Malsha Udayakantha

Graduate Research Assistant - Texas A&M University

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STEM is the route to win the world.

What do you do?

I study phonon energy transfer within inorganic solid-state materials and manipulate their optical and thermal properties through phonon engineering. This helps us in value-adding to materials we use in a daily basis. A practical example where our technology is used is formulating a thermally insulating cement by suppressing phonon propagation.

Why did you choose this field?

Being raised in a developing country, I always wanted my education to contribute in improving the quality of life through scientific innovation. And I strongly believe the best innovations stem from thorough fundamental studies. Hence, when selecting topics for my PhD research I strongly considered pursuing a central scientific phenomena that can be customized and applied to many different fields. Likewise, phonon energy transfer in inorganic solid-state materials became my scientific habitat.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

My childhood dream was to become a physician and I was so obsessed with that thought until my college education that I never saw anything past that. I studied, played, and even dreamed impersonating a physician. However, I ended up being a physical science scholar. Since then, having been involved in several scientific innovations that are already in use, and observing the breadth of community that benefits from those innovations, I wish I would have known this path existed, way before.

Why do you love working in STEM?

For me, STEM is the lifeblood of the society. It defines and determines anything and everything that we encounter daily. It has the power to solve issues that spans time and length scales. It serves individuals and circumstances without a discrimination. It’s a religion...for those who believe in.

Best advice for next generation?

STEM is the route to win the world and the best jewel on a girl.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“If you can’t be a large tree on a top of a hill, be a little shrub in a valley. But you must try to be the best shrub in that valley!”

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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