Nanoscientist. Pastor. Entrepreneur. Mom.

Sheeba Dawood blends science and religion for better living

I came to the US in 2016 and graduated in 2020 with a PhD in nanoscience (from UNC-Greensboro). While working on my PhD in 2018, we were studying about batteries as researchers and scientists, and we realized that batteries were going to be the next big thing. I realized that critical minerals are very important for building those batteries, but where are those resources and how are we getting them? That stayed with me.


Journey to the US and Becoming a Scientist

The National Science Foundation I-Corp Program helped me do customer discovery and see if there really is a need in the market. I was selected regionally to do 50 interviews and that increased my interest even more. Then I got to the national level and they funded $50,000 for more discoveries around the world. I did about 200 customer discoveries to understand the whole ecosystem. So now Minerva Lithium (Sheeba is CEO) is trying to build a filter system that can extract valuable minerals, like lithium, nickel, and cobalt, to build the batteries from wastewater resources.


Childhood and Growing up in India

I was raised in India in a happy family. Both of my parents are educated with master’s degrees. I would say we were privileged because most Indian families do not have access to education, especially the girls. Things have changed now, but while I was growing up (my father is Islam and my mother is Christian), his family would have limited education at a certain point. All of my siblings, which includes a son and three daughters, are educated.


My Inspiration

My mother is my inspiration. When I was young, I saw her leadership skills in action in a large crowd, many of whom were men, when she was able to play a very significant role in addressing and solving issues. She was powerful, balanced, and believed in herself, and not aggressive, dominant, or arrogant. I wanted to become like her. It was difficult for my mother to get her education, and my parents supported us. When I had the opportunity, I went and grabbed it, and now here I am building things on my own.


My First Multicultural Experience 

I did my bachelor’s in India and my master’s in Australia. That played a significant role, as it was my first international experience and exposure to different cultures and communities – Italy, Malaysia, China, Japan – and it built me into what I am today. The beauty of research and science is different people working on one project and trying to make life better for all other people.


Overcoming Fear 

While in Australia at age 21, I was very timid and didn’t know how to express myself. We were having problems on our project, and I was afraid to use my voice and was keeping the pain and suffering all to myself. I am sensitive as a person and couldn’t fight for myself. My professor encouraged me to stand up for myself and fight for myself, which stayed with me and was a learning experience.


The Path to Science

As a kid, I always wanted to do something very different. In my career, I keep choosing paths where people have said it’s difficult or even impossible. That is my character. Science is what the whole universe is created with. You can do things differently in science, and your growth is not stuck. It’s creative and critical thinking, which excites me. In science, and research especially, you’re creating, improving, and redesigning new things. The President of India, a scientist, was talking about nanoscience. Then in Queensland, I was able to create and analyze materials at nanoscale. This built up my interest. Science helps to improve things we already have.


Becoming a Pastor

I am a pastor and am trying to build this church. I read and study the Bible, but find from my interactions that many people don’t understand it. From my PhD, I’ve learned how to break down and explain concepts, and I apply that to the Bible. I’m a scientist and follower of Christ. I just got a pastor license, and now I am a Christian pastor. I founded Emmanuel Ministries in 2020 and have 25 followers.

During research, I definitely get weird looks when I say I’m going to pray about it. I believe God is Creator, and he is with me and leading me. Anything I do, including my research in science, my feet are grounded. The wisdom that comes to me, I’d rather go to God and humble myself, and put myself down to God, but not equal to God.


Encountering Difference

Differences exist everywhere. I developed a thick skin. Let me move forward and when I’m successful, people will follow me. I won’t let others hinder my growth. Some want to collaborate because of being smart intellectually. Others help me progress in my life, so I associate with these people.


Integrating into Culture

Americans are curious about Indian cuisine. Food at potlucks helped break the ice with neighbors and helped develop friendships. We do have a large Indian friend group. I also want to hang out with the Nigerians, Americans, and others. I see more isolation in groups here, and it wasn’t like that in Australia, where everyone mingles together. I would like downtown to have a cultural program to mingle and get to know and learn from each other.

Overcoming Adversity

Attitude and how you look at things matter a lot. There are a lot of people who look at failure and believe that is the end. But I look at failure differently. I am not saying I don’t cry or get disappointed. I get disappointed the most. But I go back, take time, and analyze things. And then I realize that I’ve come this far, and I am not going to give up here.

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   The Interview Video

Hear Sheeba’s brilliance in action as she discusses pursuing her degrees across multiple countries, founding her own lithium battery startup, and becoming a pastor and a mom – all in the last few years.

  The Photo Album

This photo album is a paginated portfolio of images related to this interview. The download contains a zip file with all of the images.

  The Podcast Audio

This podcast recording is the full-length interview minus the video.


Story Collaborators
Nancy Sidelinger Herring

Nancy Sidelinger Herring


Nancy Sidelinger Herring is a professional photographer with 25 years of experience in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. She spent 19 years working as the Special Sections photographer with the Greensboro News & Record.

She is passionate about helping homeless pets, whether it's taking their photos to help them find homes, volunteering at shelters, or teaching pet responsibility classes.

Nancy loves spending time with her husband, Jamie, their three dogs, her family and friends, and playing with her grandson, Kenai.

Christie Soper

Christie Soper

Co-Founder and Co-Producer, PAVE NC

Christie is a Cornell-certified diversity practitioner, a contributing writer for the travel industry, and a small business advocate who provides marketing and strategy assistance through her consulting firm, Maunaleo Ventures, Inc.

Before owning a global travel and concierge services company, Suncierge, she held multiple executive leadership roles in the IT Project Management Office, Digital Business, Marketing, and HR Diversity areas during her 20-year career at Lincoln Financial.

When not working and volunteering, you'll find Christie with her husband, Dave, traveling the world, hanging with friends, or enjoying a sunset cocktail on their deck.

Dave, Maunaleo Ventures

Dave, Maunaleo Ventures

Media Production

Dave is a builder, fixer, and protector of digital things. He has worked for small businesses and Fortune 200 companies across multiple industries, including financial services, manufacturing, and defense.

Dave was born in the District of Columbia but considers the Districts of North Kohala and Hamakua his spirit home [once from the District, always from a District]. Dave does not do social media or answer the phone very often, so if you want to reach him, you will probably need to go analog. Brah,  dasswhyhard!

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