Biochemistry grad to share his talents with Italian opera | Earlham College Skip to Content

Biochemistry grad to share his talents with Italian opera

May 05, 2017

Eric Nicholson ’17 came to campus from Ithaca, N.Y., at the recommendation of a long line of aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and cousins.

“At one point, there were five of us on campus at the same time,” Nicholson says of his cousins, Carter and Malia Paulmier, Anna Richie, and his brother, Neil. “There are 42 of us in all. That’s why I came to Earlham. They are all people whose opinions I trust.”

Like many of his relatives before him, Eric’s four years on campus have been spent in pursuit of a degree in science, but he made sure to wander away from the laboratory often.

He traveled the world leading wilderness excursions in Utah and Ontario, Canada, and worked in a Taiwanese laboratory in search of new antibiotics, a process he described as “growing bacteria and killing it — over and over again.” He lived in Music House and sang bass in Earlham’s choirs and the acapella group, Brimley’s, while playing guitar, trumpet and French horn in various instrumental ensembles. He even captained the ultimate Frisbee club team.

“I feel like I was on a different continent every year,” Nicholson says.

On Saturday, May 6, Nicholson will earn his Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry at the College’s 170th Commencement. He is among 205 Earlhamites earning degrees, including 185 undergraduate degrees, and 20 master’s degrees, 10 each from the College’s Graduate Programs in Education and the Earlham School of Religion. 

But Nicholson’s time with Earlham isn’t over yet. Next week, he will embark on his third May Term, this time in Peru with faculty from the College’s Center for Global Health. For three weeks, he will provide non-medical support for clinics, health centers and educational programs, in collaboration with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children.

“I want to make a difference in the world, make things better for other people and for the future,” Nicholson says. “My research with antibiotics connects well with the Peru May Term. Each is a different way of making an impact in the field.”

The rest of his summer will be spent in Italy chasing his other passion: singing. After being urged to apply by music faculty, Nicholson was accepted into La Musica Lirica’s five-week intensive opera training program in Italy where he will study Italian and sing the role of Benoit in “La Boheme.” The program is designed for advanced singers who are ready to start or have started careers as professional singers.

“I’ve always had an interest in music and have been playing instruments since I was in kindergarten, but this was an experience I didn’t expect to have,” he says.

But it’s probably not an accident either, he says, considering Earlham’s strong commitment to the liberal arts and opportunities for integrated learning across the curriculum.

“A big part of my Earlham experience was with the music program,” Nicholson says. “At Earlham, there are more science majors in the orchestra than music majors. I think that’s true about choir, too.

“That’s been very important to me because science is very technical and music is more expressive. The combination of the two brings a nice balance to what I do.”

Nicholson will take a gap year before applying to graduate school programs in biochemistry or molecular biology. In the meantime, Nicholson will remain in Richmond and work for Know Hunger Know More, a social enterprise that aims to eradicate hunger in the communities of Wayne County, Indiana. The enterprise recently earned funding from the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism, a new business plan competition sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot at Earlham and had a lot of fun,” he says. “Earlham has given me a lot of tools to be successful in the world and opened many doors for me. I’ve definitely enjoyed my experience.”

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and

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