Bay Area artist Kate Nichols synthesizes nanoparticles to mimic structurally colored animals, grows artificial skin from microorganisms, and makes her own paints, following fifteenth-century recipes. The long tradition of painters as material innovators inspired Nichols to become the first artist-in-residence in the Alivisatos Lab, a nanoscience laboratory at UC Berkeley. In 2010, she 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, in the Stavanger Kunstmuseum in Norway, and in The Leonardo Museum’s permanent collection. In 2015, she was awarded the Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Most recently, Kate collaborated with the Martin Lab at George Washington University to learn to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to “paint” new spots on butterflies’ wings. This winter, she will deliver the Mark A. Ratner Series of Scholars Lecture at Northwestern University and will be a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. This spring, she will be an artist-in-residence at Stochastic Labs and the Innovative Genomics Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.



nicholskate [at]




2019 Artist-in-residence, Stochastic Labs and Innovative Genomics Institute, University of California, Berkeley

2019 Vermont Studio Center Fellow

2015  Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow, San Francisco Art Institute 

2015  Scientific Delirium Madness Residency, Djerassi Artist-in-Residence Program 

2010 – present  TED Fellow 

2008 – 2016  Artist-in-residence, Alivisatos Nanoscience Lab, University of California, Berkeley 

2010 – 2013  Jacob K. Javits Fellow 



2013  Master of Fine Arts, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California 

2010  Master of Arts in Visual Studies, University of California, Berkeley 

2004  Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio



2016  Visiting Painting Faculty, San Francisco Art Institute

2015  Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow, San Francisco Art Institute



2018 Group exhibition: Pleasure Garden, Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco, California, (curated by Eleanor Harwood)

2017  Solo exhibition: Angle of Incidence, Black Crown Gallery, Oakland, California, (curated by Chris Nickel and Chrissy Cano)

2017 Group exhibition: AbstrAction, Marin MOCA, (curated by Catharine Clark)

2015  Four-person exhibition: Article Biennial 2015, Stavanger Kunstmuseum, Stavanger, Norway, (curated by Hege Tapio) 

2015  Group exhibition: Observations and Collections, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado (curated by Jennifer Kent) 

2013  Group Exhibition: MFA Thesis Show 2013, California College of the Arts (curated by Glen Helfand) 

2012  Group exhibition: Emergence and Structure, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania; MDC Freedom Tower Gallery, Miami, Florida; University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (curated by Daniel Hill and Ron Janowich; catalogue essay by Jonah Lehrer) 

2012  Solo exhibition: Through the Looking Glass, The Leonardo, Salt Lake City, Utah 

2011  Group exhibition: New Insight 2011, Chicago, Illinois (curated by Susanne Ghez and Mia Ruyter) 

2010  Solo exhibition: Scaled, Materials Research Society, San Francisco, California 

2009  Solo exhibition: Drawings: Scaled, Mauve, Berkeley, California 

2009  Group exhibition: Enormous Microscopic, Studio for Urban Projects, San Francisco, California, (curated by Phil Ross) 



The Leonardo, Salt Lake City, Utah



2019 Mark A. Ratner Series of Scholars Lecture, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

2018 Visiting Artist Lecture, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia

2016 BergamoScienza, Bergamo, Italy 

2016  Mills College Art Lecture Series, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, California 

2016  Visiting Artist and Scholar Lecture Series, San Francisco Art Institute

2016  Science of Art Lecture Series, Stanford University, Stanford, California 

2015  Exploring Science in the Studio, AICAD Symposium, California College of the Arts, San Francisco

2015  Stavanger Kunstmuseum, Stavanger, Norway 

2014  San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California 

2013  Leonardo public lecture series talk, Stanford University, Stanford, California 

2012  Analogous Thinking in the Arts and Sciences public lecture series talk, University of Florida, Gainsville 

2012  TEDxRainier, Seattle, Washington 

2012  TEDActive, Palm Springs, California

2010  3M, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

2010  The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California 

2010  The Case Foundation, Washington D.C. 

2010  TED, Long Beach, California 



Artwork featured as cover: 

2012  Through 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. 


2016  “Fusing Age-Old Artistic Tradition With Cutting-Edge Technology: A Q-and-A with Kate Nichols, artist in residence at a nanoscience laboratory,” Emily Tamkin, Slate Magazine, September 20, 2016. 


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


2011  The Leonardo Museum produced a short film to accompany my installation, Through the Looking Glass

which is also featured on 

2010  “Color by Nano: The Art of Kate Nichols,” ran on two shows, Gallery Crawl and Quest: Science on the Spot

on KQED Public Television, San Francisco. 


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

2015  Article Bienniale, Satvanger Kunstmuseum. (Catalogue essay by Nora S. Vaage.) 

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.