Cyril Ponnamperuma Memorial International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research 2020

Cyril Ponnamperuma Memorial International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research 2020 was organized to commemorate the 25th death anniversary of Prof. Cyril Ponnamperuma. The event was held on the 21st of January 2020, at the NIFS premises. The activities began by naming the auditorium of NIFS after Prof. Ponnamperuma in honour of his pioneering effort in converting the building complex of “Hotel Hantana” to a modern research laboratory complex. Hon. Dr. Bandula Gunawardana, Minister of Information and Communication Technology and Minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation graced the occasion as the chief guest and Hon. Thilanga Sumathipala, State Minister of Technology and Innovation, as the guest of honor, accompanied by the secretary of the state Ministry of Technology and Innovation, Mr. Chinthaka Lokuhetti.  The director of NIFS, Prof. Saman Seneweera welcomed the gathering and it was followed by a video presentation prepared by the Science Education and Dissemination Unit (SEDU) about Prof. Ponnamperuma and his role in establishing IFS in Kandy. Then the acting chairman of the board of governors of the NIFS, Mrs. Nazeema Ahamed and the secretary of the state Ministry of Technology and Innovation, Mr. Chinthaka Lokuhetti delivered their speeches. Thereafter, Both, Hon. Dr. Bandula Gunawardana and Hon. Thilanga Sumathipala addressed the gathering and highly acknowledged the contribution done by the NIFS to fundamental sciences and the national development.

The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, founding chair of LIRNEasia, and he presented a very informative account on Prof. Ponnamperuma’s strategies on multidisciplinary institute building.  The highlights of the day included the launching of the brand-new website of the NIFS designed by the Science Education and Dissemination Unit and opening of the Center for Advanced Battery Research at NIFS, by Hon. Dr. Bandula Gunawardana. The Center for Advanced Battery Research led by Dr. Athula Wijayasinghe, Research Fellow of the NIFS, is the only laboratory, dedicated to conduct advance battery research in Sri Lanka. 

Giving a unique conference experience to the audience, eight invited presentations by leading international Scientists and a popular science journalist were lined up under three technical sessions which were chaired by the former directors of NIFS; Prof. C.B. Dissanayake, Prof. Kirthi Tennakone and Prof. S.H.P.P. Karunarathne. 

The idea of a multidisciplinary conference was emphasized by the topics and areas covered by the guest speakers;  Fundamental Studies in Sri Lanka: History and the Future by Prof. Kirthi Tennakone (Georgia State University, USA), Prof Cyril Ponnamperuma: A Passionate Champion of Public Science by Mr. Nalaka Gunawardana (Science Writer and Journalist), Organic semiconductor distributed feedback (DFB) lasers by Prof. Atula Sandanayaka (University of Kyushu, Japan), Facing the challenge of Non Communicable diseases in Sri Lanka by Dr. Prasad Katulanda (University of Colombo), Targeted therapies for cirrhosis and portal hypertension by Prof. Chandana Herath (University of Melbourne, Australia), Nano –fertilizer for urea slow release: concept to technology development by Prof. Veranja Karunaratne (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka), Biofertilizer Production: A major outcome of the Biological Nitrogen Fixation Project of the National Institute of Fundamental Studies by Prof. S.A. Kulasooriya (National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka) and CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing to Improve Crop health in the Arms Race Between a Host and Pathogen by  Prof. Dilantha Fernando (University of Manitoba, Canada).

The sessions were wrapped up by a very interesting panel discussion led by Prof. Rohan Samarajiva where, many important ideas were shared on “NIFS- Way forward”. 

A remarkable day came to an end with the conference dinner held at the NIFS premises and it turned out to be an evening full of entertainment and fellowship which brought back many fond memories from the Ponnamperuma era of the NIFS.

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