Women Scientists in IISc – Dr. Vidya Mangala Prasad

Photo Credits – Mr. Haridasan

Dr. Vidya Mangala Prasad is an Assistant Professor at Molecular Biophysics Unit (MBU).  She joined IISc In 2021.  Her areas of research are structural biology, Cryo-EM, virology, and infectious diseases.  She did her PhD at Purdue University, USA and postdoc at Purdue University and University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

  • When did you first realise that you wanted to be a scientist?

I always had immense curiosity to know how ‘life’ functions around us. So, I naturally gravitated towards biology and life sciences in my early studies. I knew by high school that my passion was in biological research.

  • What attracted you to apply to and join IISc?

I wanted to come back and be part of the Indian scientific community, and what can be a better place to start than IISc for research?

  • What will your research at IISc focus on?

My research will focus on identifying and characterising mechanisms by which infectious viruses enter cells and establish infection. I will use high resolution structural and biophysical methods to study macromolecular infection machineries.

  • Why did you choose this area of research?

Viruses, despite their relatively simple composition, have the potential to devastate human lives and global economies. The current COVID-19 pandemic is an example of such a time. Unravelling how viruses evade cellular defences to establish infection is a question I am interested to help and contribute to answering.

  • What are the big unresolved questions in your field?

We still don’t fully understand how viruses enter cells to establish infection. There are many gaps in our knowledge on how cells evade the immune system, how they recognise receptors, their replication process, assembly and egress.

  • What is the most important advice you got that you think has helped you in your career?

Scientific research is 90% failed experiments and only 10% success, but it’s the failures that teach you more and the success part that motivates you for the next round of failures.

  • If you had any mentors or role models in science, who were they and what do you think you’ve learned most from them?

Both my PhD and post-doc investigators have been my mentors. My PhD mentor, Dr Michael G Rossmann, greatly influenced my work ethic and scientific thinking style. My post-doc mentor, Dr Kelly K Lee, has taught me how to balance work and personal life without losing my passion for science.

  • What is the most fulfilling thing about a life in science?

The freedom to think and follow your curiosity.

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