Nathan Maldonado


Fresno, California

Academic Interests

Computer Science, Linguistics, & Natural Language Processing

Fun Fact

I failed my permit test three times so my younger brother drove me around during my senior year of high school

Many native languages are in danger of becoming extinct, including K’iche’, my
indigenous language in Guatemala. At Duke, I hope to pursue my interest in
natural language processing to expand the availability of translation technology of
indigenous languages. However, understanding both fields—computer science
and linguistics—requires me to become efficient in both artificial and human
languages, which is where I turn to Duke, one of the only institutions with a Less
Commonly Taught Languages Program that offers K'iche’ as a foreign language.
My journey, however, began with an internship in high school developing the
curriculum for a virtual reality experience for students with special needs to
master various life skills, including grocery shopping. The intersection of
computer science and public good is one I want to explore more as I continue
with my passion of computational linguistics at Duke.

Other involvements of mine, however, include leadership within my region’s Red
Cross organization and International Humanitarian Law Campaign, specifically to
aid in veterans affairs and general awareness of global challenges in relation to
war. Within Duke, however, I am a University Scholar and am a recipient of a
full-ride merit scholarship through the Gates Foundation to pursue my
interdisciplinary interest in computational linguistics.

On a personal level, my family taught me how to knit early in high school, so
knitting blankets for my loved ones has become a favorite pastime of mine. At
Duke, however, I have spent my time exploring my new home and traveling
outside of Duke and into Durham and Chapel Hill, finding new restaurants and
places to visit with my friends. Lastly, I love listening to “señora” music because
it reminds me of the family back home and spending time with my grandparents.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

Despite being a predominantly white institution, Duke offers incredible
organizations that encourage identity and culture. The cultural groups on campus
give Duke its vitality, notably Mi Gente where I have found an incredible
community of Hispanic students. Finding a home, regardless of how niche your
interest or background may be, becomes incredibly facile. SPIRE being a pillar
for underrepresented communities encourages my involvement with these groups
and my new home here at Duke.

Nathan Maldonado
Nathan Maldonado