Faculty & Staff Spotlights

Dr. Nicole McDaniels

Assistant Professor-Biology

Nicole McDaniels

Nicole McDaniels, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Science


Thomas R. Proctor High School
B.S. in Biological Science with a concentration in Molecular Biology, SUNY University at Buffalo
Ph.D. in Biology, Syracuse University

Professional Affiliations:

American Association for the Advancement of Science
Future Professoriate Program, Syracuse University
Phi Beta Kappa
Golden Key National Honor Society
UB Launch Chapter of the Mortar Board
National Society for Collegiate Scholars

Honors & Awards:

Who’s Who in North American Education
Christopher White Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Outstanding Community Contributions
Excellence in General Chemistry
University at Buffalo Dean’s List
University at Buffalo Scholars Program

What interests you most about the subject area in which you teach?

My favorite sub-disciplines of biology are development and genetics. These also happen to be the areas in which my dissertation work focuses. It amazes me how living organisms can go from a single cell to an entire organism. The developmental events that occur throughout life are so precise and regulated, yet almost all are involuntary. The idea that all of these wonderful processes occur naturally and spontaneously is almost unbelievable. A professor once told me, “Biology is life” and it is true. All that we are stems from our developmental origins and our genetics. Wow!

What do you find most rewarding about teaching and why?

The most rewarding part of teaching for me is watching my students have those “Ah ha” moments. When I’m teaching and a concept just clicks and the student gets excited about it, I get excited too. Especially in biology, students learn so much about themselves and the world around them that they may otherwise have never known. My most rewarding experience so far here at Herkimer came in a note from one of my Genetics students informing me that she chose to work towards a career in genetics because she took my course!

What do you think makes the educational experience at Herkimer unique?

My academic career as a student was spent at large universities in huge classes, where many times the professor didn’t even know if you were there or not. At Herkimer, the class sizes are much smaller, so students get a more personal academic experience. I make it a point to learn all of my students’ names and as much as I can about their career goals and aspirations, ideas and interests. I, as well as most other professors on campus, make myself available to my students as much as possible. I think this individual attention is a really important part of the learning process, not just in terms of content, but in terms of navigating through life choices in a particular field of study. I share my experiences as a student with my own students and let them know they are not alone, and what they are feeling is normal and expected.

What do students need to know in order to succeed in college?

I think the keys to success in college are motivation, hard work, and time management skills. Rarely do I have a student who sets a goal and does not reach that goal if they truly want to. I will be the first to admit that college, especially science, is hard. Students need to be willing to spend hours reading, studying and seeking out help if they need it. We at Herkimer all want to see our students succeed and want to help. You can do it and it will be worth it!

What other roles do you play at Herkimer College? Why is it important to you to be involved in that capacity?

I am an advisor for the Science Club at Herkimer College. It’s exciting to be a part of the club because it gives students the opportunity to meet new people and to have science related experiences outside of the classroom. Members of the Science Club have participated in book clubs, invited speakers, participated in club showcases, and performed volunteer work. We have taken trips to the Bodies Exhibit in New York City, The Boston Aquarium, The Syracuse Zoo and Howe Caverns. It is a lot of fun for me and for the students, and I am happy to give students these opportunities they otherwise would not have!

What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

My primary interest outside of work is my family. I am married to my husband, Shaun, with a one-year-old son, Evan, and we have a cat, Maizy. Evan is my greatest joy in life and I spend as much time with him as I can. Outside of my family, my hobbies include dance, reading, and spending time outdoors. I have danced my entire life. My favorite type of dance is tap. I currently take an adult dance class at a local studio. Also, I enjoy reading anything science related or books from the bestsellers list. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. My favorite book is Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. I don’t participate in many outdoor sports, but I love taking Evan for walks or in the backyard to play. I also have a garden that I tend to.

What is something that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Strawberries are my favorite food and I have my motorcycle license, but am too afraid to drive a motorcycle on my own!

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