People of I-LABS: Dawson Nichols

I-LABSPeople of I-LABS

People of I-LABS

Vibrant, super-smart and caring: these are just a few of the qualities that describe the dozens of interdisciplinary researchers at I-LABS. Their innovative ideas and technological savviness help drive the Institute’s reputation as a world leader in child development and brain science.

And their kindness, professionalism and sense of humor greet all of the hundreds of families that volunteer each year for studies at I-LABS.

In the “People of I-LABS” series, we get to know the research scientists, post-doctoral fellows and other researchers who make up the elite team at I-LABS.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where do you come from? What are you doing at I-LABS?

I am a husband and father of two and I live on an urban farm.

I was born in Chicago, but in addition to Seattle I’ve also lived in Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I’ve been involved in the theater for many years, as a playwright, performer, producer and professor.  My PhD from the UW is in Drama, so if anyone has a theater emergency, I can help.

After more than a dozen years as a professor of theater (after finally getting tenure!) I decided it was time for a change.  That’s why I’m here.

How did you get involved with Outreach?

I’ve communicated with lots of different audiences in lots of different settings, so this kind of work seemed like a natural fit.  And I can’t imagine a more important mission than helping people get a good start in life.

What area of research are you the most interested in?

It surprises most people because I’m an artist, but I geek out on the hard science.  As I see it, the same questions are at the heart of all arts and sciences:  What is there?  How does it work?  What’s it mean?

But I’m most interested in this one: How do we become who we are?  I investigate this experientially through living and writing and performing, but I also like to dig in intellectually.  In fact, I’ve got a reputation as a science artist.  My plays investigate topics like virtual reality, darwinism, addiction and psychology.

What are you working on now?

I’m still drinking from the firehose as I onboard at I-LABS.

What’s your most significant career accomplishment so far?

Theater: I blew some kids’ minds while on a performance tour in schools in the Australian outback.  Bringing the works of Edgar Allan Poe to fresh young minds is… enlivening.

Theater Education: As Theater Department Head at North Seattle College, I built the program to twice its former size and got national attention with our original show about the death of the Seattle P-I.

Writing: I’ve had several plays published, but I got an agent for my novel in December and he’s starting to shop it around.  So stay tuned.

What’s your favorite part of working at I-LABS?

Give me a few more days.  For now, all I can say is the mission.  I’m going to get paid to do good in the world.  Hard to beat that.