Updated 12/8/13: Here’s another rockin’ pro cheerleader-turned-scientist to help shake up stereotypes and inspire young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Since we first interviewed Nicole, she has completed a four-year doctoral program to become a pharmacist. All while cheering for the Denver Broncos!
S.C.: Please tell us when you first became interested in science.
Nicole: In high school I enjoyed dissecting a pig. In college I feel in love with the science of how the human body works. I found myself enjoying organic chemistry, a class I had only heard horror stories about.
S.C.: What degree do you have?
Nicole: Pharmacy is a 4-year doctoral program. In May 2011 I graduated with my PharmD from the University of Colorado Denver School of Pharmacy. My undergraduate degree was in Exercise Science from the University of Northern Colorado.
S.C.: Which teams did you cheer for and when?
Nicole: I was Denver Broncos Cheerleader for four years. Before cheering with the Broncos I was a Denver Nuggets dancer for 3 years.
S.C.: Which came first: your interest in cheerleading or your interest in science?
Nicole: My first interest was dancing when I was 3 years old. In elementary school my interest in science started developing, and my interest in professional cheerleading came about when I was in college.
S.C: Do you feel your work as a professional cheerleader helped or hindered your career?
Nicole: Overall I feel that cheerleading has helped my schooling. Cheering while in school gave me great time management skills. Cheering also helped develop my costumer service skills, as well as my leadership abilities. The best part of cheerleading was that it provided an escape from all of the studying. Pharmacy school is very hard and demanding, dancing helped me to clear my head for a while and focus on something other than school. There were a few people I came across in my field that looked down on the cheering, but most people were impressed that I as able to do well in school while being a cheerleader.
S.C.: How did your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science?
Nicole: All of the cheerleaders were very supportive and impressed that I was able to handle school on top of practices, appearances, and games.
S.C.: Can you describe a “typical day” at school?
Nicole: The first three years of pharmacy school were spent in the classroom, the last year is spent doing 7, 6-week rotations. During rotations I spent 6 weeks at a pharmacy working 40 hours a week and they taught me how their pharmacy works. Every 6 weeks we moved to a different type of pharmacy. Also during our rotation year we had to put together a portfolio for school. I also had practices for the Broncos on Tuesdays and Thursdays…then all the games and appearances.
S.C.: What would most people find surprising about your field of interest?
Nicole: It is now required that pharmacists have a PharmD to practice pharmacy. Pharmacy is not just chemistry and drugs. You learn about the human body and how it functions, then you learn how the medications work to help fix the problems that can occur in the body.
S.C.: Favorite and least favorite courses you took to prepare for your work?
Nicole: I love physiology. Physiology is learning about how the human body functions. My favorite class of all time was exercise physiology. It is the science behind exercise. My least favorite class I had to take as a prerequisite for pharmacy school was economics.
S.C.: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream associated with beauty or physique (like cheerleading) and pursuing a science and engineering career usually associated with, well, geeks?
Nicole: My advice is to follow your heart and do what you love. Most people are impressed that girls/women can be smart and beautiful. It is a very good quality to be a well rounded person.
S.C.: What have you been up to lately?
Nicole: I am actually living in Australia now with my husband. I worked as a pharmacist for a year out here, but I am not currently. I am personal training and trying to get my foot in the door to be a professor in a pharmacy school.