Class of 2019: Nicole Rychagov

By: Christopher S. Garran, Ph.D., Head of School
At the high school level, Nicole Rychagov is a student who questions inside and outside of class what matters to her and how she will contribute to our society. Nicole’s passion for education, commitment to excellence and dedication to research and science were the reasons why she chose to attend Harvard University.

The flexibility given to students to create their own path represented one of the main reasons why Nicole attended Cape Henry Collegiate. She could take three science classes in one year. She could study Russian outside of school through a dual enrollment program. She could maintain her accelerated path in mathematics. She appreciated that the academic program could be molded to “fit” her… she did not have to “fit” the academic program. In her future at Harvard, she knows she will have the same flexibility in the “ability to do whatever” interests her in mathematics and biotechnology.
At Harvard, Nicole plans to continue with her current pursuits and looks forward to getting involved in a lab in her first year to continuing doing research. She also is excited for meeting new people, exploring Boston and Cambridge, engaging in academic debates and discussions with peers in her future classes, and trying new activities through the Culinary Club and the Harvard Response. She also hopes to get involved with some musical organizations on campus. “It might surprise people, but I play the accordion in the Accordion Renaissance Ensemble. I really like it, and I plan to continue playing.” 
Nicole is well known for her work in the sciences and mathematics. When asked who influenced her love of those subjects, at a young age, she talks about how “My mother was the one who introduced me to math in elementary school and fueled my interest in the subject throughout the years.” At Cape Henry, when asked which teachers stand out, she answers with a question, “Mrs. Moore, Mr. Cofer, Mrs. Gregory...Can I just list all of my science teachers because they are all amazing?” She does reserve special appreciation for Mrs. Gregory and how she helped Nicole to develop her interest in chemistry. “From AP Chemistry to her continuous support of competitions that I have done and independent study options, Mrs. Gregory has been really helpful.”

Every year since sixth grade, Nicole has participated with her original research projects in the Tidewater Regional Science and Engineering Fair, along with other statewide competitions. As a junior last year, she was selected as a finalist for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with her project “Mathematical Model of HIV.” At Intel ISEF, she won the Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society Award for outstanding projects in math, and she also won a full scholarship award to attend a summer research program run by the Bruno Kessler Foundation and the University of Trento in Italy. This program allowed her to spend some of her summer working with research scientists and students from Italy to create a neural network that analyzes MRI brain scans to help non-invasive diagnostics of pediatric brain cancer.

Upon her return to the US, Nicole spent the rest of her summer at the University of Kentucky as a research volunteer in the Markey Cancer Center. As a result of this research, she joined a team in publishing their results in the peer-reviewed American Chemical Society Nano. In her own perspective, those competitions and research opportunities have been an integral part of her education and discovering her future path in life.
As a senior, Nicole was part of the Cum Laude Society and was National Honor Society Vice President. In addition, she was selected to serve in our Peer Leadership program to help advise our freshman. She enjoys immensely our Sustainability Club and Math Club. She will tell you that all the Math Club competitions are fun, but she said that the true reward is similar to the benefit that she derives from years of science fairs and competitions – collaborating and sharing with other motivated and focused students. Awards do not drive her. Collaboration, discourse, and being with others who care about similar ideas provide her motivation in her pursuits.

With all her accomplishments in and out of the CHC community, we know that Nicole is undoubtedly going to thrive with the challenges and the excitement of college. In a time when we need more women entering the fields of mathematics and physical sciences, Cape Henry is proud to see Nicole take on those pursuits at the Harvard campus!
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