As an electrical engineering senior postdoctoral researcher in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, Rajasekhar Anguluri looked to add an academic award to his resume. Anguluri’s hope is that the boost an academic award provides to his career will help him in his desire for a faculty position at a university.

When he searched for awards that he was eligible for as a postdoctoral scholar, he found the Mistletoe Research Fellowship from the Momental Foundation. Anguluri later won one of 30 awards from more than 450 entrants.

Anguluri wasn’t even sure if the opportunity was the right fit for him when he first applied.

“The award winners from previous years are mostly in sciences and applied engineering backgrounds, whereas I am a mathematical engineer who develops mathematical models and analyzes them with computation,” he says. “Then I realized I can bring my math skills to the table. I believe this is one of the reasons why I was selected for the fellowship.”

The fellowship includes funds to sponsor activities at the winner’s university and a required professional development component. The professional development consists of joining a team of three to four fellows under a mentor provided by the Foundation to help a startup develop a product needing scientific or technological expertise.

“I’m happy I won the award, partially because this is the first time I applied for a fellowship and won it,” Anguluri says. “I’m also happy I won because I will be collaborating with entrepreneurs, doctoral students and other postdocs with diverse research backgrounds.”

He discovered the award had the academic prestige he desired. He also noticed that the fellowship was specifically for advanced doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in the United States and Singapore in a variety of research fields.

Anguluri’s lead faculty mentor, electrical engineering Associate Professor Lalitha Sankar, notes that winning such an award is no small feat.

“It is not often postdocs win awards,” Sankar says. “Such awards specifically for them are very rare.”

Anguluri plans to use the award funds to visit other universities to establish research collaborations, attend workshops and buy books to expand his engineering knowledge. He says that he doesn’t need much lab equipment because his work is largely theoretical.

Anguluri is eager to start working with a startup. His group will be decided at the first in-person meeting of the fellows in early December.

Anguluri credits winning the award to his postdoctoral mentorship team. In addition to Sankar, his mentors include electrical engineering Associate Professor Oliver Kosut and electrical engineering Assistant Professor Gautam Dasarathy.

“My mentors played a key role in shaping my research and mentoring skills and provided me with financial aid for attending a dozen conferences and workshops, which helped me to grow professionally,” Anguluri says.

He specifically credits Sankar with helping improve his writing skills and pushing him to apply for fellowships. Reading Sankar’s writing for proposals inspired Anguluri’s own proposal writing style, including for the one that got him the fellowship.

Anguluri’s advice for recent doctoral graduates and current postdoctoral researchers is to do good work to keep supervisors happy and learn skills from them in mentoring, writing and communication. He also suggests maintaining social relationships with other postdoctoral scholars, enrolling in ASU’s free Preparing Future Faculty and Scholars course for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and subscribing to emails from ASU Research Development for research opportunities.

“I found information on the Mistletoe Fellowship from an email I got from Research Development,” Anguluri says. “Applying for fellowships helps you to write better and gives you a new take on your skillset.”