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I am Penn State Health: Nicolle Krebs

The process of formulating a question, gathering answers and analyzing them – in other words, the scientific process – has always fascinated Nicolle Krebs.

Since 2012, she has been working for Penn State College of Medicine on research studies involving addiction. While she enjoys the quest for answers, she also loves building long-term relationships with the patients who participate in the studies.

Last year, the research project manager won a Penn State Health Leadership Essentials Award.

This is the best part of working here

There are always different projects coming in, and I’m able to be involved from start to finish, writing the study protocol, building the research database and collecting, analyzing and presenting the data.

Favorite project

I’ve always been interested in human behavior and mental health, which makes addictions an interesting area to study. Right now, I’m responsible for a randomized controlled trial looking at the combination of reduced nicotine and electronic cigarettes among addicted smokers with mental health issues.

Working with addiction studies fascinates me because of the science behind it. Addictive substances can lead to changes in the brain structure and the way it functions, which ultimately causes addiction. When the drug is no longer available in the brain, people go into withdrawal. It is a very powerful process!

Most challenging part of my job

Enrolling participants into our studies is a big challenge. Many of our trials need upward of 200 participants, and for every 10 people we come in contact with through recruitment, we enroll roughly one to two people. We call it the “leaky faucet”!

Coping during COVID

Since COVID-19, our in-person research had to come to a halt. As we plan to restart our research in this era of social distancing, we have to adapt many of our study procedures to limit interaction between the researcher and participants where possible. We are innovating and using technology to help us interact with our participants remotely, such as e(electronic)-consenting, carbon monoxide monitoring and survey data collection, all through electronic devices or computers. I believe we will be better researchers through all of this.

My part in the big picture

Quitting smoking is the No.1 thing you can do for your health. Everyone knows it can cause heart disease and lung cancer, but smoking affects every organ in your body. If we can help people attempt to quit, it helps our patient population become healthier.

How I spend my free time

I love to garden – planting flowers, vegetables, herbs, anything.

Three things I can’t live without

  1. My Audible app – because I have a two-hour commute daily.
  2. My slippers. They’re the first things I put on when I get home.
  3. Sushi. I go through withdrawal if I don’t have it.

On my bucket list

I plan to pursue a doctorate degree in public health.


I’m a goat mom. We have five goats as pets, and they help keep the brush down around our property, plus they’re very entertaining!

This is why I’m proud to work here

I’m part of something much bigger than myself. The “I am Penn State Health” motto means a lot to me in many different ways.

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