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Prabha Amarasinghe

Postdoctoral Researcher

Prairie View A&M University

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Get out of your comfort zone and see how it develops your inner strength!

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I do research on plant sciences using genetic and morphological data to enhance plants for agricultural and industrial usage. Additionally, I train young scientists in plant sciences to share my knowledge and skills with them.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

This was my childhood motivation by observing plants that my parents used for herbal medicine preparations. I wanted to make plants more usable for mankind.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

Among many obstacles, my lower competency in the biology subdiscipline I chose for my PhD was one of the biggest challenges. I switched from applied sciences (agriculture) to pure sciences (botany). It was not just botany, but working with large-scale data which requires cutting-edge computational skills. I had no computation skills when I started my graduate studies. I had to work (and sometimes compete) with scientists who had a deep knowledge of botany and bioinformatics. I felt stupid when I was among them. But, I worked hard in the new field, so that I learned a lot in that field. It was a huge workload in my PhD and I had no time to handle everything in this unfamiliar territory. But, I allocated specific time slots for each and everything. I could have used lots of excuses and complaints, but I decided not to use them. Sometimes, I felt helpless because I did further studies in a foreign country far away from my friends and loved ones. But, I learned how to support myself and gradually found good friends. Lots of things happened against me but I turned all of them into courageous thoughts. Finally, everything worked well.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I wish I knew how to cut out negative people who drain my energy and time.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

Because of discoveries and innovations in STEM. It helps enhance peoples' lives. Also, working in plant sciences is not just a job for me. It's a passion.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Get out of your comfort zone and see how it develops your inner strength!

INSPIRATION

I heard this from a Korean drama and it changed my life: "If you’re going to compare anything, compare your past self with your current self and be proud of how far you’ve come"