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Nia W

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Stanford University


Conservation, biology, ecology and evolution, climate change and sustainability, genomics and genetics, science writing, fiction and non-fiction writing


Hi, I am Dr. Nia Symone Walker, and I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Coral Resilience Lab at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology. I received my Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University, under the mentorship of Dr. Stephen Palumbi, and my B.A. from Harvard College. I am a molecular ecologist interested in better understanding how organisms function under normal and high stress conditions. I primarily conduct research on reef-building coral stress resilience. I use genomics, genetics, ecological, and physiological techniques to investigate coral stress resilience. I am also a writer of poetry and prose, avid jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, and violinist. I also enjoy trying new recipes, hiking, and camping. I am also dog and cat mom to a chiweenie named Dobby and a Siberan named Athena.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

How do coral reefs look around the world?

Coral reefs harbor about 25% of all ocean biodiversity and have a lot of important functions for marine creatures and humans alike. Animals like turtles, fish, and sharks depend on reefs for food, shelter, and nurseries to raise babies. People depend on reefs for things like the tourism (e.g. snorkeling and scuba diving) and fishing industries. Yet coral reefs are suffering due to many different causes--like warming oceans, ocean acidification, pollution, and human destruction. Coral reefs are located around the equator in many places, from the Caribbean Sea to Japan. In this project, you will pick a few reefs located around the world. Then you will ask how healthy these reefs are, and what factors are negatively affecting them. You will discover whether coral reefs around the world are all responding in a similar way to modern day stressors.

Science children's book

It is great to get young kids excited about a topic in science that you are also passionate about, and a fun way to do this is by writing a children's book. You will learn how to craft a short story about a topic in science for a young target audience (e.g. kindergarten). In this project, you will develop important tools for communicating complex scientific ideas to a general audience along with creating a product that can inspire others to become more interested in science.

Fish detective: why are some fish more abundant than others in the same environment?

A new Bermuda fish species (Polymixia hollisterae) was recently detected for the first time in the Gulf of Mexico. Very few have been found in the wild (<100). What makes this fish so elusive? Discover how DNA and the environment might contribute to this mystery.

Coding skills

R, python

Teaching experience

Previously taught as a teaching assistant for University-level courses at Stanford, lectured a Summer high school student course at Columbia, created the curriculum for and taught workshops about coral reefs and climate change throughout the SF Bay Area, mentored previously through Polygence, I have mentored and continue to mentor undergraduate and early PhD students in research lab settings.


Work experience

Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk (2016 - 2017)
Science Educator
Stanford University (2018 - 2018)
Teaching Assistant for Winter Course Bio 21: Science of the Extreme Life of the Sea
Stanford University (2022 - 2020)
Teaching Assistant for Winter Course Bio 46: Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolution
Columbia University (2022 - 2020)
Junior Lecturer for the High School Summer Immersion Program, Course Title: Conservation Biology and Sustainability: Preserving the Planet.


Harvard University
BA Bachelor of Arts (2016)
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, minor in English
Stanford University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy

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