Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Joanne Tiphania Kotelawala

What are you currently working on or worked on before?

Currently working on my Ph.D. research on mitochondrial DNA control region variations in sporadic breast cancer with the Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biotechnology at The University of Colombo. You can fine my publications here.

What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?

Ever since I learned about genetics I was fascinated by it and how it defines living beings. The more I learned about genetics, I wanted to gain more insights into cancer genetics.

It is a fascinating area because of its multi-faceted complexity and there is always something new to learn, something new to research on, and then it is also immensely rewarding because every single bit of information brings researchers closer to more efficient and effective prevention, treatment, or diagnosis.

Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?

I feel inspired and motivated when I find answers to questions when I understand a process or mechanism and how it impacts health and disease.

What’s one of your biggest personal achievements so far?

Presenting my research at the European Human Genetics Conference back in 2018. The opportunity to network and speak with researchers from across the world and share my research with them and get their input — was wonderful.

What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?

Never lose sight of why you chose science and research. Choose an area of research that you love and feel curious about and that will help the larger population. Be a good mentor and guide to future scientists.

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?

We have made great strides over the years. I would say we do need to develop a holistic support system for research — it's minor things but it adds up to create impact. Also, educate young people on career options — in the sciences in particular.

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We empower students, education institutes and education as a whole in Sri Lanka.