Nikita Hari is a researcher, academic consultant and social entrepreneur from India with a vision to uplift society through education. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in Electrical Engineering in the Power and Energy group at University of Cambridge. Nikita is researching ‘Power Electronic Converters’ systems which can efficiently convert and conserve power and thereby help create a more sustainable future. She has also co-founded a social enterprise called ‘Favalley’ with the vision to turn slums into silicon valleys through engaging, training and matching marginalised youth to coding jobs. Nikita also tutors first year Engineering undergraduates from Churchill College. Nikita will be explaining why Electric Power know no gender in Cambridge Market Square on 2nd July 2016, 12-3pm.
SS: Nikita, how did you get to your current position?
NH: My interest in academia dates back to my school years, where I became the first student in my district to win the CBSE citation award in my A-levels. Since then it has been a very fulfilling educational journey, becoming a Gold medalist in both my undergraduate and masters degrees for academic excellence. My masters, however, was the turning point of my life, when I developed a special interest in research, and this encouraged me to continue my pursuit of knowledge by doing PhD in the field of electric power. I applied to universities that were doing great work in my area and chose Cambridge due to its rich legacy of culture, heritage and tradition of academic excellence which I hoped would provide me with the right international platform to work with the brightest people.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
NH: Being in love with physics, and mathematics being a good friend of mine, engineering came as an obvious choice to me after my A-levels. The intrigue, fascination and excitement to fathom the unexplained ‘electric shock’ I received as a kid motivated me to take up electrical engineering as my specialization; starting off with an undergraduate degree, then moving on to a masters and now pursuing a PhD in the same area. A career path in science I believe, has helped me in uncovering principles that change the world, extending my intellectual capabilities and thereby helping me engage, educate and innovate in my own small ways.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
NH: The world deals day in and day out with electrical power conversion— trillions of adjustments in voltage, frequency, and current is made daily to deliver electricity from wall outlets to virtually any electronic device. And I work on the systems that do the converting – called ‘Power Electronic Converters’ – which are very inefficient, costing us billions every year. This problem, though astronomical, remains invisible to the common man! So through my research, I’m on a quest to explore a better way of converting this ‘power’ through Gallium Nitride (2014 Nobel Prize!), which is poised to jumpstart the next generation of smaller, faster, denser and efficient power converters.
I’m passionate about my work as it directly influences the world and our way of life, as electric power is everywhere. Thus, if successful, I can make a tangible contribution to advancement of science and sustainability of the world.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
NH: I’m actively engaged in activities for making the voices of women scientists heard through networking, education and discussion. I hope Soapbox Science is the right platform to engage with the public, showcase our research and show them that this is possible for anyone with a passion and love for science. If I can do it, they can do it too!
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?
NH: Excited to share my journey as a Woman in Electrical engineering which is actually cool, exciting and rewarding!!
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
NH: The perception that a STEM career is for the special few and women are not designed to stand its requirements, cope with the pressure or so on. I want to emphasise that ‘Science knows no gender, electric power knows no gender!’
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
NH: A PhD is a very lonely and painful yet highly rewarding journey. Embark on it if you’re dedicated and passionate about your subject and sincerely wish to contribute to the scientific community though your work. Your destiny is your decision! Do not allow the societal stereotypes to stop you from pursuing your passion. Let nothing stop you from doing what you love most. Let your wings of dreams fly high…!