Unique Scientist: Dr. Nora Mitchell

Time to meet Nora Mitchell (She/her)! Nora is a field evolutionary biologist, ecologist, and a botanist! Dr. Mitchell is currently an Assistant professor of Biology University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in the USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a field evolutionary biologist, ecologist, and a botanist! I study plant diversity and how it has evolved, and right now I’m really interested in the ways that hybridization can promote and facilitate evolution. I teach college courses on plants, ecology, evolution, and analysis in R, including Software Carpentry workshops.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was always really interested in plants: I had a plant press as a child and would wander the fields looking for specimens to dry. In college I took a course on field botany and realized that I could turn that passion into a career doing research!

Dr. Mitchell with her mom.

“I am an immigrant – I was adopted from South Korea and came to the United States at 9 months old. […] I am Asian but was raised by a white family in a town that was over 90% white.”

Dr. Nora Mitchell

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am the only person in my family with a PhD in science (that I know of). I am also an immigrant – I was adopted from South Korea and came to the United States at 9 months old. It’s interesting to see how race affects people’s perceptions – I am Asian but my name doesn’t sound Asian. I am Asian but was raised by a white family in a town that was over 90% white. The switching of stereotypes that people impose on me goes to show how arbitrary these generalizations really are.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I used to run track and marathons and now I play ultimate frisbee! Ultimate frisbee has been an amazing way to connect with people and has made moving across the country multiple times in a short period that much easier. I am so grateful to the ultimate community for helping me find work-life balance.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
The best science is inclusive science, and the current pathway to a career in science is still not a fair path. To achieve that, we need the people who currently have the “power” to see the ways that the system in which they were raised is flawed, acknowledge these flaws, and come up with and enact real solutions

Photo cred: Gina Palombit

“The best science is inclusive science, and the current pathway to a career in science is still not a fair path.”

Dr. Nora Mitchell

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I was inspired by my undergraduate botany professor, Dr. Joan Edwards, and my PhD advisor, Kent Holsinger. Both showed me how to take my love for plants and nature and turn it into rigorous, exciting science.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This past weekend I did a southwest road trip and explored Juarez, Mexico, El Paso, and White Sands National Monument. I have been so busy with travel for work and for ultimate frisbee that I have not been able to explore this amazing region of the country as much as I would like to.


#WomenInSTEM, #AsianInSTEM

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