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Family: A good reason to finish faster

Friday, 24 May 2019

manjula-graduation-image
Manjula Devananda celebrates graduation with her husband Devananda C D Prabhu and son Dyutit Dev last weekend. Graduation day has brought the family back together again.

There are lots of reasons why doctoral candidates aim to finish their studies in three years. For Manjula Devananda finishing quickly meant reuniting her family faster.

Graduating this month with a PhD in Information Science, Manjula has spent about half of her time at Otago far from her young son Dyutit Dev and air traffic controller husband Devananda C D Prabhu, who remained in India, in the district of Alappuzha.

Video calls home timed for early morning Indian-time became a daily occurrence, respected by her supervisors and others in the department who knew mid-afternoon was a precious time-out from her studies.

"Being a part of Natyaloka, I got an opportunity to accomplish yet another passion of mine - Bharathanatyam, a classical dance form from South India. It was the best stress buster I could ever have in my PhD journey."

Travelling so far from home wasn’t deliberate for Manjula – she didn’t even look at a map to work out the distance before deciding on Dunedin for her PhD. Only a climate that wasn’t too bone-chilling and supervisors working in her area were considerations.

Family friendly visa conditions and the support of her family and mother-in-law were the deciding factors.

But working with Professor Stephen Cranefield, Professor Michael Winikoff and Dr Hywel Lloyd was worth the effort, Manjula says.

Her thesis looked at a way general practices in New Zealand could use data about their long-term patients with chronic conditions to predict their workload. It meant learning a lot about New Zealand medical practices and conditions such as chronic pain, but the result is a theory which could one day be turned into a usable tool for GPs.

While in Dunedin, Manjula took the time to immerse herself in the local student and Indian communities, in particular spending time learning classical Indian dancing and taking traditional singing classes.

“Being a part of Natyaloka, I got an opportunity to accomplish yet another passion of mine - Bharathanatyam, a classical dance form from South India. It was the best stress buster I could ever have in my PhD journey.”

Now reunited with her family, and proudly a role model for her son, Manjula is debating her next move and is looking for work both in New Zealand and India.