Dr Nisha K. Ramkissoon, is a planetary scientist working on a project on habitability in the Solar System, which involves recreating planetary environments in the lab and then determining if microbial life live there. These experiments also enable her to identify any non-biological clues that microbes may leave behind to help us figure out if life exists or existed on bodies like Mars or Europa.
You can see Nisha on a soapbox as part of Soapbox Science Milton Keynes on 30th June where she will talk about: “Searching for life, where should we start?”
SS: How did you get to your current position?
NR: After completing my bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary science I worked for a few years as a science technician at a secondary school. During this time I also completed a master’s degree and decided I really wanted to work in research. I completed my PhD at the University of Kent, examining the instantaneous chemical changes that can occur on rocky surfaces when impacted by a meteorite. Since finishing my PhD I have been working at The Open University on a project that examines habitability in the Solar System.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
NR: I’m not sure there was one thing or a person who inspired me to pursue a career in science. I always wanted to know how things worked, and would ask a lot of questions and was always trying to learn more about space. In school especially enjoyed learning about the planets and how rock and minerals formed, so I was very happy when I found a degree that covered both subjects.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
NR: My work looks at the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the Solar System, using examples of microbial life that are found on Earth. To do this we have to simulate the different environments we find on these other planets and satellites in a lab, it’s amazing to think that we can actually do that.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
NR: Soapbox science seemed like a new and interesting way to engage with the public. The way the event is planned means that you get to talk to people who may not specifically be there to hear about science. It is also a great way to show people, young girls especially, that anyone can pursue a career in any STEM field they chose to.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
NR: Excitement! I’m very excited about talking to people about what I do, and hopefully I’ll get across why I love the subject so much. I am also very excited to see some of the talks from the other researchers.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
NR: I would say to stay positive. As with everything academia has its ups and downs, but if you just stay positive you’ll be able to get through it. On the same note I would also say make sure you take the time to reflect on your achievements on a regular basis. Sometimes you can find yourself working to one deadline or another, and it is easy to forget about all the amazing things you have done over the