After receiving his B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University in 2003, Nikhil Nair worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb as a manufacturing research scientist in biotechnology purification development. He then went on to receive his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and 2010, respectively. As a graduate student, he developed processes for the production of the sugar substitute xylitol using E. coli and the biofuel butanol using yeast, via a combination of protein and genome engineering approaches. He joined Tufts after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in microbiology and immunobiology at the Harvard Medical School under the guidance of Professor Ann Hochschild.
Research in Nikhil Nair's lab is focused primarily on altering various aspects of microbial physiology, with the aim of not only engineering them for applications but also understanding why various features of life evolved the way they did. This involves deconvoluting the complexity of their makeup and finding ways to alter their components (genes, proteins, metabolites, etc.) to achieve a desired outcome.