Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Jayakody Kankanamalage Chamani Shiranthika
What are you currently working on or worked on before?
I worked on international research projects related to Artificial Intelligence research areas. My main research area is reinforcement learning. Apart from that, I engaged in machine learning-related research projects related to personalized recommendations, cancer chemotherapy treatments, frailty analysis, cancer patients’ survival rates analysis, etc.
Other core research areas I have worked in areas like the travel industry, Internet, Internet of Things, air pollution, behavioral sciences computing, convolutional neural nets, environmental factors, health care,human-computer interaction, recommender systems, recurrent neural nets, sentiment analysis, social networking (online), time series, unsupervised learning, etc.
I am seeking research collaboration opportunities, academic positions, industrial AI events, worldwide, and would love to work on collaborative projects.
What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?
My main research topic where I engaged in the Masters study period in Taiwan is Reinforcement learning modeling for cancer chemotherapy treatments and thereby developing personalized drug regimen plans for the colon cancer patients.
At the time of finding a research topic, I wanted to do something to solve a real human life problem with Artificial Intelligence techniques. And I wanted to do something novel going ahead from what many students are thinking of doing. Currently, Reinforcement Learning is not in a university curriculum in any of the Sri Lankan universities.
But, Taiwan has several great professors where I can study RL clearly. I thought of bringing this new knowledge to Sri Lanka when I started my teaching career in Sri Lanka. Thus I selected Reinforcement Learning as the AI tool. Secondarily, for the problem, I tend to approach RL for the cancer domain. It has been really a huge problem that human mankind had to suffer. Really I searched a lot. Researched a lot. Then I thought of the problem “can I do something to cure this deadly disease of cancer?” And, thereby I modelled my masters research problem.
For the betterment of the research, I was blessed with a marvellous group of oncologists at Cheng Hsin General Hospital, Shipai, Taiwan, and also an awesome research group at the National Taipei University. I wish to pursue my Ph.D. also in the RL and cancer research domain.
I am currently working with National Taipei University.
Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?
My greatest source of inspiration is fellow researchers who have already demonstrated their research abilities. Their successes, success stories, and key scientific findings motivate me to do better.
Furthermore, I envision how Artificial Intelligence study areas may be effectively launched to mimic real-life human scenarios and how they could be leveraged to develop innovative ways to tackle them. As a result, real-life human problems occasionally motivate me to use my knowledge set to come up with novel answers.
Can you share with us some of your publications?
What’s one of your biggest personal achievements so far?
I always tried to achieve maximum through dedication and hard work. From my Bachelor’s degree in Sri Lanka, I was able to achieve 1st class honours in Information Technology from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. Inspired by the great panel of lectures there, I could publish several research papers for local and international conferences collaborating with my supervisors.
Then my steps were forwarded to beyond Bachelors, stepping to Taiwan for my Masters degree. I worked as a leading research assistant and a teaching assistant in the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the National Taipei University, Taiwan. I am happy to say I received the Falcon Award for Character estimation and Academic Performance from the College for my performance there. In Taiwan, I could be a part of outstanding researchers and publish several research papers in international conferences and journals.
What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?
I would love to work with research buddies always. I would like to share my feeling of cooperativeness, knowledge sharing, and forward-thinking with them.
I hope that sharing what I’ve learnt so far with my peers in dealing with your research issues and struggles.
1. A good researcher must be open-minded as well as critical in his or her ideas.
2. He or she should be dedicated to his or her unique subject of interest and be hardworking, conscientious, and focused.
3. Updating his or her knowledge is critical, and it can be performed in a variety of ways, including reading current literature, attending conferences, and exchanging ideas with peers in a related field.
4. Furthermore, in order to turn his or her scientific questions and ideas into a workable methodology, a modern researcher must be innovative and inventive.
5. A good researcher would not compare his or her research progress with one another researcher. Everybody is unique and special.
What motivated you to be a researcher?
I started my research career at the University of Moratuwa, Faculty of Information Technology, where I got the chance to work with fellow researchers and supervisors. Especially Dr. Sagara Sumathipala, Dr.Subha Fernando, Mr. B.H. Sudantha inspired me into the research domain.
I saw how they are working and it forced me to model my vision towards them. And, during my study time in Taiwan, my professor Prof. Chan-Yun Yang motivated me every single day to spread my wings and do more in my masters research as well as the collaborative research projects. He inspired me to become a successful researcher by also balancing day-to-day life or extracurricular activities. Thus, bringing AI into real human life problems came to my mind and I started to think out of the box, attempting to research more. The wonderful success stories of distinguished professors really inspired me a lot.
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?
I believe that Sri Lanka’s traditional educational system is still insufficiently developed to give students the necessary information and skills based on real-world demands. It is necessary to take the necessary steps to improve education quality by building an outcome-based education system and increasing research background. Students should step forward from the traditional theory.
But also they should have solid knowledge on the theoretical aspects too. Solid practicability can only be achieved from a solid theoretical sense. Students should not only be motivated to pass the exam, but also to enhance what is there in the book. After the graduation or the completion of formal education, they should be encouraged to earn money as well as build up their theoretical background, where they were built up by entering the research community. I love the concept of “Going beyond the bachelors”.