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ASU Online alum persevered to find her path in grad school

Nicola Osgood

ASU Online grad Nicola Osgood. Cassidy Croot Photo, LLC

April 25, 2023

Nicola Osgood began her ASU career while still on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was able to enroll as a biochemistry major in the School of Molecular Sciences’ world-class online degree program, and Osgood took full advantage.

She was frequently found studying at work, on the rifle range — in fact anywhere she could squeeze in a moment or two with a textbook.

Osgood took that same determination to make the difficult decision between accepting a place at UC Riverside’s Medical School or starting a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at UC San Diego. She chose the latter.

“For many years now, I have said, ‘I want to be a doctor,’ Osgood said. “I want to give back to my community and to advance what we know about the human body to help people who are suffering.”

“What I did not expect, though, was falling in love with research,” Osgood said about her position with Design Therapeutics while she was on what she thought was the path to medical school.

Osgood visited both schools, but during the tour of UC Riverside, a conversation with a current medical student helped crystallize her decision. The student shared how exciting it was for her to learn skills in their simulation lab, and then have those translate directly into the free clinic that she works at. In that moment, Osgood realized the excitement this student had for learning how to care for patients is the exact excitement she has for learning about how a single nucleotide polymorphism impacts an entire gene.

“That was the moment when I finally understood where I needed to be,” Osgood said.

Balancing school, kids and career

As an online student at ASU, Osgood made her mark through her dedication to her classes and extracurricular activities.

“She was one of the founding members of IDEAS Student Society, which allows online students pursuing STEM majors to connect with one another, and she also inspired me to create the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) Program, which provides research opportunities to hundreds of online students a year,” said Ara Austin, senior director of online engagement and strategic initiatives in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and assistant clinical professor in the School of Molecular Sciences.

Osgood was also a teaching assistant for online students in the School of Molecular Sciences’ Learning Resource and Tutoring Center.

When Osgood left the military in July 2019, she took on the veteran and military spouse roles while increasing her course loads.

The youngest of her children was born in 2019, and the baby required time in the neonatal intensive care unit. Osgood refused to leave her side, but was also in PHY 112, PHY 114 and BIO 432 ASU Online classes. She had tests and assignments due.

Though her professors were more than willing to give her extensions and work with her needs, she didn't feel that she should use their offers unless there was no other choice.

“The Marine Corps always taught me to 'figure it out',” Osgood said. “You don't make excuses or feel bad for yourself, you just take the situation that you've been handed and make it work.”

Osgood completed assignments and took a test right there in the NICU and finished all three courses with A+'s.

"Nikki graduated from ASU in summer 2021, but the impact she had on the online student community still lives on,” Austin said. “Nikki is one of those individuals who is truly one of a kind, and I'm excited to see the impact she will have on the greater scientific community.”

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