Dear Ms. Tracey Villaveces,
I am very glad for the opportunity to nominate Madhur Mangalam for the 2017-2018 Marsh award. To preface, you may recall a meeting you and I had in the early fall semester, in which I asked if you were aware of any researchers accepting undergrad assistants. You pointed me to Madhur, saying that he had a “prolific” output and that if I worked with him, I might be able to get my name on an article.
Not only has this fortunate event come about (I am expecting to co-publish three articles with Madhur before graduating in May), but there have been numerous other benefits from my time with him. Madhur is easily the most competent and hyper-productive researcher I have ever met. His influence on me has been profound; to the point where my parents have commented on it, expressing appreciation for his role in my life.
From our earliest meetings, Madhur and I recognized that we shared several interests and began recommending to each other books, YouTube videos, etc. Madhur is well-read and has something to contribute to most topics, many of which we would debate. It has not been unusual for us to spend several hours in a coffee shop arguing over political or philosophical differences. These discussions always keep my interest and I always leave feeling that I have learned a lot. More centrally, they highlight an important characteristic of Madhur’s: his capacity to be pleasant in his disagreeableness. Madhur can be “a devil’s advocate” and this has earned him something of a reputation in our department. In fact, it has gotten him into some trouble with colleagues to the point where I have seen his presentations boycotted by fellow students in our lab. However, I wish to emphasize here that I have seen nothing but professionalism from Madhur. I am certain that our lab director, Dr. Dorothy Fragaszy, would agree. His disagreements, while at times abrasive, are always underscored by honesty, sincerity, and openness. Several of my friends have left a discussion with him saying they were impressed with the amiable quality of his disagreeableness.
I have been working with Madhur on this as we are always giving each other advice. Gradually, our friendship has developed to the point that we will meet at Ramsey for a workout, or at a nature trail for a run. Occasionally my girlfriend and I will go out to meet him and a woman he is seeing at Cali N Titos for a “double date.” These events are always enjoyable as well as memorable. For instance, I will never forget the night we went for a run on the train tracks spanning east campus, spending the time discussing Eastern history and the Indian great work Bhagavad Gita.
I mentioned that Madhur is the most competent researcher I’ve met. I will add that he is also the most honest. Madhur moves from project to project at the rate of a “bullet train” (to borrow a phrase used by Dr. Tarkesh Singh, director of UGA’s Biomechanics lab, in describing Madhur). But he accomplishes this prolific output without sacrificing anything in the way of method. He is full of energy and ambition and strives to be the most competent researcher he can be. And his excitement is contagious. Prior to my time with Madhur, I viewed research as a nuisance, or, at best, a box to be checked on my path to becoming a professor. Now I am considering making it into a full career. In this respect, Madhur has given me the tools I need to succeed.
I have spent these two semesters working hard to keep up with Madhur’s rate, though he has been quite flexible and accommodating. In the first few months of our partnership, I read many books and articles on perceptual studies to familiarize myself with the field. Shortly thereafter, I began to acquire much experience as a researcher, not only in performing experiments, but also in designing them – prior to each experiment, Madhur requested from me a rough draft of the experiment’s hypothesis and methodology. Our time working on these projects was also interspersed with him teaching me about effective research strategies and the nature of science. So far I have read, at his recommendation, the article “Strong Inference” by John Platt and Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present by Gross et al.
In January, I was able to cooperate with Madhur on writing an article from our first study. I spent between 30-40 hours working with him to prepare our article “Location of a grasped object’s effector influences haptic perception of the length of that object.” I estimate that 30% of the writing in that article was my own. The paper has been submitted for publication and we are currently awaiting comments. In this way, I have received valuable experience in writing scientific papers; the process now seems much less vague and threatening than it did before.
Madhur has also made me better acquainted with programs like MATLAB and SPSS. Our current partnership with the Biomechanics lab has offered me experience working with electromyography (EMG) technology.
Finally, Madhur has also advanced my career in exceptional ways. Consider my post-graduation plans. This summer, my intention was to take a ‘gap year’ and visit another country before applying to grad schools in the fall. Madhur helped me finalize these plans by arranging for me to work at biological sciences lab in India (IISER Thiruvananthapuram). The lab director there has offered to cover any housing costs for the duration of my stay – up to nine months. For me, this is a dream come true. Not only will I be able to visit and explore a foreign country, but I will also obtain more lab experience in the process and build my resume.
For these benefits and more, I am incredibly grateful for my time with Madhur. Admittedly, some of this gratitude is owed to you, Ms. Villaveces, for your part in coordinating this arrangement. My time with Madhur has influenced me in more ways than I can express and he has inspired me to be a more excellent researcher and student. If and when I reach my goal of becoming a psychology professor, Madhur will have played a significant role.
Thus, I nominate him for the Marsh award, and in this way express a small part of my gratitude. Please let me know if I can provide any further information. I can be reached at this address or by cell at (phone number hidden). I would be surprised to hear that another graduate student has inspired more improvement in research and scientific exploration than Madhur.
James David Conners
University of Georgia ’18
Psychology & Communications