OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego biological sciences faculty member Poongodi Geetha-Loganathan — “Dr. Poon” as her student research assistants know her — has earned the 2019 Provost’s Award for Mentoring in Scholarly and Creative Activity.
The award honors Geetha-Loganathan for significant accomplishments in training, advising and encouraging students in research — work that often involves her own cutting-edge studies in genetics and developmental biology. The award will be presented at the college’s Fall Academic Affairs Retreat.
Geetha-Loganathan’s support for the award included a letter of nomination from Manna Job, a recent graduate and recipient of the 2019 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, who said her experience as a research assistant was fascinating and rigorous, and validated her decision to apply to medical school.
“As an underclassman with no exposure to developmental biology, I was unsure how successful I would be in this research lab,” Job wrote in a letter of recommendation for Geetha-Loganathan’s award. “However, Dr. Poon was very patient and thorough as she oriented her research students. She made me feel at ease as she broke down complicated ideas and generously took her time to explain the projects she has been working on.”
Geetha-Loganathan, whose doctorate is from University of Freiburg, Germany, primarily studies chicken and turtle embryos as model organisms for the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie development. However, she and Job devised a study of freshwater mussels to quantify the accumulation of the herbicide atrazine in mussels’ tissues and study physiological changes that resulted.
“I soon began to see how Dr. Poon constantly broadened her horizons,” wrote Job, who will next attend Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Dr. Poon is always ready to resolve any challenges in her path. … She was so dedicated to this project and it inspired me to give it my best every single day.”
Their study, among other things, resulted an international award for Job, 2018 Best Presenter at the research honor society Sigma Xi’s annual conference in San Francisco.
Hannah Cooper, a 2017 SUNY Oswego graduate in biological sciences, said the training, patience and work ethic she learned from Geetha-Loganathan led to an internship at the Photodynamic Therapy Center at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Cooper was offered a full-time job in the research lab there shortly after graduation.
“My time at Oswego is highlighted by the semesters in which I had the pleasure to work with Poon, and it wasn’t until I was under her guidance that I felt at home in the field of science and research,” Cooper wrote in her letter of recommendation.
Sri Lankan native Kevin Wanniarachchi, a 2016 SUNY Oswego alumnus in biology, credited not only Geetha-Loganathan’s counsel during his undergraduate experience as a research assistant, but beyond, in guidance she provided that helped him gain multiple acceptances to graduate schools. Wanniarachchi now is a graduate assistant in South Dakota State University’s department of biology and microbiology.
“She always trained me to be an analytical and creative scientist,” he wrote. “I fondly recall how encouraging and supportive she was when I made mistakes during experiments or when my experiments failed. She always highlighted the importance of understanding the biological questions we were trying to answer with our experiments in the lab, and to this day I appreciate the inquisitive foundation it instilled in me as a scientist.”
Current and former colleagues also weighed in to support Geetha-Loganathan’s selection for the Provost’s Award. Biological sciences faculty member Karen Sime remarked on the many student projects her colleague has overseen.
“Her students’ projects are rigorous and high-quality, as indicated by the many grants funded for projects conducted at least in part, if not entirely, by her students, and the many conference presentations her students have given,” Sime wrote, at the college’s Quest symposium, annual meetings of Rice Creek Associates and Rochester Academy of Science, and Sigma Xi regional and national meetings.
John Abramyan, now an assistant professor in the University of Michigan – Dearborn’s natural sciences department, wrote with gratitude about Geetha-Loganathan’s rigorous tutelage when she was a postdoctoral fellow at University of British Columbia and he was a new fellow.
“She is able to communicate these high standards with a sense of confidence in the individual whom she is instructing, be it undergraduate student or postdoctoral researcher,” Abramyan wrote. “She has always maintained a high level of respect and regard for others, especially in times of instruction and mentoring.”