Alumni Spotlight: Nicole-Kristine Smith

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Nicole-Kristine Smith, in a graduation robe and regalia, poses in front of the William R Murchie Science Building sign

Nicole-Kristine Smith, a 2022 Biology graduate, is headed to the Yale School of Public Health to pursue a Master of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences. At UM-Flint, Nicole discovered a passion for public health and climate change—making this next step an opportunity to change the world. 

Nicole's experience with UM-Flint began when she was still in high school, participating in the Grand Blanc Early College program in partnership with the university. As a result, Nicole had almost seven years to become immersed in the Honors Program, research opportunities, clubs, and volunteering at UM-Flint. 

One of Nicole's first experiences with research was a program with the Michigan Health Sciences Undergraduate Research Academy, a 10-week residential program in Ann Arbor. 

"The research I pursued that was pushed by the Honors Program shaped who I am today," Nicole says. "The MHSURA exposed me to so many diverse peoples, taught me how to prepare for med school, and what I should do to prepare for the MCAT." 

Nicole made sure to pass her wisdom onto her fellow UM-Flint students. She founded the MCAT Preparedness Club as a way for like-minded students to study and prepare together. 

"I wanted to share what I had learned in the MHSURA program with others and also just have a study club," Nicole explains. "We studied for a year leading up to the exam, and I have never met a more dedicated group of students."

The experience inspired Nicole to do more research. She landed a research position with Dr. Benjamin Blonder at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. There, Nicole was called to the environment and climate change. 

"At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, we looked at sudden Aspen decline. This is basically where Aspen trees across the globe are dying at alarming rates due to climate change, and we were looking to see if aspen of certain ploidy, or genetics, were more resistant to this," Nicole says. "At this point, I realized I really liked environmental science. I really wanted to pursue studying the environment and climate change." 

Nicole dedicated much of her free time at UM-Flint to volunteering, which shaped her passion for health. She volunteered at the Surgical Lounge at Hurley Hospital, tutored math with the Kid's Standard Publication, volunteered with the blood drives at the Red Cross, and assisted with COVID-19 Vaccination clinics hosted by the Genesee County Health Department. 

"The most impactful volunteering experience was the COVID vaccination sites. It just reaffirmed me wanting to go into public health," Nicole says. 

Outside of volunteering and educational clubs, Nicole spent much of her free time as a member of the Michigan Running Club (MRun) on the Ann Arbor campus. 

"I really wanted to compete in track in college and I found a way to do so," Nicole says. "My teammates are still my closest and best friends." 

Nicole considered transferring to another college once her Early College program finished, but ultimately decided to stay at UM-Flint—a decision she doesn't regret. 

"I just couldn't leave. I liked the small class sizes and the support of the professors. Flint supported me with both welcoming students and staff, and also financially," Nicole says. "I decided to go with my gut for the best education." 

As a recent alum and long-time student, Nicole offers advice: your professors are your cheerleaders.

"Your professors want you to succeed and will do anything in their power to see you do so. If you need help, just ask, it's not supposed to be scary," Nicole says. "Professors are your friends, and you invest in yourself by investing in the course materials." 

Nicole plans to continue her career in research and dreams of working for the CDC, NIH, or environmental nonprofits. 

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