Meet the PRAs: Grace Nichols

Meet Grace Nichols ’20, an OUR Peer Research Ambassador (PRA) majoring in Molecular & Cell Biology and minoring in Mathematics.

Meet the PRAs: Grace.What is the focus of your research?

I currently work in a neuroscience laboratory at UConn Health where we are studying the auditory system and occurrence of tinnitus in mice. I also assist with clinical research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Prior to these experiences, I worked in a computational biology lab and helped in producing mathematical models of the genes promoting chemotherapy resistance in Triple Negative Breast Cancer tumors.

Why did you get involved in research?

When I first came to UConn, I was pursuing a major in Mathematics/Actuarial Science and was planning to become an actuary. After taking a few science courses and shadowing healthcare providers, I ended up changing my career track and switching my major to Molecular and Cell Biology. I initially got involved in research because I wanted to gain more exposure to how scientific investigation connects back to patient and community health. Participating in computational biology research provided a unique and valuable bridge between my background in mathematics and my new interest of cell biology.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Get involved in as many different activities as possible, attend different lectures and workshops offered on campus, and take a wide breadth of classes. You never know who you may meet and connect with, or what new topics will pique your interest. College is one of the few times you will get to freely explore in this way, so take advantage of it!

What do you enjoy the most about participating in research activity?

What I enjoy most about my research activity is how no two days are the same in the laboratory – there are always new problems to solve and every day is a new learning experience. Being in such a dynamic work environment has helped me to develop my personal and professional skills. Under the guidance of my mentors, I have gained experience in planning and troubleshooting experiments, learned how to communicate the goals and results of a project with my peers, and gained confidence in myself as an investigator. This enriching experience reaffirmed my interest in the healthcare field, and inspired me to pursue scientific research beyond my undergraduate education.

What are your plans after graduation? How has involvement in research influenced your plans and prepared you for the future?

After graduation I plan to apply to medical school. My involvement in undergraduate research has truly been a positive experience, and has encouraged me to incorporate scientific investigation into my higher education and career goals. It is because of my time spent in research that I plan to apply to MD/PhD programs.