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Travel Award Winner Achini Opathalage

Travel Award Winner Achini Opathalage
By Sam Roome 8 months ago 1592 Views No comments

Achini Opathalage is a researcher working at Boston University. She is developing a model to robustly manipulate stresses in synthetic tissues and investigate the effects on cell reorientation and alignment, using a microfabricated platform.The award will help to fund her trip to ASCB-EMBO 2018.

The Hello Bio travel award supported me to attend the American Society for Cell Biology meeting and present my recent work. I’m ecstatic to receive this award and I highly appreciate Hello Bio’s effort in supporting early-career scientists. The award contributed to the costs my advisor beared to send me to the conference and allowed the lab to use the money to do exciting research. Achini Opathalage, Boston University, USA, Hello Bio travel award winner

Congratulations Achini. First, can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on at the moment?

In the lab of Prof. Allyson Sgro at Boston University, we are inspired by how cells collectively make decisions and create larger structures such as tissues and even cancers. I am investigating how cells self-organize to form tissues and their collective behaviour in wound healing. I am developing a model to robustly manipulate stresses in synthetic tissues and investigate the effects on cell reorientation and alignment, using a microfabricated platform.

What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?

Many human diseases are still unable to be accurately modelled in vitro, which limits our understanding and hinders therapy development. The ability to mimic physiological processes in microfabrication-based cell culture models produce levels of tissue and organ functionality, which are not possible with conventional cell culture systems. It is extremely exciting to build and utilize these simple yet robust models using microfabrication techniques in order to comprehend human diseases and develop therapies without using animal models or clinical trials with human patients.

Which scientists working today do you most admire, and why?

The scientists I admire the most are not only doing ground breaking research but also great at mentoring their trainees and in public engagement with their research. To that end, I have been very fortunate to work with Seth Fraden, Zvonimir Dogic and Allyson Sgro throughout my PhD and postdoc time, whom I admire the most as scientists. Not only are they are the best in their field of research, but also among the best scientists who dedicate their time and grant funds to raise awareness of publicly funded science research, train and mentor a variety of individuals ranging from high school students to postdoctoral researchers, in their labs.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing life scientists and their work?

Current life science research is heavily quantitative and generates enormous amounts of data using tools such as state of the art microscopy techniques, sequencing techniques, etc. In order to manage, process, and interpret this data on complex biological systems and extract useful information to effectively translate these research findings to benefit human health, there is a need for a scientific team of diverse disciplines. I think the biggest challenge is to form effective interdisciplinary collaborations, which ultimately comes down to funding for scientific research.

What’s your favourite science quote?

“It is very easy to answer many of these fundamental biological questions; you just look at the thing!” -Richard Feynman

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We are really glad that you enjoyed ASCB and good luck with your research!

You can follow Achini on Twiitter @Achini_O

Click here to read about our past winners or why not apply for the grant yourself?

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Additional resources for early career life scientists

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