Dartmouth High Alum Making Strides in Genetic Research
What started as a love for high school biology class has helped Nicole Peterson achieve greatness in the research lab.
Peterson, 21, a Dartmouth High alum, is now going into her final semester at the University of New Hampshire, where she majors in biochemistry with a specialty in molecular and cellular biology.
A 2012 Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarship recipient, Peterson’s interest in science was first kindled when she took Advanced Placement Biology during her junior year.
“I loved my teacher at the time, Dr. Peter Bangs,” Peterson said. “I would be excited to go home and read stuff and do all the work sheets and assignments. Then we did labs, which really caught my interest.”
Bangs said Peterson was always “upbeat and enthusiastic” about AP Biology.
“She worked hard, but she also worked well in the sense that what she produced was of very good quality and demonstrated that she understood the concepts surrounding the work,” Bangs said. “I certainly enjoyed having her as a student.”
Peterson decided that the University of New Hampshire would be the best place to pursue a career in science.
“They offered a lot of opportunity for students to get involved rather than usual class, lecture, class,” Peterson said.
The Ronald McDonald House awarded her a $10,000 scholarship based on her academic achievement and community involvement. The scholarship, a point of pride for Peterson, has enabled her to accomplish much in her time at college.
In her primary area of research with cellular biology and genetics, Peterson is focusing on cell signaling and working with genetically altered plants, namely the Arabidopsis plant, which is commonly used in studying plant biology.
She’s received multiple awards and research grants for her independent research, including the Undergraduate Research Conference Award of Excellence.
“It was a really huge accomplishment that I wasn’t expecting,” Peterson said.
In her research, Peterson has been trying to understand the gene pathway of the mutated plants and the modified plants’ potential implications on agriculture.
“We noticed there’s a certain mutant strain of [the Arabidopsis plant] with interesting root growth, where the roots actually grew against gravity,” Peterson said. “We should have a nice story to tell of why we’re seeing what we’re seeing.”
Even as an award-winning scholar, Peterson values her time with classmates outside of the lab setting.
“I found a great, stable friend group. It’s nice to have peers that are all over the place in majors. The connections are so different than in high school. It’s just been well-rounded. I’m getting more than I imagined I would,” Peterson said.
Peterson already has her eye on some biotech jobs after graduating, many of which require lab experience that she now has an abundance of.
Article By Lauren Zaknoun at Dartmouth Week
Picture courtesy of Nicole Peterson