Nikki Pohl

Chemistry and Biology Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Nikki Pohl started helping her mother in the kitchen as soon as she was old enough to stand on a chair. “I gained a real love for baking, cooking and all sorts of kitchen experiments,” she said. Pohl also learned to sew the ends of fabric bolts her father would bring back from the textile factories he worked in, which she says developed her visual-spatial thinking skills. Ultimately, a chemistry professor planted the seed in Pohl’s mind of how to marry 3D visualization skills with a knack for hands on experimentation.

Today, Pohl teaches chemistry and biology, and oversees a research group studying carbohydrates and vaccine design. “I love being able to interact creatively with smart, passionate people from around the world,” she said. Pohl is most proud of the students and postdoctoral fellows she has mentored.

The space Pohl and her students work in has state-of-the-art technology from instruments that help them characterize compounds to automated machinery. Her group has been designing processes to make and analyze carbohydrates, which means they must develop the software and hardware to carry out the steps. “The pace of change in technology is relentless,” said Pohl.

Pohl offers the following advice to someone entering her field today: “Humbly learn as much as you can from everyone around you by actively engaging with people as well as learning about cutting-edge work going on elsewhere.”