Earlham alum’s contributions to antibiotic resistance research published in major scientific journal

Eric Nicholson, who graduated with a degree in biochemistry from Earlham College in 2017, has co-authored an article about antibiotics for Nature, a leading scientific journal.

The article, based on research he contributed to while he was an undergraduate, details scientific breakthroughs in combating antibiotic resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacterium known to cause infections in blood. Nicholson, who was an intern in 2016 for The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) in Thailand, joined a team of international researchers in screening hundreds of chemical compounds for new antibiotic properties capable of fighting infections. The team discovered one compound that inhibited growth of the bacteria in multiple tests.

“Antibiotics are a modern way of combating disease, but bacteria can evolve and adapt to many of these drugs over time,” Nicholson said. “Our work discovered new ways to put these chemical compounds to work. Without this kind of research, we will eventually run out of drugs or new ways to fight bacteria.”

BIOTEC is one of Earlham’s key international partners for student internships and career-discernment. Through a grant from the Freeman Foundation, dozens of Earlham students are selected for funded internships in Asia as they prepare for careers and graduate school.

“BIOTEC is half government and half private lab,” Nicholson said. “It was a very interesting atmosphere to learn and work.”

At Earlham, Nicholson traveled the world while earning his degree. In addition to his research in Thailand, he led outdoor excursions in Utah as part of the College’s August Wilderness program. He traveled with Earlham students and faculty to Peru to participate in public health clinics for underserved communities as part of a three-week excursion supported by the College’s Center for Global health. 

An avid musician, Nicholson lived in Music House and sang bass in Earlham’s choirs and the acapella group, Brimley’s. He also played guitar, trumpet and French horn in various instrumental ensembles on campus. After being urged to apply by music faculty, Nicholson was also accepted into La Musica Lirica’s five-week intensive opera training program in Italy where he studied Italian and sang the role of Benoit in “La Boheme.” The summer program is designed for advanced singers who are ready to start or have started careers as professional singers.

“It was a whirlwind, but I had a lot of fun,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson, a native of Ithaca, N.Y., has remained in Richmond after graduating until he embarks on grad school. He is currently the executive director of Richmond Neighborhood Restoration, Inc., a non-profit that seeks to stimulate the revitalization of Richmond’s historic neighborhoods through economic development, community development, citizen participation, and historic preservation.

Eric Nicholson is the executive director of Richmond Neighborhood Restoration, Inc.

“One of the things I love about science is having an opportunity to contribute solutions to problems facing society,” Nicholson said. “Working for a non-profit feels like a similar setting. I’m grateful for the experience and excited to help this organization grow.”

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We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.