Meet the New Head of the Science Department

Dr. Ramesh Laungani’s Past, and His Future at Poly


Dr. Ramesh Laungani is the current Head of Science at Poly and it is his first year at Poly Prep. Born only a couple of miles from Poly Prep, he has journeyed all around the world. 

Growing up in Valley Stream, New York, both of his parents were physicians in Brooklyn. He excelled in biology in high school, so he assumed this meant he liked biology. However, Laungani admits that it was wrong to think that just because he got a good grade in biology meant he enjoyed it. As a pre-med student in college, Laungani took a class in the Australian rainforest during the summer of his junior year. Laungani emphasizes the significance of this hands-on experience, “my freshman year of college I was in biology class and we were in a five-hundred-person classroom. The professor didn’t know any of our names, we were just a bunch of faces. We were going over ecology and I remember leaning over to a friend of mine, being like, ‘‘This is the most boring stuff on the planet. Who could actually spend their lives studying ecology?’ which is ironic given I am an ecologist now,” he said. The goal of the class was to restore a part of the tropical rainforest. Laungani says, “I had never thought about science from the perspective of questions that need to be answered, as opposed to answers I need to memorize.”

One of Laungani’s professors during his time in Australia was a man named Dr. Florentine, who was from Sri Lanka. Laungani says how he had never seen or interacted with a South Asian ecologist, so learning from him was a unique experience. He wanted to reach other students as Dr. Florentine did. “Dr. Florentine opened up this whole world of ecology for me that I didn’t realize existed, so that is what I wanted to do for other students,” Laungani said.

Beyond studying ecology, Laungani still needed to decide his specific area of expertise during the period between college and graduate school. He determined this by getting interactive experience worldwide such as working at a research station in Minnesota and going to the Grand Canyon for three months for a research project. Laungani continued on to work in Panama, where he studied tropical ecology. During that time he discovered he greatly enjoyed studying grasslands in the midwest, which helped him further narrow down what he wanted to specialize in. After receiving his PhD in ecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he worked as a professor at Doane University in Crete, Nebraska. 

Although it is only Laungani’s first year at Poly, he has set the goal to inspire students in the same way Dr. Florentine helped him. His goal at Poly “is to get students more and more involved in research and center research as a key distinguishing characteristic of the Poly science program.” 

Laungani has high hopes for the future of Poly science. He expressed, “the hope is that soon enough, over the next couple of years, I can get Poly students doing some research that we could maybe even publish.” He would accomplish this with the new classes that he, along with the rest of the science department, are offering starting next school year, such as neuroscience. Laungani claims that these classes will set Poly science apart from other high school science departments across the country. “Every high school offers biology, every high school offers chemistry, every high school offers physics,” he said. “The electives that we’re gonna offer therefore distinguish Poly from any other high school in New York.”