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Olivia Nicholson


Goldwater Scholarship winner Olivia Nicholson shares what research means to her.

Olivia Nicholson was recently named a 2023 Goldwater Scholar. The federally funded program is one of the nation’s most distinguished academic awards for young scientists. The Dexter, Iowa, native recently shared some insights into her research and her experience at Creighton.

What is your major and graduation year?

I’m majoring in biochemistry with a minor in public health. I’ll graduate in 2024.

What kind of research are you doing?

I have been conducting research in Dr. Lynne Dieckman's lab since the first semester of my freshman year. Our lab studies the interaction between two proteins involved in replication-coupled nucleosome assembly. My project uses Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to image the interaction between individual fluorescently tagged proteins via laser excitation. 

Why is research important to you?

My experience conducting research at Creighton has been invaluable to my growth as a scientist and person. I started college as a pre-med student, but my career plans changed almost immediately after joining the Dieckman lab. Creighton's undergraduate research culture, especially in the chemistry department, is very supportive and collaborative, which helped me develop into a more confident researcher. I am so grateful to all of the professors and mentors who have impacted me throughout my time at Creighton.  

What are your plans after graduating?

After graduation, I plan to pursue a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and conduct research in a government or industry lab focusing on drug or vaccine development. 

How will your research experience help you reach your goals?

The biggest and most valuable lesson I will take away from my research experience is perseverance. Research is difficult and often requires pushing through repeated failure. My research mentor is always available for advice and support but also stresses the importance of independent problem-solving in order to grow as a scientist. I've had to learn how to maintain a positive mindset while dealing with setbacks in the lab, which I think will be an invaluable skill moving forward.

Would you recommend research to incoming students?

I would 100% recommend getting involved with undergraduate research to incoming students. Beyond developing technical skills, undergraduate research is a great way to make connections on campus. Creighton professors really do care about their students, and I have been lucky enough to find several great mentors through research. I've also loved getting to know and develop friendships with other students in the Dieckman lab.