Neeli in the Dive Dress at the Columbia Lab.
Welcome to our second installment of Elise Ballegeer WOMEN, where we feature inspiring independent women around us who embody the Elise Ballegeer ethos. Next up is neuroscientist Neeli Mishra who moonlights as a photographer and style influencer (@neuroodyssey). Below is our Q&A concerning her work, personal style and her neighborhood faves for Morningside Heights.
Neeli in the Beate Dress - Black.
Can you share a little bit about your background — where you are from, and what your childhood was like?
I grew up as an only child in a suburban town in central New Jersey. While I spent most of my childhood being a book nerd, I also spent a lot of my time dancing ballet. It was a necessary creative outlet, especially as I got older and got busier with school. In high school, I became interested in science and decided to go to college in southern California to study bioengineering.
What is your current occupation?
I am a neuroscience PhD student at Columbia University. Being a fourth-year graduate student in biology means I do scientific research full-time. My thesis is centered around understanding how emotions are represented in the brain. I also do freelance photography whenever I can make the time for it.
What do you feel has been the biggest step or pivotal moment to get you where you are now?
Deciding to attend a tech school for college. After spending four years surrounded by students and professors doing interesting and inspiring science, I was certain that I wanted to do the same career-wise.
A section of the microscope Neeli built for her PhD.
Are there many females in your field? What advice would you give to other women looking to follow the same career path?
Up until graduate school, I was in the gender minority as an engineer. However, at Columbia, I was pleasantly surprised to find far more female neuroscience graduate students than male students. If I were to give one piece of advice to women interested in science, I would ask them to look for a female role model in the field (i.e. a mentor, postdoctoral researcher or graduate student) and to remind themselves of their role model's successes during trying times.
In addition to getting your PhD you’re also a photographer/fashion influencer. Have you come up with any systems for how to efficiently manage the two at once? How do you switch between two mindsets?
To be honest, balancing the two has been hard and I still can't say I've figured out a way to manage the two efficiently. However, having a stand-alone email address and Google calendar for my photography helps me separate the two in my mind. I mostly produce content for my Instagram on weekends, so that also helps me focus on science on weekdays and more creative things on Saturdays and Sundays.
What got you interested in photography and fashion?
I first started photography in middle school, where I'd carry around a point-and-shoot camera to take pictures of friends and places I'd travel to with my family. By the time I was in college, I became more intrigued by photography as an art form and began to study work by other photographers and got into photo editing. During the second year of graduate school, I started my Instagram account as a photography portfolio to get more freelance photography work in the city.
As for fashion, I've always been interested. Since moving to NYC, I've noticed people wearing more interesting clothing than I had seen before, and I became more and more inspired to find my own personal style. It was only in the past few years that I was introduced to ethical and sustainable fashion, and the pieces put out by these independent fashion brands have definitely helped me define my personal style.
How would you describe your personal style?
Minimalistic and utilitarian. I tend to wear neutral colors (lots of brown, black and denim) made of comfortable and natural materials. I am especially into jackets, jumpsuits and shoes, and can't seem to have enough in my wardrobe.
Future goals, or new budding passions?
Get into ceramics. Move back to California. Design a home. Own a Shiba Inu.
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights
Best coffee: The Chipped Cup
(between 148 and 149 St and Broadway) for an oat milk latte and ginger molasses cookie. They also have a cute outdoor courtyard and plenty of seats to catch up on emails or work on grant applications.
Favorite lunch spot: Saiguette
(106 St and Columbus) for a quick grab-and-go lunch of pho or vermicelli noodles. They also have super fast delivery to Morningside Heights/Upper West Side.
Best shopping: Steven Alan Outpost (between 82 and 83 St and Amsterdam) for discounted clothes, shoes and accessories by independent designers. Also a good place to stop by if looking for a birthday or housewarming gift.
(between 140 and 141st St and Broadway) for dinner and drinks in a chic, minimalistic ramen joint. Try the uni tofu and truffle cocktail.