First Ph.D. student at UAPB graduates

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

IMG0122EDGanesh Kumar Karunakaran, doctoral student of aquaculture/fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, became the university’s first Ph.D. graduate at graduation on Friday, December 11. He was the first student to enroll in the inaugural doctoral program after it was established in 2012.

As a Ph.D. student, Karunakaran was required to meet a series of rigorous milestones that included the formation of a dissertation committee and the finalization of a plan of study by the end of his first semester. He had to pass a preliminary examination that included five days of written exams, as well as a comprehensive and oral exam.

“Ganesh is an outstanding researcher who applies his knowledge skillfully to address the practical financial needs of the aquaculture industry,” Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, interim Chair of the UAPB Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries, said. “He is also a talented teacher, whether he is discussing economic theory with students or addressing challenging profitability issues with fish farmers. He embodies all of the qualities that you could hope to instill in a young professional, and we are very proud to have him representing our department as UAPB’s first PhD student.”

Karunakaran said he is thankful for the help he has received from mentors and colleagues at UAPB over the years.

“The department and the university have given me tremendous support over the years,” Karunakaran said. “I received constant encouragement from UAPB’s chancellor, vice chancellor and deans. It has been a humbling experience as I doubt many Ph.D. students receive this kind of support.“

Karunakaran said Dr. Carole R. Engle, former director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center, was instrumental in shaping his career at UAPB.

“I consider it a tremendous honor to have been advised by Dr. Engle and to graduate as her first Ph.D. student,” he said. “I sincerely appreciate her visionary thinking and dynamic research leadership.”

Karunakaran started his career at UAPB as a graduate student of aquaculture marketing in 2005 and graduated with a 4.0 in 2007. Although he was accepted for Ph.D. programs at Texas A&M University, Washington State University and Texas Tech University, he opted to wait to pursue his doctoral degree until the program at UAPB was founded.

After working on aquaculture economics and farm management projects as a research associate for the Department of Aquaculture/Fisheries, he enrolled as UAPB’s first Ph.D. student in 2012. In June 2015, he defended a thesis on the economics and adoption of alternate catfish production technologies.

“I was really humbled and honored to learn that catfish producers were really interested in the findings of my thesis research,” Karunakaran said. “The experience that I gained through traveling across catfish country and meeting producers was priceless.”

Some of Karunakaran’s work was selected for presentation this year at the triennial Research Symposium of the Catfish Farmers of America, World Aquaculture Society meetings and National Warmwater Aquaculture Center’s seminar. The scientific journals Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture and Journal of World Aquaculture Society recently accepted manuscripts from his dissertation for publication.

For now, Karunakaran plans to continue his role as a research associate at the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center, while finishing several manuscripts from his dissertation. Additionally, he is assisting a few departmental projects that require farm management and economics assistance.

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