Canada Student Merit Award Recipient, Nicole Frias

19 February 2024

Nicole Frias, Canada Student Merit Award WinnerNicole Frias is a 2023 Canada Student Merit Award winner. She achieved this award for obtaining the highest standing of her class in the fourth and final year of her degree. Here is a brief biography of the winner.

Nicole received her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from York University in 2023, graduating with the Faculty of Science Silver Medal for obtaining the combined highest degree of academic achievement and contribution to undergraduate student life. She also received the CSC Silver Medal and was a member of the President’s honour roll in her fourth and final academic year.

Due to her strong interest in organic chemistry, Nicole joined Dr Ryan Hili’s research group in 2021 where she found a passion in chemical biology. During an NSERC-funded summer research project, she worked on the optimisation of a photoredox-catalysed hydroaminoalkylation of on-DNA N-arylamines to expand the chemical scope of DNA-encoded library (DEL) technologies, which led to a peer-reviewed co-authored publication. She then pursued an honours thesis project in medicinal chemistry, working on the development of small-molecule inhibitors of an epitranscriptomic protein involved in cancer progression.

Nicole aimed to explore her newly found interests in inorganic chemistry by joining Dr Christopher Caputo’s research group as an NSERC USRA recipient. Her work focused on the development of boron-based materials to provide metal-free alternatives to transition metal catalysis, which can create more sustainable organic transformations. She quickly became fascinated to learn about how the incorporation of main group elements may provide such versatile reactivities.

As she noticed that stigma surrounding mental health issues often arises from a lack of scientific awareness, Nicole co-founded a non-profit organisation called “Breaking Stigmas,” which aims to break the stigma around mental illnesses by providing a biochemical and neurological background to the corresponding disorders. Further, she discovered the importance of becoming involved within her academic community by helping to organise events through roles such as orientation leader and Science Student Ambassador.

Co-supervised by Dr Bill Kim and Dr Ryan Hili, Nicole is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in chemistry where her research focuses on the development of new CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technologies.

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