Meet our 2020 Goldwater Scholars

Today, we’re pleased to share the news that two Northeastern undergraduate researchers — Max Daniels and Shellaina Gordon — have been recognized with the Goldwater Scholarship. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award for outstanding students in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering who are interested in pursuing careers in research. The premier award for undergraduate students in STEM fields, the scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who showed a keen interest in science and technology during his 30 years in the U.S. Senate. They and the other applicants uphold Northeastern’s proud tradition of and commitment to use-inspired research to solve pressing global challenges.

The Goldwater Scholarship Foundation reports the following.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Learn a bit more about these accomplished and ambitious students below. Thank you to their generous mentors from within and outside of Northeastern.


Max Daniels Khoury/COS’23
Major: Computer Science and Mathematics; minor in Physics
Hometown: Bartow, FL
Mentors: Paul Hand, Virgil Pavlu, Jay Aslam, Hendrik Strobelt

Growing up in a rural area, Max Daniels taught himself programming and math by scouring the internet for open-source tutorials and hacking his video games. At Northeastern, he declared a major in computer science and math and a minor in physics because these fields offer ways to discover and understand the structures hidden within complex systems. Max is particularly interested in the potential of machine learning models to uncover structures hidden in natural data, especially in 1- and 2-D signals. Max has earned the Honors Early Research Award and the PEAK Experiences Ascent Award to support his research projects at Northeastern, including work on an audio deep decoder, extreme classification algorithms, the role of statistical distances in training generative adversarial networks (GANs), and removing representation error in GANs. Max plans to pursue a PhD in applied mathematics, to conduct research on machine learning, and to communicate his findings to diverse audiences—including the next generation of kids who want to hack their video games.


Shellaina Gordon COS’21
Major: Biochemistry; minor in Ethics
Hometown: Fitchburg, MA
Mentors: Teresita Padilla-Benavides, Edward Geisinger, Melinda Hanes, Lauren Machunis

Shellaina Gordon chose to major in biochemistry at Northeastern because the program blends biology and chemistry in way that encourages mastery of the separate disciplines while also providing a clear understanding of their interplay. Drawing on knowledge from both domains, Shellaina says that she has learned to apply her skills to diverse challenges and answer complex questions in a variety of research settings. These have included investigating the role of transition metals, particularly manganese, in cell development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; analyzing how oxidative stress-relieving compounds contribute to antibiotic resistance in A. buamannii at Northeastern; and proving and implementing the use of a human naive library for use as a selection tool in discovering high-affinity antibodies while on co-op at Visterra, a clinical-stage biotech company. Shellaina earned the US Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to support her current study abroad at University College Cork, Ireland. Shellaina intends to earn the MD/PhD in order to bring basic research into a translational setting, with a focus on proteomics and a commitment to increasing equity both in the medico-scientific professions and in clinical research and care.