Meet the 2018-19 JHPDA Executive Board

We recently sat down with the new JHPDA Executive Board to get to know them a little better as they start their terms. Postdoctoral fellows come from all over the world and from a variety of different backgrounds to study here at Hopkins. One of the purposes of the JHPDA is to help bring together all postdoctoral fellows across the East Baltimore and Bayview Campuses. The JHPDA is run by the Executive Board which is elected every summer for a one year term. Your new JHPDA Executive Board is:

Co-presidents:                                                            Treasurer:                       Secretary:

  Grace Kim                  Aravinth Kumar          Bahar Tuncgenc            Aadhithya Raman


Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

GK: My name is Grace Kim, and I am a third-year postdoc in Cardiology in the School of Medicine. I got my PhD in Physiology from Yale, and have been here in Dr. David Kass’s lab for my post-doc working in a preclinical study of heart failure treatment.

AJ: My name is Aravinthkumar Jayabalan and I am a postdoc in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the School of Public Health. I was born and raised in India, obtained my PhD in RNA Cell Biology from Chosun University in South Korea. I joined Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in November of 2016 for my postdoctoral fellowship.

AV: My name is Aadhithyaraman Vaithiya Santharaman. I know it’s quite a challenge to read it fully, so you can call me Aadhi. I graduated from Stanley Medical College in India. I’ve been exploring opportunities on my pathway to residency and I’ve been rediscovering myself in the process. I’ve always been fond of clinical research and I figured that getting a worthwhile research experience should help me for my residency and fellowship. I’m at the Department of Gastroenterology and my research primarily focuses on determining the natural history of mucinous pancreatic cysts, Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs) in particular.

What made you decide to come to Hopkins for a postdoc?

GK: For my post-doc, I knew that I wanted to study cardiac physiology. My mentor David is well known for his animal and human study of hemodynamics, and so it was a no-brainer that I would come to his lab to train with him!

AJ: My decision is of two-fold – 1. The extreme collaborative environment across the school/campus, 2. The translational research facility in the University, especially for those of high public health importance.

AV: Hopkins is popular all over the world for its ground-breaking work in all fields of medicine and research that played a major role in upgrading and shaping patient care. There are so many legends who have worked here and walking in their footsteps, literally, is something that I’m very excited about.

What encouraged you to get involved in the JHPDA and what made you decide to run for the Executive Board?

GK: Soon after I arrived, a colleague encouraged me to check out JHPDA and get involved. I’ve always loved organizing events and problem solving, and it seemed like a great way to get to meet and connect with fellow postdocs. I joined the Policy & Advocacy Committee and was honored to be able to work with a really talented, passionate team of post-docs over these past couple of years. What made me consider running for the Exec Board? Well, I am a natural leader, and over these years had become familiar with many of the different Offices we have on campus that work to ensure that postdocs are looked after and taken care of. I considered the opportunity with gravity, knowing how much of a commitment I would be making, but ultimately deemed that it’d be a really worthwhile mission to devote myself to, and am grateful to now be given that opportunity for the new academic year.

AJ: The primary purpose is to meet new people and maintain a healthy work-life balance. I strongly believe that getting involved in activities outside of research/lab will ease the tremendous pressure that I occasionally face in my research career. While serving as the Co-Chair of Professional Development Committee, one of the JHPDA’s sub-committee, I realized Hopkins provides so many resources for postdocs to excel and succeed in their future career – but, unfortunately, not many postdocs are aware of it. I really hope to make changes by which all the available resources should reach every postdoc.

AV: I had been aloof from JHPDA for a long time since I started my work here. Though I got my weekly bulletins about fun and interesting events organized by the JHPDA, I neither found the time nor the motivation to go for any of those. Finally, I ended up going with my friends for the Lunar New Year event organized by the JHPDA and that’s when I knew that this association is “by postdocs, for the postdocs”. I got to interact with some of the members and realized how warm and lovely they were. They seemed to have a wonderful relationship with each other when it comes to organizing such events. I decided to step into the JHPDA as the co-chair of the Professional Development Committee. I never had the thought of running for the Secretary of JHPDA, until few members of JHPDA incepted this idea on me when they found me to be a people person during the election breakfast event I volunteered for. During my medical college, I was elected as the secretary of a committee that organized a national conference for medical students every year. Together we hunt for sponsors and put forth a 4-day conference filled with eight workshops, research paper, and poster presentations and a day-long quizzing event. It was immensely successful with an attendance of around 350 active and more than 800 passive delegates from all over India. I had a very memorable and fun time in organizing this and I got to know people from different backgrounds. So, I figured why not be a secretary of another impressive association, one more time.

What do you hope to accomplish on the Executive Board in the JHPDA?

GK: My co-president Aravinth and I are united in wanting to do more than just run events and host meetings. We want to build on the progress we’ve made in the last year: more support for new and young parents, greater attention to mental health, more opportunities to advance in our careers and quality events where we get to meet and develop collaborations and friendships with other postdocs. The academic year being such, it might be unrealistic for us to realize substantial changes within the year, but we aim to release some of the burden that many of us had expressed – family health insurance cost and childcare subsidy, just to name a couple.

AJ: My major goal is to implement some new policies and benefits for postdocs at the University level. Few other things that I would like to accomplish are 1. Make sure every postdoc knows about the policy, benefits, and resources available to them, 2. Conduct more professional development events that would help their transition in their future career, 3. Encourage as many postdocs as possible to be involved in JHPDA and attend JHPDA events.

AV: I’m planning to utilize my past experience and pitch in my contributions for making this amazing JHPDA even better. Together we’re planning to consider unique ideas in putting forth innovative events that could encourage the postdocs who haven’t surfaced yet. Our goal is to increase the number of postdocs who would potentially be benefited from the events for which we take a lot of effort and time into organizing. I’m excited and looking forward to my term. I’m hopeful that I could bring justice to my role as the secretary of the JHPDA. Thank you for the blog post!

Want to ask your own questions or want to get involved? Contact us!

Leave a comment