A little background

Thanks

The idea to make this website was refreshed as I attended a workshop that our Bart Everson, Center for Advancement of Teaching at Xavier did early 2015.  Many thanks to Bart for teaching me how to make a website.

Early and recent

I grew up in the family homestead, a mixed mainly perennial and sustainable highland cropping system and the lowland rice paddy next to it in the western side of Sri Lanka.

Part of the family garden – December 2011
Part of the family garden – nearly every plant in this jungle-like highly sustainable cropping system is used for the family or neighbors in one way or the other.  December 2011.

Continued to add to my farming background by pursuing a B.Sc. (1983) and an M.Phil (1988) in Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.  Finished my graduate work with the late Dr. U. R. Sangakkara who tragically passed away in 2014.  He taught me the nits and bits of technical writing first.  My graduate research in Sri Lanka was on conservation farming with a specific focus on the development of alley cropping systems.

Part of University of Peradeniya
University of Peradeniya is literally a University in a botanical garden.

Between these trainings I had the privilege to work as a Horticulturist in Tropical Seed Company, Colombo, Sri Lanka for a year, and to complete a four month long Cropping Systems Training Course at the International Rice research Institute, Philippines.  After returning to Sri Lanka from the Philippines in 1988, joined Marga Institute, Colombo as a Consultant for developing cropping systems for three different agro-ecosystems.  Little less than a year later, joined Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR, current Industrial Technology Institute), Colombo as a Research Officer in 1989.  My main interest was to find ways to incorporate selected medicinal plants into existing cropping systems of farmers.  I had lot of help from colleagues at Sri Lanka Dept. of Agriculture and Mahaweli Authority for this work.  Having spent four plus years at CISIR I left Sri Lanka with my wife and son for City University of New York (CUNY) to pursue my Ph.D in Plant Biology.  Dr. Manitha Weerasooriya, my undergraduate classmate and very close friend who was then a graduate student at CUNY helped me to come to CUNY.

At CUNY, I worked with Plant Ecologist, Dr. Dwight Kincaid – my main advisor, and Dr. Barbara Meurer-Grimes who taught me Phytochemistry.  If not for Dr. Kincaid’s helps in various aspects of the lives of my whole family I may not have been able to do anything I did at CUNY.  Also, Dr. Meurer-Grimes always promoted me to continue research.  My dissertation research was on photosynthetic, phytochemical and leaf ultrastructural responses of Thinnevelly Senna (Cassia angustifolia) to drought, nitrogen and deflowering.  Dried Senna leaves are used in Ayurveda Medicine in Sri Lanka predominantly as a laxative.  I became interested in Senna mainly because of its drought tolerance that I saw while working with farmers in the dry zone of Sri Lanka during my time at CISIR.

My assistantship at CUNY being a teaching fellowship, I was privileged to teach a variety of undergraduate biology courses including Plants and People lecture and lab, Human Biology lecture and lab, Anatomy and Physiology lecture and General Biology labs throughout my Ph.D work.  Upon graduation in 1998, I taught at CUNY for one more year, and at Thornton Donovan School for a little less than a year until leaving for New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, NM for my postdoctoral training.

At NMSU, Dr. Tracy Sterling, a Weed Physiologist, was the Principal Investigator of my research.  Her guidance helped me learn cotton farming systems, a new experience to me, and apply my previous training on crop physiology and cropping systems to understand physiological underpinnings of cotton-weed interactions.  My work specifically focused on evaluating oxidative stress tolerance mechanisms of cotton and spurred anoda under different abiotic stresses and interference relationships.  Spurred anoda is a weed in the same family, Malvaceae, as cotton.  I studied plant water relations, gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, antioxidant levels with related enzyme activities and lipid peroxidation to understand how cotton or weed tolerate stress as they interact together.  Joined Xavier in 2003 fall.

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