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The beauty in the field of science is that its effective progress relies on networking, sharing the latest research findings and joining hands with other researchers to ensure success beyond boundaries. The Regional Conference of Young Scientists on Nanoscience and Nanomaterials 2015, held in Bangalore India was organized with a similar goal, which was to bring together young scientists to articulate, discuss and debate the most recent nanotechnology research findings in Materials, Physical, Chemical, Biological and Engineering sciences.

The conference was organized by the Regional Offices for Central and South Asia of The Third World Academy of Science (TWAS) for the Advancement of Science in Developing Countries, based in Trieste, Italy. The event was hosted at the regional office based at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India.

The team of researchers from the Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IBMBB) of the University of Colombo comprised of post-graduate researchers currently engaged in research on a broad range of topics including cloning, cancer, developmental biology, immunology and molecular medicine. The team of researchers had the opportunity to participate at this conference under the guidance and leadership of Emeritus Prof. Eric H. Karunanayake, Founder Director of the IBMBB and Regional Fellow of TWAS, who is also credited as being a pioneering scientist in introducing molecular biology to the Sri Lankan science sphere. It is noteworthy that all members were able to secure funding, through the organizers, for travel as well as their stay in Bangalore for the duration of the conference.

We had the opportunity to speak to the energetic team that participated at the regional conference, and gain an insight in to the experiences and exposure they were privileged to receive at this prestigious conference.

Ms Vahinipriya Manoharan, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Bangalore and thereafter successfully completed an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences at IBMBB. She is now employed at the institute as a Scientific Assistant, she said “I presented a paper on the characterization of specific proteins of Settaria digitata, a model organism used to study filariasis. I was very excited to learn more about the fields in Nanoscience and to meet different scientists. This was the first conference I attended out of Sri Lanka and it was an experience that further developed my love for science”.

Ms Jayamini Harasgama, completed an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences at IBMBB following the completion of her undergraduate education at the University of Kelaniya, and is currently a researcher employed at IBMBB. She said “The poster that I presented was in my chosen area of research which is the immune-modulatory effects of traditional medicinal plants. As the first overseas conference experience, this was a great milestone in my scientific career”.

The team comprised of several researchers who are pursuing doctoral degrees at IBMBB, under the supervision of an elite panel of research scientists and within the modern and well-equipped laboratories made available to them.

Ms Anuka Mendis completed her undergraduate education in the United Kingdom and thereafter obtained an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences from IBMBB. She is currently reading for aPhD. Ms. Mendis said “The world of nanotechnology has fascinated me and I was privileged to present my poster at this conference. The conference unfolded a possible long term goal for my research to further develop any active natural compounds, isolated with the help of nanotechnology, to target specific breast cancer cells in vivo”

Ms Chrishani Rodrigo, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Bangalore and thereafter an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences from IBMBB led her in to her chosen field of research. Ms. Rodrigo is currently researching the role of leptin, a hormone implicated in obesity, in breast cancer patients in Sri Lanka. She said “the conference gave me the opportunity to meet outstanding scientists researching on a wide range of fields related to nanoscience and nanotechnology. It also enabled me to learn about new findings, latest methods and techniques, and how they can be related to our ongoing projects”. Ms. Rodrigo further added “An important feature of the programme was that it was well organized amidst great warmth and hospitality. I was especially proud to see that our founder, Prof. Eric Karunanayake, is well recognized and respected amongst the international scientific community”.

Ms Sudeshini Hewage, a graduate of the University of Colombo, is a lecturer at IBMBB and also conducts research in to the role of growth factor variations among Sri Lankan mother and newborn pairs in relation to birth weight. Ms Hewage said “This regional conference was a new experience and it enabled me to learn more about the latest in nanotechnology and nanoscience. We were able to network with a lot of young scientists in the Asian region, which was very inspiring and encouraging. In comparison to other overseas conferences, the participants at this event were very friendly and hospitable. All these factors combined to give us a unique experience”.

Mr Meran Ediriweera, a degree holder from the University of Bangalore completed an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences from IBMBB. Mr. Ediriweera is currently completing a PhD degree on natural products with anti cancer potential. He said “Attending the regional scientist’s conference on “Nanoscience & Nanomaterials” helped me to understand that Molecular Life Science has so much in common with Nanotechnology”.

Ms Tharmini Sundaralingam, a graduate from the University of Bangalore who completed an MSc in Molecular Life Sciences at IBMBB and is now reading for a PhD at the IBMBB said “I had the opportunity to present a poster at the conference on the variation of human growth hormone in Sri Lankan children with growth hormone deficiency. This conference enabled me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation on nanotechnology and on the latest technologies and techniques being used in this field”. It should also be mentioned that Ms. Sundaralingam was selected, on behalf of the Sri Lankan team, for an oral presentation on the research she has conducted thus far.

The research team at IBMBB has returned to Sri Lanka refreshed and infused with new ideas, which they are ready to incorporate into their research areas. We can rest assured that with these new ideas, and supported by advanced technologies in an environment conducive for research, IBMBB will be able to make new strides in the arena of molecular biology research.

- Joanne Kotelawala

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