In Loving Memory of Niharika Dalpati

By Dr. Byron Farnum

Niharika Dalpati, a senior graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (DCB), passed away due to natural causes on April 17, 2023 at her home in Odisha, India. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, and she leaves behind a legacy for which all students can aspire.

Niharika joined Auburn University in Fall 2018 after receiving Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Chemistry from the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) in Odisha, India. Her time at Auburn was marked by many successes, including an award for Outstanding Graduate TA, multiple presentations at regional and national conferences, and multiple publications of her research. She was an important leader in the Farnum lab, having mentored two undergraduate students and mastered many synthetic, electrochemical, and photochemical techniques in her study of multi-electron redox chemistry. At the time of her passing, she was only 3 months away from the completion of her PhD degree in Chemistry.

Niharika was also an important and valued member of the DCB, having served on the Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee as a student member and always eager to help where needed. In all aspects, she was a model graduate student, especially among the international community.

Figure: Niharika, Dalpati (1994 - 2023) 

Her experience as an international student was not uncommon. She left her family in India with a sense of adventure, promise, and opportunity in the United States. However, she sacrificed meaningful time with her family back home. In particular, Niharika experienced the loss of her father while she was in Auburn, when he tragically passed away in 2021. Although she was able to return to India to mourn his loss, she was not able to participate in many of the ritualistic aspects of her culture.

Graduate school can be an amazing but difficult time, with many ups and downs related to research. That’s the way of science. However, the experience of international students is unique, managing these highs and lows without the local support of friends and family. Their contributions should therefore be recognized and celebrated. In honor of Niharika’s excellent standard set for graduate students, the DCB has established an award for international students in their department. The Niharika Dalpati Award will be given annually to an international graduate student who displays exemplary performance in research and citizenship with the department. Through this award, her legacy will be honored and remembered for years to come.


Byron Farnum, Ph.D. is currently an associate professor in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Auburn University.