Nicole Kikendall

Chicago, IL, US
Field of Work 
Vaccine development, infectious disease, biodefense
Argonne National Laboratory
Job Title or "Student" 
Biological Nonproliferation Specialist
Tulane University School of Medicine
Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences, Microbiology and Immunology
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
I have always loved science and nature. My innate curiosity drove my mother insane with my constant questions of "Why?" This curiosity found a natural fit in biology and I obtained my Bachelor's degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. As a pre-med student, I volunteered and worked in various areas in the hospital, including a position in a pre-op and surgical unit, but realized medicine wasn't for me. Administering the solutions wasn't nearly as interesting to me as understanding the initial and underlying problems themselves. I was lucky that I found a position in an immunology laboratory, where I worked for 5 years in the fields of biodefense and vaccine development. I gained invaluable laboratory and biological experience in this position. I loved the work I did and decided to pursue a PhD. I obtained my doctorate in biomedical sciences within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, specializing in vaccine development for select agents. I believe that with the rapidly changing natural environment and the societal responses to those changes it is necessary to be open, creative, and innovative with how we approach disease prevention, and I loved that I got to be a part of the new generation powering the transition.
While in grad school, I also initiated and coordinated a student organization for alternative careers in science. Having come from a laboratory job in industry, I knew there were more career options open to PhD than our professors and universities were presenting us with. I strove to introduce our students to different areas and positions utilizing their knowledge and skill sets. I knew that many students' interests fell outside of academia and wanted to expose them to a wide array of career options.
Following graduation with my doctorate, I worked for the federal government in national biodefense and was able to expand my breadth of knowledge and training to the policies and regulations that dictate biological research. I contributed to a number of technical working groups and regulatory committees that create and oversee national biodefense strategies and policies. I then transitioned to my current position with a national laboratory, continuing my work in biodefense, but within an international scope. Building my knowledge and understanding in biological laboratories, national policy, and international treaties has proven invaluable to my career trajectory thus far. While I'm currently in the early stages of my career, I'm genuinely excited to see and learn what the future holds for both myself and the fields of biology and biodefense.
Working outdoors, Pets, Reading, Travel, Other
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, In-school visit, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
Evenings, Weekends
Career exploration activities, Fun demonstrations or materials, Hands-on activities for students, Identifying other role models, Online Mentoring (email or Skype)
Program Affiliation 
NGCP Collaborative FabFem, None
Other Interests 
Running, volunteering, music, nature, traveling, museums, live shows, my dog

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