Friday, April 1, 2022

Member spotlight: Thilini Dissanayake

Thilini Dissanayake
Thilini Dissanayake completed a B.Sc. in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and an M.Sc. in the Food Proteins and Bioproducts Research Group at the University of Manitoba. She is currently a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Nandika Bandara (who also supervised her M.Sc).

Thilini won first place in session two of the Student ePitch Competition during the 2022 Canadian Lipids and Proteins Conference. Her presentation was titled "Oleic acid-modified nanocrystalline cellulose for improving tensile properties of canola protein-based packaging films."

Can you tell us a bit of your research and what problems your work aims to solve?

As a first-year Ph.D. student, I am in the initial stage of my research that aims to develop protein and lipid-based nanodelivery systems for improving the bioavailability of bioactive compounds. This is a very interesting area; however, there is a long way to go to the final target starting with novel protein extraction techniques and lots of fabrication and optimization processes. I am looking forward to significantly contributing to this research area by improving the poor bioavailability of bioactive compounds.

How long have you been an AOCS member and what types of activities have you participated in?

I have been an AOCS student member since 2019. I planned to participate in the 2020 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo in person but it was then held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, 2021 was the year when I started to actively engage with AOCS. Currently, I am serving as a co-vice chair of the AOCS Student Common Interest Group, and it enhanced my leadership, communication and personal skills. Thanks AOCS! 

This year I started to work in the Protein and Co-Products Division as a student volunteer. Joining AOCS was one of the best decisions in my academic life as it helped me to expand my professional network and share my research work with the scientific community in several ways. Also, I enjoy AOCS midweek mixers and webinars a lot! I believe this is a good start and I will have a long journey with AOCS.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Morning tea is a must in my daily routine and there is no “breakfast” in my day (bad habit!). In the mornings of week days, I go to the lab and start lab work; depending on the length of the experiment, my stay in the lab changes from hours to sometimes late-night. If I don’t have any lab experiments, I spend my time in the grad carrel. Regardless of the schedules, during the day and between experiments, we always have chats, birthday celebrations and some fun stuff! I may also spend some time on some extra-curricular activities in the daytime. 

Here, I want to thank my supervisor, Dr. Nandika Bandara, as he is flexible with the working hours. He always encourages us to engage in extra-curricular activities, which help us to develop our professional and personal lives.

You have won the 2022 Canadian Lipids and Proteins Conference Student ePitch Competition. Can you share with us your feelings or any words of wisdom?

First thing, I am super happy about that! I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AOCS Canadian Section and AOCS for organizing these competitions. I believe that it is not only about winning, it also develops our personality and self-confidence as students. Also, it is a good opportunity for us to share our research work with others and get feedback from judges and the audience. I think this is how we develop step by step as students for our future. 

Again, I want to thank my supervisor, Dr. Nandika Bandara, for his great supervision and especially for encouraging us to participate in these kinds of activities. His motivation always helps us to think “we also can do this” and grad studies is not only about being in the lab.

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