Unique Scientist: Niba Nirmal

Time to meet Niba Nirmal (She/her)! Niba is a plant molecular biologist at Duke University in the USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a PhD Candidate studying the genetics of how plants grow and develop. To understand this, I’m using a synthetic biology approach to understand how genes get turned on, off, and everything in between!

What made you want to become a scientist?
When I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. I wasn’t sure what type, but I really enjoyed research. I enjoy how the scientific method can be applied to absolutely anything, whether that’s: working out, modeling, personal finance, training cats … literally anything you can think of! The skills I have acquired with the careful problem solving and logic used in the scientific method have really helped in all of those areas. It is one of the few areas where you are learning not just about the subject, but also how to think. That’s why they call it a Ph.D., you’re understanding the philosophy and how to logically think about things. The true purpose of it is to learn how to think.

“I’m an intersectionally marginalized individual.”

Niba Nirmal

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’m an intersectionally marginalized individual. Traditional minority statuses: brown female, daughter of immigrants, bisexual. But I also am a unique scientist because of my modeling, makeup, and styling interests. Many scientists are surprised to find my modeling work and many in the modeling industry are surprised to find my scientific work. Since I am passionate for both, I never ‘picked’ one over the other.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
Definitely my modeling/styling/fashion work! I try to show the different parts to my personality and interests on my Instagram.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would give every single scientist the ability to perfectly explain their research to their audience – whether that audience is other scientists, the news, or the general public.

“I would have been scared without those role models: what is it that women don’t have? what is it that people of colour don’t have? And, the answer is nothing! We have everything.”

Niba Nirmal

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Definitely my mentors, specifically my undergraduate mentor: Dr. Siobhan Brady was absolutely the person who encouraged me and everyone in her laboratory. I am still in contact with a lot of people from that lab and being in an environment that was full of people that I looked up to as well, as scientists that I looked up to, was really crucial. I had real role models: there were a number of females, a lot of people of colour and queer scientists. Her lab was very diverse and as an intersectional, traditionally marginalised woman, I would have been scared without those role models: what is it that women don’t have? what is it that people of colour don’t have? And, the answer is nothing! We have everything. It’s just being oppressed makes it harder to get places. Having so many role models in that lab really helped me.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I set up my website!!! Visit it here!


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