led to her endorsement as one of Northeastern’s four nominees for the Goldwater Scholarship. Gordon set herself up for success with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and advises her fellow Honors Huskies to do the same.
“Absolutely go for it. I made my decision to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship at the end of October, much later than others. I initially did not feel that I was competitive enough and lacked confidence in my abilities, yet here I am a nominee for the award,” she said.
Just the process of applying for awards such as the Goldwater can be productive, Gordon said.
“My advice is to get yourself in the right mindset, discuss your aspirations and plans with your mentors, begin applications early and have confidence in your ability to succeed. Write your essay responses with passion, not just something you think a committee wants to hear. In the end, regardless of being nominated, these applications are exercises that get your goals and plans of action onto paper. They act as a guide map from where you are to where you want to go and if they’re written with passion they’re an invaluable tool.”
The Goldwater fits into her overall goal to work as a physician-scientist. “My goals in this position are to conduct translational research which improves precision medicine for difficult to treat disease, with a specific focus on proteomics and understanding how variants between different ethnic groups contribute to disease prognosis and response to treatment.”
As she waits for the final Goldwater announcement, Gordon is busy learning all she can about different kinds of research styles. She is currently studying abroad at University College Cork, in Ireland. Why Ireland?
“I wanted to understand how science and research vary in other countries. The program at UCC was appealing to me because of the flexibility I have in the courses I am taking. I am still immersed in the sciences and understanding not only how things work on the molecular level, but how those are played out further in Ireland altogether,” she said.
Gordon is using the opportunity to try new things outside of the lab, too. “Thus far the experience has been amazing, I absolutely love the people and atmosphere,” she said. “Right now I am trying a new sport, Trampolining, which I find super exhilarating.”
This summer, Gordon will continue exploring different parts of the globe and enhancing her interdisciplinary perspective through a Dialogue of Civilizations.
“I will be taking a little break from the sciences and pursuing a DOC in Vietnam and Cambodia exploring Food and Culture! I am excited to travel to Southeast Asia, meet new people and eat great food. I am eager to explore things outside the sciences. It will be a fun, rainy and enlightening experience.”