Science puts Lanka in headlines for all the right reasons

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While power-greedy politicians vociferously tarnish the image of country through their undemocratic fights, scientists silently bring some dignity to the name of Sri Lanka.

Marine biologist Asha de Vos

Marine biologist Asha de Vos and cancer researcher Hasini Jayatilaka brought honour to the country when they were internationally recognised this month for their tireless efforts and groundbreaking discoveries.

Ms. de Vos, known worldwide for her research on blue whales and for campaigning for the conservation of oceans, was named in “BBC 100 Women 2018” – a list of 100 inspiring and influential women chosen from 60 countries.

“Asha works in the area of marine conservation to increase diversity, inclusivity and opportunity in the field” BBC stated on November 19.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to keep putting Sri Lanka on the world map for all the right reasons!” Ms. De Vos said, when notified of the honour.

Marine biology is usually dominated by males but Ms. De Vos’s trailblazing marine research has made her an idol for Asian women.

“I fight for the people in the developing world because 70 per cent of coastlines are around our shores, but because of the exclusive nature of marine conservation very few people have gone into the field. That is what I am changing,” the determined scientist said.

“I will not rest until I see people from all corners of the globe empowered to look after their patch of ocean, so together we can save not just this big blue tank of water but also ourselves.”

The other Sri Lankan scientist honoured few weeks ago, Hasini Jayatilake, was named in the prestigious Forbes Magazine’s list of “30 Under 30” young innovators, entrepreneurs and risk-takers who are changing the world and have been identified as leaders for the next generation.

Dr. Jayatilaka, just 28, discovered a signalling pathway that controls how cancer cells metastasise (multiply) through the body and a way to block that pathway. This has led to the development of new treatment targeting tumour growth and metastasis.

Currently a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University in the United States, Dr. Jayatilaka was born in Australia and raised in Sri Lanka, studying at Ladies’ College, Colombo.

Her education is international: she engaged in undergraduate studies in marine and environmental biology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, gained her Masters in integrative bio-sciences at the University of Oxford and has PhD from the University of Western Australia and Johns Hopkins University in the States.

Meanwhile, last week the annual President’s Awards for Scientific Publication hailed 338 scientists for publishing high

Cancer researcher Hasini Jayatilaka

-impact scientific papers.

The awards were started in 2001 to recognise Sri Lankan scientists with a Sri Lankan institutional affiliation whose work reached international standards.

The publications are peer-reviewed and are awarded after a two-year gap to allow scientific scrutiny for the academic work’s validity and accuracy. This year’s awards recognised work published in 2016.

The awarding scheme is organised by the National Research Council (NRC), set up under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research.

“This award scheme was initiated in 2001 because of the perceived need to create a better research culture in our country by encouraging Sri Lankan scientists to increase their research output both in terms of quality and quantity, which was, at that time, at a very low level,” NRC Chairman Professor Janaka de Silva said.

Published on SundayTimes on 02.12.2018 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/181202/news/science-puts-lanka-in-headlines-for-all-the-right-reasons-322870.html

 

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