Ashley NicholsCongratulations to Ashley Nichols ’20, who recently was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP)! The NSF GRFP recognizes graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math who are pursuing further education in masters and doctoral programs. The fellows receive opportunities for international research and professional development, as well as an annual stipend to help with the cost of tuition and fees. Nichols currently teaches at Chapman as a lab instructor for Introduction to Molecular Genetics Lab, under the direction of Dr. Hsu.

Originally from San Diego, CA, and a first-generation student, Nichols graduated from Chapman in 2020, with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Leadership Development Studies. While an undergrad, Nichols worked alongside Dr. Montazeri to study protein expression changes in resistant breast cancer cells, gaining knowledge of working within a biomedical research lab and how to critically think like a scientist. She is currently weighing between two graduate schools, The University of Washington and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Immunology with a focus on cancer development and treatment. 

Research Involvement

Undergraduate research opportunities are the foundation of the Schmid experience, and Nichols took full advantage of her opportunity to learn hands-on lab skills and find her area of interest. “I worked with Dr. Montazeri and studied protein expression changes in resistant breast cancer cells. I started in his lab as a freshman, so I knew basically nothing about working in a biomedical research lab. Beyond just learning lab skills I began to learn how to really think critically like a scientist.” said Nichols. 

Future Endeavors

In this program, Nichols will focus her research on the mechanisms of the immune system, specifically applying her research to cancer development and treatment. After completing a summer internship at Scripps Research Institute, she fell in love with immunology and is excited to continue her research in this field. “I am so excited to find my lab that I am going to spend 5-6 years conducting research in, and making contributions to the field of Immunology,” said Nichols.

After she completes her Ph.D. Nichols plans to pursue a career as a professor, where she can help other first-generation students reach their full potential and make research and other STEM careers more accessible for students from all backgrounds.

Special Thanks

Nichols wanted to thank the faculty members who contributed to her success and supported her throughout her undergraduate years and during the application process.

She specifically wanted to thank the faculty who directly taught her during her undergraduate years, and Dr. Montazeri, who allowed her to begin her research career early freshman year. Also, Dr. Christopher Kim, who helped her with her application and was able to read the various drafts of her statements for her application, and Dr. Elaine Schwartz and Dr. Melissa Rowland-Goldsmith for being amazing mentors throughout her time at Schmid and accredits them for helping her be prepared to be a graduate student.