When Ceaira Nichols makes goals for herself, she becomes dedicated to fulfilling them.
The 18-year-old North Central High School senior decided in fourth grade that she wanted a career in science – forensic science, most likely – and has pursued that goal ever since. She got particularly focused when she learned of the genomics program at NC, which frequently keeps her at school until 6 p.m.
Her research project is the Arctic grayling, a fish extinct everywhere but Montana. She’s studying its genetic diversity and metabolic disorders. To do so, she has extracted DNA from fin clippings, then sequenced the DNA to look for differences and mutations in the ATP6 gene.
Last summer, she worked as a science intern at a Gonzaga University lab testing molds that might be used to kill cheat grass.
She has played violin since she was a student in the Spokane Public Schools Odyssey program for gifted middle school students, where each student must select an instrument to play. She played first violin four years at North Central, and this winter was named concertmaster – all without taking formal lessons.
She also wanted to do well playing tennis, worked at it, and this year made it to the varsity team.
“I try to be the best I can in whatever I do,” Nichols said.
But always, it comes back to science. “There is so much to learn,” she said, “and even when you come upon an answer to something, there are 20 more questions that appear. I thought I’d figured something out recently in genomics, but now five more projects have come from it.”
She has taken six honors classes, eight AP classes and two Running Start classes. This fall, she will be attending Seattle University because of a good science program there and the fact that class sizes are small. She believes she’ll thrive there.
If history is prologue, Ceaira Nichols is well on her way to that life in science she has dedicated herself toward achieving.