Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Shashika Nadishani Bandara

What are you currently working on or worked on before?

I am a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, USA, and currently perusing my Ph.D. in Chemistry. My research focuses on; Synthetic dithiol compounds to remove heavy metals such as Cd, As, Pb, and Hg from water.

I develop dithiol molecules that make strong covalent bonds to heavy metals, develop water remediation methods, synthesis, and characterization of colored dithiol compounds as an efficient method for the detection of heavy metals. You can find my publications here.

What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?

I completed my undergrad project at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka: “Removal of Chloride and Fluoride anions from water using Laboratory prepared activated coconut coir”, during my undergrad in the University of Peradeniya. I found the work I am doing now is like a continuation of my undergrad work.

Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?

The accessibility to pure water is a global need. There is a huge trend of seeking remedies to water purification. I, as a researcher, focus on finding and designing molecules to trap contaminants in water.

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

I was awarded the “Max Steckler Fellowship for Outstanding Oral Qualifying Examination Award, Department of Chemistry from the University of Kentucky (Spring 2018–2019)”.
I think perusing my higher studies at this prestigious university in the USA is one of my biggest achievements too.

What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?

Completion of research is not an easy task. You may encounter many failures, disappointments, no publishable results, etc. But, if you learn from your mistakes, read and seek new knowledge or never give up, you can end up with a success that you, yourself defined as you succeed.

What motivated you to be a researcher?

I am aware of many issues caused by heavy metals in drinking water and the adverse effects they could make on the whole world. As a researcher, I am very keen to find ways to trap heavy metals in water easily. Thereby, providing drinkable heavy metal-free water.

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 Sri Lankan education system needs to be updated in several ways. I think syllabi should be changed and address global needs into school systems, train students to think independently, and let them choose their path wisely. Students should gain the ability to move forward and ask/clarify doubts whenever they have problems. Children’s minds should be made from a very young age to respect all other people, live independently.

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