Nicholas earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Benedictine University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois. She was a Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where she investigated the molecular basis of disease. At the National Institute of Health Mary provided programmatic support and contributed to evidence-based policies and strategies at the National Cancer Institute and at the National Institute of Mental Health. Over the years, Nicholas was competitively selected for a number of science and technology policy/global health fellowships by several prestigious organizations including the Gates Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the U.S. National Academies.
Recently, Dr. Nicholas has served as a program officer, Gates fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she worked on the Grand Challenges family of grant programs and on a number of cross-cutting initiatives in global health and development.
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