Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Dilantha Gunawardana
What are you currently working on or worked on before?
I am a principal investigator/researcher/communicator in the following topics;
- Non Rhizobial Nodulation in Pueraria phaseoloides.
- Cyanobionts of Azolla.
- Symbiotic bacteria living in nodules of Cowpea.
- Wild relatives of rice and their array of nitrogen fixers.
- Bioinformatics-based endeavors on cyanobacteria, climate change, plant nutrition and biological symbioses
- Science communication and science poetry.
I am currently working at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?
I dived into the deep waters of a Ph.D. back in 2002 and I am still swimming now. My current research areas came from looking at the sheer wealth of nitrogen in the atmosphere and the catalytic toolkits in bacteria to make it all usable. I was always fond of nitrogen fixation but now I have slowly detoured into studying biological symbioses broadly.
You can find my publications here.
What motivated you to be a researcher?
Just an intrinsic curiosity and the knowledge that there is an endless cosmos of science to lead empirical crusades against. I love reductionist stories since my Ph.D. was done in the 2001–2007 span and we were still in the infancy of the “omics” juggernaut. That said, I am hoping to pursue stories from the omics pipeline with a handful of microorganisms that need their genomes sequenced and made sense of.
According to your opinion, what are the changes that the Sri Lankan education system needs to do, in order to meet the requirement of the international industry and academia?
To sell STEM to an audience that is increasingly looking at other careers due to financial windfalls. Climate change and COVID-19 have brought an increasing demand for basic and applied sciences and I hope that social media will be able to convince people that STEM is a fruitful journey of discovery as well as personal satisfaction.
Everyone needs a helping hand in discovering their pet research topics and due to the reach of social media, there is a window of opportunity for us scientists to dissipate heart-touching stories that will inspire the generations to come to pursue STEM-based careers.