Daniel Gao ’25 Named 2024 Goldwater Scholar

Daniel Gao '25

Daniel Gao ’25, a molecular biology major, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Established by Congress in 1986, the scholarship program seeks to identify college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in science, engineering and mathematics.

Out of a pool of over 5,000 students, 437 Goldwater Scholars were selected for the 2024-2025 academic year. Goldwater Scholars often go on to win other distinguished awards such as the Churchill Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship and Rhodes Scholarship.

Since the beginning of his sophomore year, Gao has conducted research in the lab of Professor of Chemistry Malkiat Johal. Together, they are looking at receptor ligand interactions between a clearance receptor and proteins that are involved in blood clotting, using surface chemistry tools. They are also probing the physiological significance of the interactions beyond the chemistry.

Gao’s interest in blood clotting began at a young age when his grandfather experienced a stroke. “That was the sort of alarm,” he says. “It’s a very niche type of work, but it’s been a big passion of mine.”

Hailing from Seattle, Gao began his research on blood clotting at the University of Washington the summer after his first year at ϲʿ2023. He returned the next summer as well to continue his work.

At ϲʿ2023, Gao sought out Johal because he was interested in the convergence of the biology of blood clotting with Johal’s background in surface chemistry. “Having the different perspectives brings a lot to the table in terms of the interdisciplinary aspect of our research,” says Gao.

Along with conducting research this summer in the Johal Lab, Gao is applying to M.D.-Ph.D. programs with the goal of beginning a program in fall 2025.

As a physician scientist in the future, he hopes to create new tools for diseases, particularly in the realm of blood clotting. “A big part of being an M.D.-Ph.D. is the translational work, where you’re translating basic science into clinical tools,” says Gao. “That’s something I want to do in the future: being proficient in both and having both resources and both perspectives.”

Gao has seen himself grow as a scientist not only through his biology and chemistry classes—which have pushed him to “ask questions and create the problems that need to be solved”—but also through courses in history, mathematics and sociology. The liberal arts curriculum has taught him “critical thinking and being able to evaluate things from multiple angles,” he says.

“It’s teaching a way of thought that’s very nuanced,” he adds. “And that’s one of the most important things from a scientist’s perspective to have.”