The life of postdocs - Part 3: How he did it

Moorthy Palanimuthu Ponnusamy, Ph.D., didn't know his mentor, Surinder Batra, Ph.D., would be a good one.

That much was luck.

picture disc.
Moorthy Palanimuthu Ponnusamy, Ph.D., was a postdoc at UNMC for just three years.
All he knew was he'd read Dr. Batra's research, from afar, and knew it was the kind of work he wanted to do, too.

In his environment

As a postdoc, Dr. Ponnusamy came to work at 8. He left at 8. On the weekends he slept in, came in a little later; around 9. He never missed a Saturday or a Sunday.

He liked the lab at night. It was peaceful.

Each day, a new challenge

The first thing he did in the morning, when he was a postdoc, was read the latest articles, and this would help give him a new idea. Each day, he told himself, he needed one new idea to work on. And each day, he came up with one; he would bounce it off Dr. Batra, ask if it was a good idea.

He would write in his notebook. If the experiment he was working on failed, as they did most of the time, what then?

He didn't think of it as a job. You can't think of it that way, he said.

On a fast track

Dr. Ponnusamy was a postdoc at UNMC for just three years. First he was promoted to senior research assistant. Then he became an instructor; he is a junior faculty member now, at UNMC.

Iqbal Ahmad, Ph.D., director, postdoctoral education and research, said one of the secrets to success, one of the things his office will work on, is matching a postdoc's personality with the lab that will best match it. And in Dr. Batra, Dr. Ponnusamy found his perfect match. Everything he has accomplished at UNMC: "Ninety-nine percent of it is because of help I got from Dr. Batra," he said.

His original mentor

But there was something else. Another reason why he spent only three years as a postdoc, why he would work 7-day workweeks, why he had more than a dozen publications in 2009, why he was driven to meet his goals. He learned how to be a postdoc when he was a kid, when he watched his father, a school principal in India, toil until 10 o'clock at night.

When times were tough, Dr. Ponnusamy thought of his father.

"I learned everything from my dad," he said.


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Postdoc series

Read previous stories in this week's series on postdocs at UNMC: