ChemAIMS Seminar: Professor Mona Minkara, Northeastern University
About the Seminar
Building the COMBINE Lab: Breaking Barriers as a Blind Chemist
Mona Minkara, an assistant professor of Bioengineering at Northeastern University, shares her experience building the Minkara COMBINE Lab. The lab, which stands for Computational Modeling for BioInterface Engineering, combines diverse perspectives to solve scientific problems, particularly in the study of pulmonary surfactant (PS), a vital substance in the respiratory system. PS research is essential in developing new approaches and treatments for diseases spread through the lungs. As a blind chemist, Mona overcame challenges and internalized ableism to see her blindness as an asset in the lab's work. She emphasizes the importance of combining diverse perspectives in science to solve new problems and advocates for disability inclusion in STEM. Mona's story challenges us to reflect on our biases and recognize the importance of creating inclusive spaces and striving for equitable opportunities for all. Throughout her academic journey, Mona faced various challenges, including obtaining necessary accommodations for her education and finding a graduate school that provided the support she needed. Her postdoctoral mentor played a significant role in helping her overcome internalized ableism to see her blindness as an unseen advantage. Mona's story asks us to reflect on how we can work together to break down barriers and accessibility to scientific knowledge for all people.
About the Speaker
Dr. Mona Minkara is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and an Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University. She heads the COMBINE (Computational Modeling for BioInterface Engineering) Lab. Dr. Minkara uses computational methods to study biological interfaces at the atomic and molecular scales. Her current research examines pulmonary surfactant, the complex protein-lipid substance lining the alveoli. Dr. Minkara received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Florida. Before joining the Northeastern University faculty, she held a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Chemical Theory Center with a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. As a scientist who is blind, Dr. Minkara is committed to making science more accessible and inclusive through designing new tools for blind and partially-sighted scientists. Mona is involved with a number of organizations and committees, including the Chemists with Disabilities division of the American Chemical Society, Writing Science in Braille, and her own initiative, Blind Stem Curriculum. To further her goal of bringing awareness to low-vision independent travelers and thinkers, Mona documents her international travel using public transportation in her travel-vlogging YouTube series, Planes, Trains, and Canes.