Alumnus Jonathan Nicklas describes his path to graduate work at Georgetown/NIH

My name is Jonathan P. Nicklas. I graduated from the University of Scranton in 2018. As an undergraduate, I was a biology and philosophy double major. I also was a member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program and the Honors Program.

Midway through my sophomore year, I had the pleasure to begin a Honor’s project with Dr. Robert Smith, Ph.D., Dr. Katherine Stumpo, Ph.D., and a former graduate student. In this project, I used a spectrophotometer to measure light reflectance of male and female Gray Catbird, Dumetella Carolinensis, feathers. We ultimately discovered that the species’ feathers had slight, sexual variations in UV reflectance, pigment concentration, and color variables such as hue, saturation, and brightness.

As my college career progressed, I began to have an interest in biomedical sciences. This lead me to an internship at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN in the summer of 2017 after my junior year. There, I researched the effects of a natural, antimicrobial clay on biofilm-forming, drug resistant bacteria in a clinical microbiology lab. I demonstrated that the clay hindered bacterial growth. I then used my findings to contribute to a manuscript that was published in 2018.

After I graduated from college, I immediately joined a new lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD as a Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellow. I chose this program because I was unsure exactly how I wanted to launch my career in science. During that time, I was working in a Biological Safety Level-3 Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) research lab in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). I modified current molecular biology techniques to make genetic variants of TB to better understand how the bacterium continues to be drug resistant, which contributes to its remaining as the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

At the time of writing, I am preparing to begin the Georgetown University/NIH Graduate Partnership Program. In this program, my coursework will be done at Georgetown and my lab work will be conducted entirely at the NIH. I hope to stay in NIAID and work on topics related to drug resistance, genetic disorders, vaccinology, and perhaps even scientific government policy. During my brief time at the NIH, it has been a privilege to work with and learn from brilliant NIH scientists from the United States and abroad. Consequently, I am honored and thrilled to continue to do biomedical research next fall at the NIH, as it is a world class institution devoted to the health and betterment of mankind.

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