UNSW Sydney researcher Dr Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan has been awarded the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) Life Sciences Award for 2025, in recognition of her achievements in using novel microscopies in cell biology.

This accolade highlights her pioneering research in the use of a diverse array of advanced microscopy techniques to uncover fundamental biophysical processes.

Currently holding a prestigious EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory) Australia Group Leader fellowship, Dr Ananthanarayanan leads one of the largest and most dynamic research group in the EMBL Australia Node for Single Molecule Science, based in the Department of Molecular Medicine in the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Her research, which focuses on motor proteins and cytoskeleton dynamics, has set new standards in the field and underscores the power of microscopy in addressing critical questions in cell biology. These questions include investigation of the molecular underpinnings of neurodegeneration, cellular decision-making that dictates overgrowth of cells in cancer, and the signalling itinerary of psychedelics in cells that leads to their anti-depressant properties.

Dr Ananthanarayanan’s  academic journey began with a PhD from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany, followed by a successful tenure at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, where she was promoted to Assistant Professor.

Her work has been published in multiple prestigious journals and she has received the EMBO Young Investigator Award (2019) and the ASCB Junior Award for Excellence in Research (2021).

Professor Michelle Peckham, Executive Secretary of The Royal Microscopical Society, Dr Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan, EMBL Australia Group Leader at Single Molecule Science and Associate Professor Izzy Jayasinghe, Head of Department of Molecular Medicine. Supplied

Dr Ananthanarayanan joined UNSW in November 2020 after being awarded a prestigious EMBL Australia Group Leader fellowship – UNSW’s fourth so far.

Her dedication extends beyond biomedical research; she is a passionate educator and mentor, having supervised numerous PhD, MSc, and undergraduate Honours students. She is also a strong advocate for equity and inclusion.

Dr Ananthanarayanan has championed the culture shift in academic science as the co-founder of BiasWatchIndia – an organisation that advocates for equal gender representation in Indian conference symposia and discussion panels. She has also been a positive role model in her department through her work to establish a journal club and lead the conversation on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Her recent achievements at UNSW include publishing several breakthrough research and review papers, and her team’s discovery on the transient interactions within cells driving complex processes has been particularly notable. In recognition of her contributions, she was named Researcher of the Year by the School of Biomedical Sciences in 2023.

Dr. Ananthanarayanan is the first recipient of the RMS Life Sciences Award outside of Europe. She joins some of the highest achieving and elite microscopists in life sciences to win this award, including Dr Anjali Kusumbe (University of Oxford; 2023), Dr Yanlan Mao (University College London; 2019) and Dr Cristina Lo Celso (Imperial College London; 2019).