Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Sewmini Ravihari Jayatilake

What are you currently working on or worked on before?

I am a Ph.D. student in Transportation Engineering at the Queensland University of Technology. My research focuses on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Station Platforms. The main contribution of my research is to develop a model for analysis of the BRT platform operation in terms of capacity and quality of service. I also work as a Sessional Academic in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Queensland University of Technology.

You can find my work here.

What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?

In Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, station platform operation is vital. A small change in platform operation can impact the whole BRT system. It can lead to major delays that finally result in the station as well as busway congestion.

Even as a user of the BRT system in Brisbane, Australia, I have identified the need to improve the capacity and quality of service of the system during peak periods. This, along with the gaps in current literature and guidance from my supervisory team, motivated me to choose my current research in relation to the BRT station platform operation.

Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?

Experiences gained by engaging in real-world situations inspire me to understand the need to carry out research work. But to start and proceed with the work, a huge inspiration comes from my supervisors. They always motivate and guide me while showing the importance of the research work. Apart from these, the inspiration to succeed in every milestone in my life comes from the qualities and skills I gained through sports.

What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?

Doing research may not be smooth as you expect. There are ups and downs throughout this journey. As a researcher, you should be ready to welcome unexpected issues, failures in your research. Sometimes it can be issues in data collection, issues in model development, or failures in publishing your work.

But that’s the nature of research and every researcher goes through these issues. The best support and guidance that you can receive in succeeding in this journey comes from your supervisors. I believe they are the backbone of every researcher. So, plan your work and time, get guidance from your supervisors, and learn from the failures. These will take you to success.

What motivated you to be a researcher?

The motivation to become a researcher emerged with my desire to investigate real-world issues and identifying solutions to them. I believe, researchers play an important role in supporting practitioners and other professionals to apply the research outcomes in real-world scenarios.

The foundation of my research career was laid when I was in the final year of my BSc. Engineering (Hons.) degree in Civil Engineering. Since then, I take each step forward to contribute to my discipline area through research work. My supervisors (both undergraduate and Ph.D.) always guide and support me to succeed as a researcher.

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?

The current education system in Sri Lanka has produced many successful professionals to the world. Many Sri Lankans were able to achieve key positions in the world. The free education system in Sri Lanka is also of great importance and value, as it is not available in many countries. But, the addition of some aspects may increase this system’s value.

  • The education system needs to update with new technologies in the world. Educating the students with new software and tools that are currently used in the industry, is essential. Teaching the same software over many years will not help the students. Sometimes, our education system focuses more on theoretical concepts rather than looking at the practical aspects. But, balancing both at the same time is essential.

All these are my opinions based on, my experience with the education system in Sri Lanka, and the experiences I gained by working as a sessional academic in Australia.

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