Career Highlights: Nichols, an alternate in Beijing, will make her Olympic debut with teammate Kristin Hedstrom. The two qualified for the Games _ and avoided the U.S. Trials in June _ by finishing fourth at a world cup regatta in May, edging Great Britain by nine-hundredths of a second. Nichols, who started rowing in 1996 at the University of California, Berkeley, brings a wealth of international experience into the Games. She finished fourth in the lightweight double sculls at the 2011 world championships and sixth in the lightweight single sculls in 2010. She also won silver in the lightweight double sculls at the 2005 worlds, took bronze in the lightweight quadruple sculls in 2004 and finished 13th in the lightweight single sculls in 2003. Nichols, who was named USRowing's 2011 Athlete of the Year, is a PhD student in mechanical engineering at UCLA. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s in mechanical engineering while at Cal.