‘You are the role models.’ Northeastern celebrates achievement at 13th Annual Academic Honors Convocation

Students pose on a stage while holding awards
Scores of students and faculty were celebrated at the annual academic honors event. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Northeastern celebrated the highest achievements of students and faculty at the 13th Annual Academic Honors Convocation in East Village on Thursday.

A wide variety of achievements were highlighted, including two new faculty awards that recognized the university’s global commitment while emphasizing the theme of the day. 

“We have been the only university that I know of that has built the global university system—the only university that is allowing our students to roam,” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said in his closing remarks. “The end-game is leadership and impact. You have demonstrated leadership in your fields. And you have demonstrated impact. So you are the role models and from now on this is what we’re all about: Impacting the world, being engaged with the world and trying to make it a better world.”

The event recognized members of the Northeastern community—scholars, researchers, mentors, teachers and innovators—who earned close to 200 awards from external organizations. 

“These honors confirm what we already know,” David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, told the large audience on the picturesque 17th floor overlooking the sunny Boston skyline. “Northeastern has some of the most exceptional students and faculty in the world.”

Two Northeastern professors were honored for highly prestigious career awards. Ali Abur, a professor of computer and electrical engineering, was appointed this year to the National Academy of Engineering

“Elections are made based on outstanding contributions to the field and for truly outstanding leadership in engineering research, practice or education,” said Madigan, who defined Abur as a groundbreaking researcher in electrical and computer engineering whose work has helped improve the efficiency of power grids around the world. “The election process is extraordinarily rigorous and spans multiple years. Members are deemed to be truly the very best in their field.”

Gregory Abowd, dean of Northeastern’s College of Engineering, recently earned a Lifetime Research Award from the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group for Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI), the world’s largest association in the field. 

“This award recognizes the very best, most fundamental and influential research contributions and is awarded to one individual each year for a lifetime of innovation and leadership,” Madigan said of Abowd. “In a world where computer technology is rapidly changing the way that we live and work, Dean Abowd has been at the forefront of identifying the ways that computers can support humankind’s most difficult challenges. Dean Abowd’s transformational contributions to the field are at the highest level of interdisciplinary scholarship and innovation.” 

The winners were joined by family, friends, faculty, deans and staffers as awards were announced for undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty.

Four students received the Harold D. Hodgkinson Award, which goes to Northeastern seniors who are selected by a faculty committee on the basis of scholastic and experiential achievement. The recipients were Ben Dottinger (majoring in health science), Emerson Johnston (politics, philosophy, economics, history, culture and law), Tejas Sathyamurthi (computer science) and Hope Zamora (behavioral neuroscience). 

The Sears B. Condit Award, a scholarship for outstanding academic achievement endowed by a former member of the university’s corporation, went to: Zachary Hoglund (bioengineering and biochemistry), Amara Ifeji (political science), Jessica Johnson (health science), Naomi Kim (theater), Gillian McClennen (biochemistry), Lillian Moffett (business administration) and Brandon Onyejekwe (data science).

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate science scholarship in the country, went to three sophomores or juniors who are studying science, mathematics or engineering: Gillian McClennen (biochemistry), Siddharth Simon (computer engineering and computer science) and Ethan Wong (biology). 

The Schwarzman Scholarship,offering a one-year, fully funded master’s degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing to help develop future leaders who may deepen the understanding between China and the world, went to Alex Marley (electrical engineering and economics).

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship went to a junior-year student with leadership skills who is interested in public service: Amara Ifeji (political science).

The George J. Mitchell Scholarship, honoring the former U.S. Senator’s commitment to peace in Northern Ireland, was awarded to Vivek Kanpa (data science and biology).

Five scholars earned Fulbright Scholarships as part of the program that provides grants for exceptional students to research, study or teach English abroad for the purpose of enhancing diplomacy and a shared understanding between the U.S. and other countries. The winners were: Katherine Kikta (international business), Saoirse McNally (human services and criminal justice), Michael Nelson (a 2020 graduate in physics and computer science), Andrew Small (Asian studies) and Zaneta Sulley (a 2022 graduate in criminal justice and sociology).

The Graduate Education for Minorities (GEM) PhD Engineering Fellowship promotes opportunities to enter industry at the graduate level with top engineering and science firms (as well as universities) in research and development, product development and other high level technical careers. The winners were: Eric Cardoza (mechanical engineering), Melanie Edmund (industrial engineering) and Ben-Oni Vainqueur (computer engineering and computer science).

The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University, will provides financial support, mentoring and professional development to prepare awardees for a career in the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service. It went to Katherine Kikta (international business), one of several multiple winners at the ceremony.

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship enables U.S. citizens to pursue academic studies abroad, preparing them to assume significant roles in the global economy. It was awarded to Angelica Erskine (English).

