Logic and rainbows. That’s what got Nikki Kuhar, also known as Nikki K., started down the path of science.
She is a Ph.D., Manager, and Applications Scientist at HORIBA India.
Nikki first became hooked on science in high school. That was when she began understanding logic. Her passion for science in large part came from her family too. Many of them were teachers, including her father, who is a math teacher. They wanted her to pursue a career in academics.
But it was also the small, ordinary things around her that inspired her curiosity. Like rainbows and the blue color of the sky.
“Science means to know about everything that is happening around us or within us,” she said. “Everything we use, see and experience in day-to-day life can be explained so beautifully by science. To pursue science, you must be logical and try to understand everything very deeply.”
Nikki is from Sonipat, Haryana, India, a small town near the capital city of New Delhi. The area is semi-urban and well connected to the city.
She completed her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with honors from St. Stephens College, Delhi University – one of the country’s best schools for science. She attended the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), where she earned her master’s degree in physical chemistry. She then completed her doctoral studies at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (IISc Bangalore), focusing on spectroscopy.
“I first learned about spectroscopy during my college days,” she said. “It was a totally new subject for me, which I really liked. I performed exceptionally well in spectroscopy.”
Her focus in higher education changed from organic chemistry to physical chemistry.
“Physical chemistry is a nice way of explaining various physical phenomenon using mathematics,” she said. “I realized that I was born to be a spectroscopist. And my journey in spectroscopy became more enjoyable when I started working on biological samples. Understanding biology was a totally new thing for me during my Ph.D. studies.”
She’s had the opportunity to study at the best institutions in India.
“It has helped me in building my career. During my doctoral program at IISc (Bangalore), I had opportunities to meet eminent scientists from different countries. IISc also funded my overseas travel to attend an international conference.”
Nikki will be working at a technical lab at IISc Bangalore. She intends to provide technical support to HORIBA employees and its customers. She’ll be exploring new application areas and different industries where various HORIBA products can be used.
“Apart from technical work, I am also excited about being in a managerial position,” she said. “I feel it will bridge my move from academics to industry. It will also help me to be more organized, social and pro-active within a team.”
Nikki has operated various vibrational spectroscopy-based instruments like a Raman Microscope, FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) Microscope, and a Raman Optical Activity spectrometer. Along with her experimental experience, she has increased her knowledge of computational techniques. She has conducted some Molecular Dynamic Simulation studies of proteins, as well.
Nikki saw a dramatic decrease in the number of women enrolled in science between her bachelor’s program and her master’s program. However, being at respected institutions in India, she felt she was working in a supportive environment for women.
She has always loved exploring new things. Nikki feels this attitude helped her significantly in her doctoral work where she had to look at old problems from different perspectives.
“Another thing that I have learned is to never give up,” she said. “If you fail many times in solving a problem, it means you are really learning something new.”
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