The 8 Ball: Neeli Mishra
NEELI MISHRA: Innovator, influencer, and trailblazer.
Based in New York City, Neeli Mishra is a neuroscience PhD candidate at Columbia University. While the majority of her time is spent conducting research, she does have passions outside of her field of study. Mishra has a very creative eye, which she channels into her freelance photography and interest in fashion. Covet + Lou is very excited to feature this accomplished scientist and style influencer.
What parts of yourself do you see expressed in your style?
The places that are part of my life are expressed in my style. For example, I have held onto some of the casual elements from when I lived in Los Angeles. When putting together a outfit before a quick Trader Joe's run, I usually reach for a pair of broken-in jeans and sneakers. I like that the pairing is refined but casual. After moving to New York for graduate school, my wardrobe has shifted towards darker colors and more layers during the cooler months. My upbringing and ethnicity has also influenced my style. Indian clothing has a lot of red and gold and I like to incorporate those colors into my shoes and jewelry. I also like wearing natural fabrics like linen, which are also common in Indian clothing.
What does it mean to be a woman in your field?
Being a woman in science can be challenging. Science is hard for everyone, but as a woman, you sometimes also have to be more mindful about how you present yourself to others. That being said, I have been very fortunate to have mentors (both male and female) who have been highly committed to supporting and advancing women in science. Thanks to these advocates, and to people like my parents, I have always felt empowered in my scientific career. But I know this isn't the case for everyone so I try to remind myself often how lucky I am to work in a space where I can be creative and ambitious and also be able to make a real difference in the world.
What is the most enjoyable part of fashion?
My favorite part of fashion is challenging myself to create interesting outfits with an edited wardrobe. It's like a fun puzzle you have to solve every morning! I used to have the tendency to wear the same few items over and over again, mostly due to a crowded closet and decision fatigue. Over the past year or two, I have reduced the size of my wardrobe considerably and have only kept items that are neutral, comfortable, well-made, and fit my proportions (tailoring does most things wonders!). When adding a new item to my wardrobe, I try to stick to the same color scheme but go for an interesting cut or shape. Through a mixture of layering, seeking outfit inspiration from others and holding myself accountable by sharing a daily mirror selfie, I've been able to put together more unique outfits that make me feel confident each day.
What brings you joy?
I really enjoy the sense of peacefulness that comes from keeping my apartment and workspace tidy. Although I am a naturally neat person, I look forward to my bi-annual clear-outs of my bookshelves, closets and general living space. This helps me ensure that my possessions are still useful to me and aren't unnecessarily accumulating.
I also like writing everything down! While I use some technology to keep track of collaborative projects, I do enjoy more analog methods for my general productivity. I use my Hobonichi Techo planner as a hybrid to-do list/gratitude journal and I use my bullet journal for mapping out ideas. These two notebooks help me keep on top of the seemingly endless list of things I need to do.
Finally, having a workout routine that I like and look forward to has been a game-changer. I've found a great reformer pilates studio in my neighborhood that I walk to after work, with kind teachers and workouts that make me feel stronger. I supplement my routine with some cycling classes, and it all makes me feel really good, both physically and mentally.
What are you currently working on?
As a Ph.D. student, I study the neural circuits and mechanisms that underlie emotions. I use creative optical and genetic tools that let us look at the neural activity of a fruit fly's brain in real time. By monitoring patterns in activity, I can draw conclusions about which neurons in the brain are involved during different brain states. Having the chance to somewhat accurately answer big questions like "what are emotions?" is what first drew me into the field of neuroscience when I was in college and inspired me to continue my scientific career.
What does your apartment look like? What are some of your favorite pieces?
I live in a fairly spacious two-bedroom apartment in the Upper West Side. I share it with another graduate student and we each have our own bedroom. Having lived in this apartment for four years, I have turned it into a simple, clean and functional space. While my modest graduate student stipend has probably helped me in maintaining that aesthetic, I have accrued a few pieces over the years that I love and plan to keep for a long time. These include my Floyd Detroit bed frame, my NASA/JPL "Visions of the Future" framed prints, an assortment of @skargogh ceramics and, of course, my leafy plant friends.
How do you like to end your day?
I'm usually doing something after work like pilates or ceramics, so my boyfriend and I typically cook and eat a late dinner together. Lately, it's been fun unwinding after dinner with a round or two of our favorite board game. We've been playing a lot of "Rivals for Catan" recently, a board game we picked up on a whim from the board game cafe down our block. It's great for two people and surprisingly replayable. Afterwards, I take a shower and plan out my lab to-do list for the next day. I then get in bed and read on my Kindle for about 30 minutes (or longer if the book is really good!) before falling asleep.