The Critical Language Scholarship, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, enables the pursuit of intensive overseas summer study in critically needed foreign languages. It went to Grayson Peel (cultural anthropology) and Helen Wang (computer science and linguistics).An unprecedented 23 Northeastern-affiliated students —a mix of undergraduate and graduate students—earned National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students who are or will be pursuing research-based master’s or doctoral degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The undergraduate winners were Adel Attari (chemical engineering), Gillian Audia (chemical engineering and biochemistry), Rebecca Chinn (chemical engineering), Seth Freedman (chemistry and chemical biology), Caroline Ghio (chemical engineering), Bjorn Kierulf (mechanical engineering), Gabrielle LeBlanc (biology), David McMullin (chemical engineering), B. Parazin (physics and mathematics), Liam Pavlovic (computer science), Michael Shen (computer engineering), Amanda Stark (behavioral neuroscience), Jonathan Tan (electrical and computer engineering), Nathan Tang (chemistry) and Justin Vega (physics and philosophy).

Graduate awards

Graduate winners of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships were: Derek Egolf (computer science), Michaela Fanikos (behavioral neuroscience while pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology), Ashley Herrick (bioengineering), Nicholas Kathios (psychology), Nora Khalil (chemical engineering), Kelsie Lynn Lopez (psychology), Andrew James Piasecki (biology) and Alyssa Smith (network science). 

Graduate students were recognized during the ceremony in five categories:

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Awards in Experiential Learning went to three students who have shown an extraordinary capacity to integrate academics and professional work and establish themselves as emerging leaders in their fields: Saeed Alborzi (mechanical engineering), Nathaniel Hanson (computer engineering) and Madhuri Iyer (regulatory affairs).
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Awards in Humanics recognized three students who have integrated human literacies with data and technology in their learning or research. It went to Avery Blankenship (English), Justin Haner (political science) and Katharine Lee (data analytics engineering).
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Awards in Leadership went to five student leaders who demonstrated a deep commitment to giving back to members of Northeastern’s community and surrounding neighborhoods: Magda Cooney (management), Miranda Duffany (physical therapy, movement and rehabilitation science), Caroline Millard (chemistry), Emmanuel Nasamu (analytics and evidence-based management) and Jaahnavi Kandula (information systems), who died earlier this year as a Northeastern student in Seattle. “She made a large impression on everyone that she met, and she was especially skilled at putting other students at ease when they came to her with questions,” said Dave Thurman, regional dean and CEO of Northeastern’s Seattle campus. “She possessed strong analytical abilities and had a passion for solving technical issues. She is remembered as a joyful friend with a bubbly laugh and her loss is felt deeply by the Northeastern University community.”
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Awards in Research went to the following Ph.D. students who have shown an impressive ability to conduct high-level research and make contributions to the scholarly literature in their field: Muhammad Ali (computer science), Peiru Chen (chemistry), Ryan Jamieson (bioengineering), Jordie Kamuene (biomedical science) and Sarah Lockwood (criminology and justice policy).
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Awards in Teaching went to these Ph.D. students who have demonstrated an exceptional ability to communicate inspiring ideas and concepts in the classroom: Ronodeep Mitra (chemical engineering) and Hannah Wolfe (psychology).
Three people stand together with an award at Northeastern's Annual Academic Honors Convocation.
Gregory Abowd (center), dean of the College of Engineering, was honored for his SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University


The University Excellence in Teaching Award went to two professors based on their depth of knowledge, their ability to link course content with research and experiential learning, and the rigor of the coursework. The winners were Laura Kuhl, assistant professor of public policy and urban affairs and international affairs; and Miso Kim, assistant professor of  experience design.

The inaugural Northeastern Global Educator Award celebrated the value of global learning experiences to students via teaching that is engaging, supportive, inclusive, interculturally competent while contributing to students’ global mindset and making a positive impact on host communities. The winner was Courtney Pfluger, associate teaching professor of chemical engineering, who leads students on annual Dialogues of Civilization trips to Brazil.

The inaugural Northeastern Global Network Accelerator Award recognized two faculty members whose interdisciplinary research and teaching succeeds in activating the global university system to connect diverse communities while solving great challenges. The honorees were Alicia Sasser Modestino, associate professor of public policy and urban affairs and economics as well as research director at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy; and Carrie Maultsby-Lute, director at the Center for Transformative Action and a marketing professor of practice.

The Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award was presented to two professors for their outstanding work of national and international significance: Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor, director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) and faculty co-director of the Center for Law, Equity and Race (CLEAR); and Alan Mislove, professor and senior associate dean for academic affairs.

The Klein University Lecturer Award honored Christo Wilson, associate professor and director of the BS in Cybersecurity program, for contributing with great distinction in his field of study. 

“Christo is a spectacular researcher focusing on the ubiquity of the algorithmic footprint on society today,” Madigan said. “Christo’s multidisciplinary work aims to increase transparency and to drive accountability. In his Klein lecture, he illuminated how algorithms impact our everyday lives. From the kinds of ads we see to individual patient care, and how data is readily available to be marketed. He shared how increasing transparency through algorithmic auditing will help make these systems understandable and accountable.”

Additionally, a wide variety of faculty awards were offered by Northeastern’s schools and colleges. That list can be accessed here.

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at i.thomsen@northeastern.edu. Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.