Beyond the Locked Door

Nicky Chapman

Nicky Chapman ’19 

It’s something to celebrate when an undergraduate student gets his or her work published in a national journal. Getting published in your first year of college is even more exciting.

That’s what happened when Nicky Chapman ’19 expanded on original research she conducted on the Massachusetts prison system as part of an introductory anthropology class. Inspired by her mother, a correctional physician, Chapman interviewed a correctional officer about what life inside a prison is like for both the staff and the inmates. Her resulting article was published in the spring 2016 issue of CorrDocs, the newsletter of the American College of Correctional Physicians.

Here, she talks about that research project, the benefits of living in Kenya for seven years and the person who inspires her most.


Undeclared, but probably biochemistry & molecular biology.

Clubs and organizations:

Pre-Health Society, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Relay for Life.

Favorite book:

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

Favorite movie:

Moulin Rouge.

Favorite class so far:

Infectious Disease vs. Immune Defense. It was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but I learned so much. It made me interested in potentially pursuing a career in immunology. 

Proudest accomplishment so far:

Getting published in a national journal.

Favorite place on campus:


Favorite Dining Hall food:

Grilled cheese.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far: 

The importance of experiencing a culture different from yours. Growing up outside the U.S. helped me learn so much; it is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Post-Dickinson plans:

I’m interested in global health, so I’m really hoping to work abroad as a doctor.

About my research:

I wanted to learn more about the correctional system in the United States and get a broader idea of what life inside a prison was like, both for the staff and the inmates. I became interested in this topic after my mom became the doctor for one of the largest prisons in Massachusetts; she has taught me a lot about heathcare-related issues for this underprivileged population, and I wanted to get a different perspective on prison culture. It’s such a fascinating part of American society that is closed off to much of the outside world.

My mom put me in touch with one of her colleagues, a correctional officer, and my interview with him provided a basis for my article. Getting to speak to this officer was such a privilege because I got to learn more about the social structure within the prison and the relationship between the inmates and the guards. 

Favorite quote/personal philosophy:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world.” —Paul Farmer

Biggest influence:

My mom has definitely been the biggest influence in my life. She inspired my passion for social justice and medicine, and she has taught me the importance of helping others. She is the most compassionate, enthusiastic, intelligent person. I am so lucky to have her as both a hero and a best friend. 

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Published July 1, 2016