By Aaron Shaykevich, Opinions Editor
Each month, the YU Observer aims to feature a YU faculty member. For the May 2022 edition, the YU Observer is highlighting Dr. Athulaprabha Murthi, Ph.D.
Aaron Shaykevich (AS): Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Dr. Athulaprabha Murthi (AM): Hello, I am Athulaprabha Murthi, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Yeshiva College. My educational background includes a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Penn State University. I also did a postdoctoral at the National Institutes of Health in infectious diseases.
AS: How long have you worked at YU?
AM: I have been at YU for four years now.
AS: What do you like most about working at YU?
AM: One of the things I enjoy the most at YU is working with the students. I have taught at other colleges, but the unique thing about YU is that every student is driven to achieve as much as they can. The commitment shown by the students is admirable, both in terms of learning and in terms of arguing for that 0.2 or 0.5 points on a quiz or exam. As I often joke with my students, these interactions have really honed my negotiation skills, but it is a work in progress.
AS: What made you passionate about your field?
AM: I cannot point to a single thing that made me passionate about microbiology. There were many small incidents and circumstances. Over time, I began to enjoy the complexity within the simplicity of microbes, and how easy they were to manage and work with. Also, microbes are everywhere, and although they are extremely important to us, some are just as harmful as others are beneficial. I guess I find that very exciting. The complexities of biological processes are mind-boggling. Every time we think we know everything about bacteria, something new and more amazing is discovered.
AS: Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in your field?
AM: I would encourage students to enjoy their college experience. Enjoy learning and imbibing the knowledge in any course or field you choose to pursue. Do not get hung up on getting an ‘A’ in every single course. And do not get side-tracked or overly disappointed about some obstacles in your path. As long as you do not give up, you will eventually find your calling – something you enjoy and have fun doing.
AS: What makes your field special?
AM: This is a very exciting time for microbiology. We are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of microbes in every aspect of our lives. New technological advances are making it possible for large-scale studies that were unthinkable a decade before. The pandemic has also increased the public awareness of how microbes affect us, so overall it is a very interesting and exciting time for the field.
AS: If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be, and what would s/he speak about?
AM: I would be curious to hear what Rosalind Franklin would say about the role and achievements of women in science in the present day. Her X-ray diffraction experiments were the key to the discovery of DNA structure by Francis and Crick but were something she was never acknowledged for. She was a trail-blazing scientist at a time when discrimination against women was commonplace. She managed to achieve tremendous success despite that. While women have achieved a lot since then, there is still that struggle, and it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone like Rosalind Franklin.
AS: What is one thing you want students to know about you?
AM: While I push my students to always do well academically, I also want them to know I am here to support them in any way possible. Ultimately, my goal is to help them achieve the most out of college.