Dr. Nitin Baliga
What peaked your interest in the STEM field? How did this interest bring you to your current position?
The education system isn’t structured in a useful way to train students for careers in STEM. Students are like taught to be like encyclopedias which is not useful for problem solving in the science field. As education progresses, science gets more specific and specialized. High school students should get excited about problem solving, and not giving up science disciplines.
Who is your role model and why? (If not in the science field then who is your role model in the world of science?)
There have been influential people in my life including my mom, a college teacher, a professor, and Dr. Hood. My mother has been influential in my life because she taught me the importance of understanding. Memorization is not the same as understanding. Understanding means that you may not know all the details, but you can comprehend the concept, and are able to explain in your own words. One of my college teachers was influential in my life because he forced his students to think about problems and unlearn everything they had learned. He taught his students to think about what they wanted to do and why, and not to limit themselves too early. Another influential teacher in my life was one of my professors. He was very passionate during lectures, and he had such a depth of knowledge that he could back up everything with hard facts. Finally, Dr. Hood was influential because showed how to think big.
Is your family into scientific research as well or did they work in some other field?
I am the only member of my family who is in science. My brother is in the electrical engineering field, and my other brother is a CPA. My mother was a history and language teacher, and my father was a statistician.
What was your largest failure and how did you overcome it, insight?
I have seen very successful people not manage their students very well by not respecting their students. People can be blinded by the effect they may have on others. One must be open to other ways to do things right. They can’t be frustrated by other ways people do things.
What tips would you give girls interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
Don’t limit yourself to what people think you can and can’t do. Role models should be people who have gone against all odds. Don’t let injustices discourage you. If you want to accomplish something you can, but you may have to work twice as hard to prove someone wrong
Have you mentored any interns previously? How was the experience?
I have had high school interns in the lab for many years. I have also mentored postdocs and grad students. There are many opportunities to mentor people. I like to ask them where do they want to go and where they are now, and I will work with them to get them to where they want to go.
Do you feel like you have missed opportunities
Yes, I wanted to spend more time in mathematics, statistics, and computational training. You should find your passion even though it may be hard to find success due to dry patches and failures. You can’t run away from the first sign of failure because there is no path without any challenges.
Was graduate school a key point in your lifetime? Was there more intellectual freedom?
In graduate school, there was more freedom in intellectual pursuits. Interning in grad school is a good and even life changing experience. In grad school, you can think outside of the norms of your school. You can get involved in problem solving. You can find a million reason why you can’t do something, only need one to do something well