Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Sanjanee Waniganeththi

What are you currently working on?

My research is focused on studying what happens inside the nuclei of atoms, to better understand the cosmic phenomena and, ultimately, to answer one of the biggest questions in science — how the chemical elements are created in the universe.
Atoms are some of the smallest units of matter. They are each composed of electrons orbiting a nucleus at its core, which contains the majority of its mass and energy. Atomic nuclei are composed of charged protons and uncharged neutrons, which are nearly identical particles.
The number of protons in a nucleus determines which element the atom belongs to on the periodic table. Isotopes of an element have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons. Nuclei with exchanged numbers of protons and neutrons are known as mirror nuclei.
Mirror nuclei play a key role in understanding the role of isospin in nuclear structure. The character of states in the Kr/Br mirror pair, that exhibit oblate-prolate shape coexistence, has been of significant interest for many years. Sensitive beta-decay experiment can be utilized in confirming the spins assigned for low laying energy levels of 71Br and ground state of 71Kr. Properties of this mirror system were investigated in an implant-decay experiment conducted at the Michigan State University National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory over the course of eight days in 2017. It was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. I am currently analyzing the data of that experiment which involves gamma spectroscopy and charged particle spectroscopy.

What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?

Understanding the behaviour of atomic nuclei allows us to investigate everything from the evolution of stars, where many of the chemical elements are born, to nuclear reactors. Our findings are another piece in the puzzle of how the atomic nucleus works. So, when I was pursuing a bachelors degree in the University of Peradeniya, my final year research project was related to the same field as I worked with the Atomic Energy Board. The exposure that I had in Sri Lanka motivated me to pursue my graduate studies in this field of physics.

What is the name of your current university?

University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA.

Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?

The opportunities that I get to travel and to meet the greatest scientists in the field.

Can you share with us some of your publications?

Yes, Please check my Google Scholar Profile.

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

I was being able to do what I have been doing so far while establishing good physical and mental health and financial stability.

What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?

It’s okay to fail because it is tough and challenging. But keep it pushing. You’ll rise and shine one day.

What motivated you to be a researcher?

I never imagined my self being a researcher in the first place. There were quite a few times that I doubted my self why am I choose to pursue higher studies. But things happened in such a way, I am now where I am now. And I am genuinely happy about it. But the key point is I tried to do my best because it represents either my undergraduate institution, country or family.

If there is a chance, will you help build research in Sri Lanka?

Yes of course!

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?

In the field that I have engaged in, requires a lot of programming skills. I feel like that section has not been implemented to our education system, or I would rather say not up to date. Furthermore, pursuing a degree in basic sciences should be given more recognition.