UCL News


Spotlight on Dr Aarathi Prasad

18 May 2016

This week the spotlight is on Dr Aarathi Prasad, UCL Grand Challenges, Office of the Vice-Provost (Research).

Dr Aarathi Prasad

What is your role and what does it involve?

For UCL Grand Challenges, I work with academics across a range of faculties to build interdisciplinary projects with impacts for research, policy and public engagement. It's really lovely to get colleagues with similar interests together and to be able look at societal challenges through the variety of scholarly lenses that they each bring. UCL is a large and complex institution to navigate, so it's not surprising that people - even those with converging areas of study - may not be visible to each other, especially if they are based in different faculties.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I've been at UCL Grand Challenges for just over two years. Before coming here I was science advisor at the British Council. My academic background is in molecular genetics, but I have always been interested in people's relationship with science, in applications and societal impact. So after my post-doc I moved into policy at the House of Commons and then public engagement, through broadcast and print journalism. I still write about science and medicine and have a new book out that I am thrilled will be BBC Radio4's Book of the Week.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

One of the things I have found incredibly interesting is working with colleagues in UCL Museums, UCL Partners, Psychiatry, UCLH, IRDR, Earth Sciences and many others, as well as a wide network of contacts outside UCL who are engaged with ideas that will disrupt thinking in the way we look at health, and how we approach promoting wellbeing and preventing illness. This is led by Professor Helen Chatterjee, MBE, who sits in UCL GEE and PACE, and it has engaged scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, from neuroscience to archaeology. That's what I really like about working here, that there is space to build initiatives that are grounded in disciplinary expertise, that UCL encourages imagination and creativity in research that impacts society.

What is your favourite novel?

Last Man in Tower, Aravind Adiga.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I like stupid jokes, like the ones that come out of Christmas crackers. My most recent favourite I heard from a toddler, but it's in Spanish. (So if you speak Spanish: ¿Qué le dijo un pez a otro pez? Nada.)

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

If they weren't dead, Maya Angelou and Emperor Akbar. As they are alive, Barack Obama would be great dinner conversation. Would love to meet Jake Gyllenhaal too - he looks good and comes across as a bit philosophical. As long as it's not too heavy.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don't panic.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

It would be injudicious to share those things…

What is your favourite place?

Tough question - so many. Probably the most magical places I have visited are Bamiyan, Damascus, and Aleppo.