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Aisha Bismillah

We’re proud to be a global university, with staff and students from over 130 countries creating an outward-looking, globally-minded and inclusive learning community.

So we’re delighted that Aisha Bismillah, one of our Postdoctoral Research Associates in Chemistry, has been selected as one of the 12 recipients of the inaugural Merck Chemists of Color Award.

About the Award and about Aisha

The Award recognises chemistry PhD and postdoctoral students from underrepresented groups. Winners get mentoring support, networking opportunities and travel funds to attend the 2021 Merck Award Symposium, where they can present their research.

Aisha’s research is in physical organic chemistry. While at Dartmouth College, Aisha developed artificial negative feedback loops, which may be useful in controlling complex chemical processes akin to those found in biological systems (e.g., the regulation of blood sugar levels). Now at Durham University, Aisha is working with ‘shapeshifting’ molecules – molecules that reorganise their structures in a manner similar to the movements of a Rubik’s cube.

Having undertaken a PhD at Durham, she was awarded a prestigious US-UK All Disciplines Fulbright Scholarship at Dartmouth College, USA. We’re delighted that she’s now returned to Durham.

Since the beginning of her academic career, Aisha has been involved in various outreach and mentorship programmes, including leading chemistry shows at local schools and community events.

‘Potential to be a research pioneer and scientific innovator’

The judges praised Aisha’s research accomplishments and her clear vision on how the Award would impact her career and enable her to give back to their community in order to help fellow underrepresented individuals. They said she had great potential to become a research pioneer and scientific innovator. 

Aisha said: “Receiving the 2021 Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Colour from Merck pharmaceuticals is a huge honour, it will not only allow me to gain mentorship, advice and guidance from chemists at Merck but will also allow me to strengthen my mentorship skills while allowing me to help fellow underrepresented individuals.”

Assistant Professor Paul McGonigal, who leads Aisha’s research group, said: “Aisha has been an integral part of the research culture in the Chemistry Department, first as a PhD student and now as a Postdoctoral Research Associate.

“She blazed a trail for chemists from traditionally underrepresented groups in her time as a US-UK Fulbright Scholar at Dartmouth College. We’re delighted to see she has gained this international recognition.”

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