Meet a Shocker: Vinay K. Kadarla, Ph.D in Chemistry

Vinay K. Kadarla successfully defended his chemistry dissertation on April 30 amid difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This this isn’t the first time events beyond his control complicated Kadarla’s academic career. His experience with civil unrest in his home country of India in 2010 helps him navigate the current stressful situation with academics and his career.

“I’m just focused on my dissertation and not worrying about what is happening,” he said. “I can tell other people to be patient, and let’s see what is going to happen. Let’s be optimistic.”

In 2010, he lived in Telangana, where protests and strikes over bifurcation of the state delayed his pursuit of a master’s degree in organic chemistry. Kadarla, 32, came to the United States in 2014 to attend Wichita State. 

Kadarla’s dissertation details his work to understand the mechanism and structure of the muscle protein myopalladin with the goal of helping design drugs or therapies to treat cardiomyopathy.

“This protein was discovered in 2001 and, for some reason, there was not much work done on this protein,” he said.

Instead of the usual defense, which is part presentation, part question-and-answer session and part celebration, performed in front of faculty and fellow students, he will present in a Zoom meeting. The pandemic cut short research at a critical time.

Moriah Beck, associate professor of chemistry, said Kadarla used his experiences to have a calming influence on other students.

“There was this sense of camaraderie,” Beck said. “He was able to say it’s OK.”

While defending his dissertation remotely is not ideal, Kadarla is relieved he will be able to complete his work on time at Wichita State. His visa status would not allow him to delay. Beck, he said, helped convince others that he could adequately answer questions about the dissertation remotely.

“Dr. Beck, she was so helpful, and she advocated for my side,” he said. “At least I’m moving forward with my dissertation work. I’m optimistic.”

Vinay is one of more than 2,400 students eligible for spring/summer 2020 graduation. Learn more about his time at Wichita State and what is next for the grad.

What is your degree in? 

I am getting a Ph.D in chemistry.

What led you to WSU? 

My parents always wanted me to achieve the highest degree in academics. However, due to financial situation, I had to take a job after I received my master’s degree. But I could not stop thinking about higher education. 

During that time, I learned about WSU and Dr. Moriah Beck from my friend (Ravi Vattepu) and I read her research interests, which encouraged me to approach her via email. Dr. Beck was interested in my candidacy.

In summary, I opted for WSU for its reputation and the ongoing research work. 

How are you feeling leading up to graduation? 

I am thrilled and proud to graduate from a wonderful university. It gives me an immense pleasure being an alumnus of such a reputed institute. 

What are your career plans? 

I want to pursue my career in scientific research, and I am interested in both academia and biotechnology industries. 

How has the COVID-19 crisis altered those plans, if at all?

I planned my graduation in spring 2020 without anticipating the COVID-19 crisis. I even have applied for OPT (temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study). However, with the COVID-19 crisis, most recruiting processes have stalled.

What advice do you have for students on how to cope with the uncertainty of these times?

This is an unprecedented situation that no one could have ever anticipated, and I strongly believe that our scientists and politicians are working hard to establish the normal activity. My humble advice is be patient and cooperative with the government.

What has been your most helpful learning experience while a student at WSU?

WSU is a great place to be, and I am very happy to join the WSU community. I have learned many things being a Shocker. I certainly learned to be a better researcher with my advisor and developed communication and writing skills by participating in career development series.

I have also developed social responsibility by participating in voluntary events such as Expanding Your Horizons, WSU commencement (Spring 2019) and Science Olympiad at WSU.

What was been your biggest challenge as a student, and how did you overcome it?

I am from a nonnative English-speaking country and language was my biggest challenge. But with the help from my advisor and international office, I have gotten better. My advisor made me present a research update every week and encouraged me to take part in more than 15 research conferences — including regional, national and international. 

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