By day, Nina Chhita is a medical writer, developing educational resources that keep healthcare clinicians up to speed on the latest research in addiction medicine. But in her free time, she runs the Instagram account @nina.draws.scientists, where she posts her illustrations of women in STEM from all over the world.
When Chhita (who's now based in Vancouver) lived in London, she planned to learn about the city by visiting some of its blue plaques—hundreds of markers that honor notable people and the buildings where they lived and worked—and drawing their subjects.
“Having studied biology at university, I was particularly interested in learning about scientists. It was quite exciting to experience where the scientists I had learned about lived and had potentially made their discoveries,” she tells Mental Floss. “I soon realized that I didn’t know as much about scientists who were women.”
So in 2017, she decided to launch an Instagram account solely dedicated to sharing their images and stories. Not only do her posts teach people how these women have contributed to science, but the illustrations themselves help celebrate diversity and buck stereotypes about who belongs in STEM.
“Cognitive bias impacts many aspects of our careers. I hope that showing the faces of women in science plays a part in eliminating that bias by underscoring that there is no ‘type’ of person that should be pursuing science,” Chhita says. “It’s also important for people pursuing science to have role models—both to see themselves in that field and to know the jobs that are available in the field. Of course, showing the representation is a piece of the tapestry to diversify science.”
In addition to discovering new scientists through her own research, Chhita draws inspiration from what’s going on in the world. An illustration from May 2020, for example, featured Canada’s chief public health officer and other chief medical officers who have led the charge against COVID-19 in Canada.
Her current mission is to focus specifically on women of color, who are “continually neglected from educational and promotional materials.” She recently posted a collage of inspiring Black birdwatchers to celebrate Black Birders Week, and she’s also compiled slideshows on “Black Women Who Revolutionized Medicine” and “Black Women Who Should Be in Our Science Textbooks,” among others.
“Illustrating the scientists for the post ‘Black Women Who Should Be in Our Science Textbooks’ was such an enjoyable process. I discovered so many scientists who had interesting lives and had made tremendous contributions to science,” Chhita says. “It was tough whittling the list down to six. However, this does mean that I have plenty of scientists to illustrate to keep me busy!”
Be sure to follow Chhita on Instagram to see more of her artwork and celebrate the unsung female heroes of STEM.