“I always loved science and always wanted to become a scientist. I think that inspiration came from my parents. So, with their guidance now, I have chosen agricultural biotechnology and I’m really enjoying it”
I am Achini Herath, a PhD scholar in the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at Swinburne University of Technology. My research project is focused on rice grain quality, nutrition and safety of pigmented rice varieties from several countries including Australia to identify unique nutritionally-valuable metabolites and to determine the impact of different metabolites on grain quality using cutting-edge multi-omics and bioinformatics technologies.
I obtained my master’s degree in biotechnology in 2019 from the Swinburne University of Technology with a GPA of 3.562 out of 4.000. As a part of my degree I involved in a research project and I was able to publish a conference abstract in the 70th AGSA Conference, 2020 with the title of “Metabolomics approach to address the challenge of ensuring food safety of Asian heirloom rice varieties.”
I completed my undergraduate studies at the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka and graduated with a BSc Agriculture (Biotechnology) degree in 2017 with a First-Class Honour (GPA 3.74/4.00). Furthermore, I won the gold medal for the best performance in the agricultural biotechnology after becoming the top student in the Department. I published my undergraduate research study in the Second International Conference on Natural Product Genomics and Drug Discovery, Sri Lanka, 2016 as a conference abstract and won the best presenter award.
Furthermore, in 2014 I completed a diploma in laboratory technology in chemistry at The College of Chemical Sciences; Institute of Chemistry Ceylon and I got the privilege to get the registration as a Medical Laboratory Technologist in Sri Lankan Medical Council under the profession supplementary to medicine in Sri Lanka (2015).
In addition to my academic achievements, I have developed strong communication and leadership skills and I’m highly organized and able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. My ambition is to become a researcher in the field of agricultural biotechnology.
What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
In 2010 I was diagnosed with Lupus and I was only 17 years old. I had to give up on several things in my life. I felt like a failure and I didn’t know what to do. There was a time that I couldn’t even get up from my bed as I was both physically and mentally ill. Without a doubt, it is the support of my loved ones that helped me to overcome it. I’m blessed with a very supportive husband, eternally loving parents and an encouraging younger brother. Even though it can’t be cured, I learnt to live with it without giving up on my goals.
What inspired you to do science/technology/engineering/mathematics/medicine? Have you always liked STEMM?
I always loved science and always wanted to become a scientist. I think that inspiration came from my parents. So, with their guidance now, I have chosen agricultural biotechnology and I’m really enjoying it.
What are your favourite past‐times or hobbies?
My favourite hobby is playing violin. Apart from that I love crocheting and travelling.
What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?
Always believe in “yes, I can do” and never give up.
Do you think it is important to have a mentor?
Yes, it is important to have a good mentor, who can guide you and advise you to overcome your self-doubt.
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