Luxmanan Selvanesan and his wife, Carthika Luxmanan,
prepare to graduate from the University of Otago yesterday.
Photo by Gregor Richardson.
This is the day Dunedin residents Luxmanan Selvanesan and
his wife, Carthika Luxmanan, once feared would never come,
after a ''devastating'' house fire destroyed some key parts of
his University of Otago PhD research.
The two former Otago doctoral students are graduating
together today, as they had long hoped, he with a PhD in
biochemistry, and she with a doctorate in anatomy.
They are among about 320 graduands who will graduate in
person from Otago University, with qualifications mainly in
law, commerce and health sciences, in a ceremony at the
Regent Theatre, Dunedin, at 1pm.
Back in mid-2008, he and his wife were making good progress
with their respective research, and also raising a young
family- four children aged under 5.
Then one day - June 18 - during a chilly Dunedin winter, Mrs
Luxmanan had left their Pine Hill house to undertake more
study on campus and the children had been taken to their
Mr Luxmanan vividly remembers being in his study where he was
continuing the intensive writing up of his thesis.
The room was filled with many papers, including writing work
and printouts of academic articles.
He then switched on the gas heater.
It immediately malfunctioned, flame rushing to the back of
the heater and bursting out of it.
He burned his hand as he unsuccessfully tried to extinguish
the fire, which was already burning too fiercely, soon
bursting out of the windows.
Firefighters quickly arrived but could not save his computer,
and the important paperwork, including laboratory books
containing some key experimental data.
He was most grateful his wife and children were safe but the
fire initially had a shattering effect on their lives.
''`Devastated' was an understatement'', Mrs Luxmanan said.
For about 10 days they were looked after by friends before
finding another place to live.
Now, the couple have completed their doctorates. He is a
postdoctoral scientist, based at the Otago biochemistry
department and working on a colorectal cancer prognostics
project for Pacific Edge Ltd. Mrs Luxmanan is also a Pacific
Crucial to their success was the ''tremendous amount of
support'' from their respective academic department heads,
thesis supervisors and the wider university.
After the fire, he initially took a break from his thesis
work, concentrating on earning an income while his wife
completed her studies.
His later return to doctoral study initially proved highly
challenging and, at one stage, he was tempted to give up.
But his wife insisted he keep going and said she would not
graduate with her PhD until he had completed his.
''I'm excited by the fact that it's all over and we can move
forward with our lives now,'' Mr Luxmanan said.