STEMM Profile: Dilini Rajapaksha | PhD Research Student | Machine Learning Group | Monash University | Melbourne | VIC

Dilini Rajapaksha is a PhD Research Student in Machine Learning at Monash University [photo: Shaveen Singh]

“My father always tells me, you should work not just for the family, not just for the village, not just for the country, you are here to work for the world. Do not act as a frog who is inside the well. Get out of the frame. You need to go to the world. See the world. Try to give solutions to the whole world to make it a better place”

Dilini Rajapaksha is a third year PhD student in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University Australia. With a profound interest in becoming a professional in artificial intelligence (AI), Dilini selected machine learning, together with model interpretability, as her PhD research area. Simultaneously, she has been working as a Teaching Associate since the first year of her PhD.

In 2019, Dilini was appointed as the Head Tutor of several postgraduate subjects. In the same year, she was the recipient of the Sessional Teaching Associate award in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University. She was also awarded second place for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in 2019 – a competition offering a platform for innovative researchers to communicate their research within 3 minutes; conveying the impact of the research to the society.

Dilini received her Bachelor’s degree (specialising in Information Technology) in 2017 with first class honours from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) – a leading private University in Sri Lanka. During her undergraduate studies, she received the best performance award and academic excellence award, from the Faculty of Information Technology in SLIIT.

Dilini has published several research articles in international journals and conferences related to her PhD and Bachelor’s research. In the future, her desire is to work with talented minds in industry and also in academia, and listen to their fascinating ideas and contribute to research while teaching.

What inspired you to do computer science? Have you always liked technology?

At the age of 8 (in 2000), I received a scholarship for a computer course for kids. After that, in 2007, I passed another computer course with High Distinction in all subjects. The instructor told my father that I had special skills for IT. Finally in 2008, I passed the Information Technology subject in the G.C.E Ordinary Level exam with ‘A’ grade which is one of the mandatory and leading exams in Sri Lanka. By analysing all of these, my father inspired me to continue my higher studies in Information Technology which made me pursue my career in STEMM, and it has been the perfect choice.

What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?

Accepting challenges and a continuous effort to learn new things are the key personal attributes that have helped me to succeed. During my PhD, and before pursuing my PhD, I had to face multiple challenges and rejections – such as rejection of articles, scholarships, etc. However, my determination and tremendous effort helped me overcome all of those challenges.

I am in the discipline of computer science, which is one of the fastest changing fields. Being in computer science, I can also expand my knowledge and apply my skills and expertise in multiple areas – such as neuroscience, business, etc. It does not confine me to a single path.

I always feel that if we are in our comfort zone, we have stopped learning new things. We need to get out of that comfort zone and find something new for society.

What was the key thing that helped you get to where you are today?

The courage given from my father and the blessings of my mother helped me to get where I am today. I can’t think of a world without the support of my loving parents, my sister and  my aunt.  Moreover, I should thank my school – Sanghamitta Balika Vidyalaya Galle, SLIIT – the University where I completed my Bachelors, and my current Monash University, as well as my supervisors, lecturers and my loving friends and housemates. Thank you all for making my life better!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?

My key advice is to open your mind to accept new challenges. Do not underestimate yourself. Our brain can do a lot more than we think. Do not skip opportunities without trying. Moreover, please have connections with people. Talk to them. Listen to others.

What is the most important advice you have ever received?

My father always tells me, you should work not just for the family, not just for the village, not just for the country, you are here to work for the world. Do not act as a frog who is inside the well. Get out of the frame. You need to go to the world. See the world. Try to give solutions to the whole world to make it a better place.

ResearchGate: Dilini Rajapaksa

LinkedIn: Dilini Rajapaksa