Murali, an IT veteran in higher education, is coming to Davis from Washington State University, where she has served as vice president for Information Services and CIO for the WSU system since 2007.
"UC Davis is incredibly fortunate to recruit someone with Viji's experience and expertise," Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said in announcing Murali's appointment.
"She is a leader in her field, and her efforts will be essential in realizing our Vision of Excellence."
She succeeds Pete Siegel, who left UC Davis a year ago. Professor Prasant Mohapatra has served as interim vice provost and CIO in the meantime.
Murali is set to start her new job on Aug 18. "I am excited to be joining a university with such a wonderful reputation, to lead the IT enterprise that contributes to the university's excellence, in everything from student success to research.
"I intend to develop a shared vision with the faculty, staff and students, and we will move the institution to even greater heights," she said.
She received a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from the Women's College at Osmania University, India (1975), and a master's in organic chemistry from Osmania's College of Science (1977).
She then joined the Regional Research Laboratory, affiliated with Osmania, and worked there toward a doctoral degree in organic chemistry until 1981.
Then, as a newlywed, she moved to the US to join her husband, Subra Muralidharan, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Notre Dame and subsequently at Iowa State University.
As Murali considered whether to continue her Ph.D. studies - she would have had to start over - she talked with her father in India.
"He's a rocket scientist, literally," she said. "He told me, 'You are in the land of opportunity. Twenty years from now, technology will be the key.'"
And so she began studying computer science, doing two years of undergraduate work at Iowa State and then, when her husband moved to the University of Arizona, completing a master's programme there in 1987.
Her chemistry and science background has been very useful in her IT work. "I see technology as a catalyst for innovation," she said.
She worked for the University of Arizona for 11 years, first in the College of Education as a systems administrator; and then in the Centre for Computing and Information Technology as a programmer, a principal and project lead, computing manager and as director of systems management.
From there she went to Western Michigan University, as vice president for Information Technology and CIO, 1999 to 2007, before joining WSU.