Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Sugandima Mihirani Vidanagamachchi
What are you currently working on or worked on before?
I am currently working on several hardware acceleration projects that lead to commercialized hardware solutions and cyber security projects. I am currently working with the University of Ruhuna.
What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?
I have always been interested in exploring different solutions to existing problems in biological sequence (mainly genes and proteins) processing and identification. I conducted my PhD research on computational workflows of high-throughput shotgun proteomics and that provides numerous hardware and software accelerated solutions in shotgun proteomics workflows.
My BSc project motivated me to select the application area as proteomics as I conducted my BSc research project on disease prediction with genomics data utilizing neural networks.
Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?
I was first motivated by the research I conducted in my BSc project, and it was a kind of collaborative effort with several brainstorm sessions while gathering requirements. As I had a computer science background, it was a bit hard to understand and refine the requirements at the beginning. I had several meaningful knowledge-sharing sessions with Prof. Vajira Dissanayaka (Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo) and his research group till the end of my project. It was the best inspiration for all other research work in my career.
Can you share with us some of your publications?
What’s one of your biggest personal achievements so far?
I received the chance to work with Prof. Mahesan Niranjan in the Department of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, the United Kingdom as a visiting university academic staff for one year. It was an excellent exposure that I received so far.
In addition, I have received several research grants and travel awards to conduct research and present my work to the international research community such as UGC grants, NSF grants, Prof. V.K. Samaranayaka grants, and grants from Indiana University, USA and Lille University, France.
What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?
Though you select your research in the area of your interest, there may be several obstacles while conducting your research, especially when working with hardware devices (eg: FPGA, and other PLCs). It takes considerable time with some configurations if you start working with a totally novel device and don’t be discouraged about that. Moreover, if you are pursuing a Ph.D. research, always keep in touch with the supervisor and target quality journals or conferences to publish.
What motivated you to be a researcher?
I enjoy doing research as well as teaching. It took me some time to understand the passion of research and that motivated me to conduct more research than teaching.
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?
Sri Lankan students are fortunate to have free education and it leads to get succeed in their field of interest. However, I can suggest some potential changes to the current system.
I suggest motivating more on student-centered learning rather than teacher-centered learning in both schools and universities in Sri Lanka. It improves analytical and critical thinking skills, soft skills (including communication skills) and creativity. Further, changes can be done to the existing curriculum of degree programs in the universities including new technologies and trends. Furthermore, providing different preferable methods to learn such as online, offline and blended as provided by the international universities and colleges.