Throughout his time at ULethbridge, Uvindu Abeysekara has seized every opportunity to excel academically, engage in impactful research, and connect with the campus community. From participating in independent studies and working in a microbiology lab to volunteering, leading clubs, and presenting his work at international conferences, Uvindu has embraced a diverse range of experiences. His unwavering determination, creativity, and outgoing nature have not only shaped his academic journey but also allowed him to build lasting friendships and develop essential life skills.
In my first two years, I was nervous and scared to talk to professors because I thought I might be wasting their time. I've come to realize that professors are rooting for us to do well if we are willing to put in the effort. So the bottom line is don't be afraid.
Meet Uvindu. Creative. Tenacious. Outgoing.
Program: Bachelor of Science | Major: Biochemistry
Why did you choose ULethbridge?
I chose ULethbridge because of the opportunities it offers both on and off campus. Within the campus community, I have made countless friends through fun activities like volunteering at ULSU events such as Fresh Fest and Dirty Bingo, participating in New Student Orientation, and joining clubs like Rotaract. Additionally, there are numerous ways for students to get involved outside of campus, such as volunteering at the hospital or serving on boards around the city. One thing that sets ULethbridge apart from most other universities is the unique opportunity for students to gain valuable research/lab experience through independent studies, applied studies, and summer work, all relatively easily. The proximity of the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Lethbridge amplifies these opportunities to be involved in research even further. Collectively these opportunities throughout Lethbridge are the main reasons I decided to choose ULethbridge for my biochemistry degree.
Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge?
Not exactly. I knew the direction I wanted to go was towards STEM though no specific end goal. I chose biochemistry as my degree, as it encompassed many aspects of science I was interested in. Since enrolling, I have gained more of a direction in where I want to go.
Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning.
Yes. I have taken a large number of classes that have labs resulting in me gaining experience and learning techniques essential for research (ex. PCR, chromatography, SDS-PAGE, etc). I even did an independent study where I had to learn how to use a flow cytometer and then find applications useful in our lab. I am doing an independent study with my own self-designed comparison study to improve upon methods in microbiology. This also gave me an opportunity to do an oral presentation in the Spring 2023 Luke Stebbins Undergraduate Symposium about my independent study. In addition, I worked for two years in Dr. Kim Stanford's microbiology lab, and currently on my third, where I have learned many more laboratory procedures like DNA extraction and making isolates of various bacteria. This summer, I got the opportunity to attend an international conference known as VTEC 2023, where I got to present my work as well as learn a lot about Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and meet many of the experts in the field.
From these experiences collectively, the two things I took away were improved scientific writing and presenting in general. Lastly, the biggest one which influences many aspects of my life is when doing something, constantly looking at what I am doing and thinking about what is the most efficient way of doing it, being more meticulous, one could say.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?
Our Rotaract club, where I have made tons of friends, is probably where I have some of my favourite ULethbridge memories. One of the first in-person meets I attended was an outdoor meeting/social event where the club just sort of hung out together. I remember in that meeting, we ended up playing capture the flag, something I hadn't done since high school, so this was quite memorable for me, and I made a lot of friends then.
How have your professors impacted your education?
Professors are the only reason I am getting an education, so I appreciate all they do a ton! In particular, Dr. Kim Stanford. I am grateful that she has positively impacted my education and given me the opportunity to work with her. She has helped me learn tons about the scientific process and helped build my view on science.
Uvi has worked in my lab as a summer student, and I am presently supervising his independent study. He radiates positive energy and enthusiasm for learning and research. Having him in my lab makes my lab a better place as he motivates and leads others. He is not afraid of hard work, and his independent study is more comprehensive and breaks more new ground than some MScs. If he shone any brighter, he might spontaneously combust. - Dr. Kim Stanford nominated Uvindu as a Shining Student
Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
I would like to acknowledge Allison McNaughton, our Lab technician, who has taught me many of the procedures and ways to do lab work in science efficiently. I would also like to highlight all the people I have made friends with at ULethbridge who help motivate me and enjoy my experience daily. Just to name a few, Rex, Trinity, Darren, Tabitha and Skyler. I value everyone who helps me enjoy this university experience more!
Have you received any scholarships and awards?
I have received a few scholarships and awards. One in particular which I'll highlight is the "Healthcare Professionals of Tomorrow Scholarship" from the Friends of Chinook Regional Hospital. I would like to thank them for seeing the potential in me.
Are you participating in any extracurricular activities like sports or in the arts? If so, how are these experiences enhancing or complimenting what you do in the classroom?
I have a few extracurriculars I am involved in volunteering at the hospital, involved with the Rotaract club, tutoring at a company called Kumon, and I play on a cricket team known as the Lethbridge Lankans. Volunteering has improved my social skills along with being able to get along with a large variety of people. Rotaract has given many opportunities for leadership and coordinating groups by being the Club engagement. Kumon is one of the larger impacts on my life where working with kids has gotten me to look critically at my own studying and learning habits allowing me to improve on them. Lastly, cricket has given me a good way to remain active over the years and be able to work in a team.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to play badminton as well as video games with my friends. Another hobby of mine is photography, usually of the landscapes of nature, so I go on hikes, even in places like Sri Lanka. Then playing around with the images in Adobe Photoshop.
P.S. I also found it very difficult to find photos of me for this, since I'm usually the one taking them.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
There are many directions and options I could go with my degree and interests. My hope is to apply to the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine. If I get in, and become a family doctor, I will come back to Lethbridge and practice. That would be ideal though I would also be happy to go into agriculture or research further.
What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
Talk to professors! They are human too, and usually super nice and want you to succeed. So go to office hours and ask questions—don't be afraid. In my first two years, I was nervous and scared to talk to professors because I thought I might be wasting their time. I've come to realize that professors are rooting for us to do well if we are willing to put in the effort. So the bottom line is don't be afraid.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your decision to pursue a university degree? Or any obstacles you have faced on the way to, and through post-secondary education?
I found the first two years of my degree difficult, and consequently, my performance was somewhat poor due to lacking study skills/habits. With some tenacity and actively looking for my mistakes and working on them, it does get better. In the end, it made me a stronger student/learner.
What are three awesome things about you?
- I love making friends and getting to meet and know people and animals.
- I tend to think outside of the box, sometimes a bit too much.
- I am optimistic and don't get down easily or for too long.
Chem 4000: Medicinal Chemistry
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge:
Chatting and hanging out with my friends.
Favourite place to study:
9th floor in the Science Commons or the couches in Markin Hall.
About Shining Students
Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Uvindu!