San Francisco painter Kate Nichols synthesizes nanoparticles to mimic structurally colored animals, grows artificial skin from microorganisms, and makes her own paints, following 15th-century recipes. The long tradition of painters as material innovators inspired Kate to become the first artist-in-residence in the Alivisatos Lab, a nanoscience laboratory at UC Berkeley. In 2010, Kate was appointed a TED Fellow and was awarded a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. Her artwork has been featured on the cover of the journal Nature, on the TED stage, and in The Leonardo Museum’s permanent collection. In 2015, Nichols was awarded the Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship, an honor SFAI extends to one early- to mid-career painter each year.




2015Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow, San Francisco Art Institute 2015Scientific Delirium Madness Residency, Djerassi Artist-in-Residence Program 2008 – present Artist-in-residence, Alivisatos Lab, University of California, Berkeley 2010 – presentTED Fellow 2010 – 2013Jacob K. Javits Fellow 2004Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, Kenyon College 


2013Master of Fine Arts, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California 2010Master of Arts in Visual Studies, University of California, Berkeley 2004Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 2004Apprenticeship with painter Will Wilson in Northern Renaissance and Baroque paint-making and painting techniques, San Francisco, California 


2016Visiting Professor of Painting, San Francisco Art Institute
Courses: Painting II; Interdisciplinary Honors Studio.
2015Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow, San Francisco Art Institute
Courses: Graduate Critique Seminar and an undergraduate painting course, Embedded: Finding the Conceptual within the Physicality of Paint.
Public Education Instructor, San Francisco Art Institute.
Course: Embedded: Finding the Conceptual within the Physicality of Paint.
2008Graduate Student Instructor, University of California, Berkeley Course: Freehand Drawing (Environmental Design 11A) 


2012Analogous Thinking in the Arts and Sciences public lecture series talk, Misadventures in Art and Nanoscience. University of Florida, Gainsville. (Chaired by sculptor Celeste Roberge and biologist Jamie Gillooly.) 2012StudioLab Workshop and critiques with graduate and undergraduate students,
University of Florida, Gainsville


2015Faculty Mentor for incoming SFAI students  


2016Visiting Artist and Scholar Lecture Series, San Francisco Art Institute 2015Exploring Science in the Studio, AICAD Symposium, California College of the Arts, San Francisco 2015Djerassi Artist-in-Residence Program, Woodside, California 2015Stavanger Kunstmuseum, Stavanger, Norway 2014San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California 2013Leonardo public lecture series talk, Stanford University, Stanford, California 2012TEDxRainier, Seattle, Washington 2012TEDActive, Palm Springs, California 2012Salon Panorama, San Francisco, California 20103M, Minneapolis, Minnesota 2010The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California 2010The Case Foundation, Washington D.C. 2010TED, Long Beach, California  


2012Solo exhibition: Through the Looking Glass, The Leonardo, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010Solo exhibition: Scaled, Materials Research Society Conference, San Francisco, California 2009Solo exhibition: Drawings: Scaled, Mauve, Berkeley, California 2008Two-person exhibition: Traces, Untitled Gallery, Sausalito, California 2005Solo exhibition: Solidity Under Mind, LMan Gallery, Los Angeles, California  


2015Article Biennial 2015, Stavanger Kunstmuseum, Stavanger, Norway, (curated by Hege Tapio) 2015Observations and Collections, Colorado State University, (curated by Jennifer Kent) 2013MFA Exhibition, California College of the Arts, May 2013 (curated by Glen Helfand) 2012Emergence and Structure, Lafayette College, Easton, PA; MDC Freedom Tower Gallery, Miami, FL; University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, (curated by Daniel Hill and Ron Janowich) (catalogue essay by Jonah Lehrer) 2011New Insight 2011, Chicago, Illinois (curated by Susanne Ghez and Mia Ruyter) 2009Enormous Microscopic, Studio for Urban Projects, San Francisco, California, (curated by Phil Ross) 200830 under 30, Juried Exhibition, Varnish Gallery, San Francisco, California, (curated by Kerri Stephens, Jennifer Rogers, and Justin Giarla) 2007Tales in Red and Pink, Mina Dresden Gallery, San Francisco, California 2004Juried Exhibition, Chung-Cheng Gallery, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY 2004Go Figure, Circle Gallery, Annapolis, Maryland 2003Great Lakes Emerging Artists Competition, SUNY, Fredonia, New York, (First place) 2003Hand Art, Penn Gallery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2001Juried Exhibition, Penn Gallery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  


The Leonardo, Salt Lake City, Utah


Artwork featured as cover:

2012Through the Looking Glass featured on cover of Nature, March 22, 2012.

Feature articles:

2015“The Ambiguous Colors of Nanotechnology,” Jeanne Carstensen, Nautilus. 2015“Color by Shape,” Jyoti Madhusoodanan, ACS Science Central. 2012“Plasmons Resonate in Atomic-Scale Metal Particles,” Andrew Myers, Stanford University Engineering News. 2010“TED Fellow using nanoparticle paint,” Kristen Phillipkoski, BoingBoing. 2010“Body of Evidence,” Kristen Phillipkoski, BoingBoing. 2010“Color by Physics,” Lauren Rugani, Symmetry Magazine, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.


2010“Introducing TED Fellow: Kate Nichols,” Helen Walters, Business Week.


2011The Leonardo Museum produced a short film to accompany my installation, Through the Looking Glass, which is also featured on


2012Emergence and Structure.(Catalogue essay by Jonah Lehrer.)

Artwork featured and discussed in scholarly journal article:

2013“Engineering plasmonic metal colloids through composition and structural design,” N. E. Motl, A. F. Smith, and C. J. DeSantis, Chemical Society Reviews.