clock December 24,2023

Empowering Women in Engineering: Dr. Gayashika Fernando's PhD Journey at SLIIT's Faculty of Engineering

Dr. Gayashika Fernando serves as a Senior Lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department in the Faculty of Engineering in SLIIT. As the first-ever PhD to be produced by SLIIT's Faculty of Engineering, she exemplifies determination, resilience, and a fervent commitment to advancing scientific knowledge through her remarkable journey.

Dr. Fernando obtained her B.Sc. (Hons), in Production Engineering from the University of Peradeniya, and MEng in Manufacturing System Engineering from the University of Moratuwa. Prior Joining to SLIIT she served in the Industry for about 8 years.

Through her research on ‘Climate Policy Analysis for Climate Mitigation and Carbon Neutrality: A Case Study of Sri Lanka’, Dr. Fernando developed a model for analyzing the impact of different energy policies. These models will be useful for the country in analyzing national-level policies such as renewable energy targets, nationally determined contributions and net zero emissions. It will also provide different implications on the costs involved in implementing such policies. Her work, was published in a prestigious Q1 journal and has accomplished international recognition and strengthened SLIIT's reputation as a hub of academic excellence.

Dr. Fernando shares insights into her research, the challenges she faced as a woman in engineering, her motivations for pursuing this path, and the invaluable advice she offers to those considering a career in this dynamic field.

Q: Can you elaborate on the research and academic accomplishments?

A: I pursued my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at SLIIT, focusing on ‘Climate Policy Analysis for Climate Mitigation and Carbon Neutrality’ using energy-economic-environmental modeling. The research aimed at developing a model to analyze different climate and energy policies.It addressed the country's need to have a systematic method for developing policy and analyzing them before implementation. These studies will be very useful for the country in developing future national policies of the country. It could provide valuable insights in meeting various obligations under agreements like the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

My Primary Supervisor was Prof Migara Liyanage. Other Co-Supervisors were Prof R A Attalage, & Prof S. Karunarathne. Their inputs were invaluable and a great source of support and motivation towards the success of my PhD. Conducting high-quality research in a developing country like Sri Lanka with limited resources and data availability was particularly difficult. However, with the support of experienced supervisors, collaborations with international experts, and SLIIT's research facilities, I was able to successfully overcome these obstacles and achieve my goals. I was also fortunate to receive support from the National Institute of Environmental Studies, Japan. Such collaborations immensely help to produce quality research. 

The research resulted in publications in top-ranked Q1 journals, including the prestigious ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption’ journal, which is in the top 10% globally. I am extremely proud to be the  first PhD holder from the Faculty of Engineering at SLIIT and my contribution in fostering an engineering postgraduate culture at SLIIT engineering has the potential to ignite a broader research culture, both within the institution and across our country.


Q: Why did you choose to pursue a career in engineering, and what motivated you to complete the PhD at SLIIT?

A: After about eight years of service in the corporate sector, I felt a strong desire to shape future generations and make a more impactful contribution by adding my corporate sector experiences to engineering education. That's why I decided to transition to academia and join SLIIT. Recognizing the importance of continuously upgrading my knowledge, I decided to pursue a PhD.

 I chose to pursue my PhD at SLIIT due to personal reasons that prevented me from leaving the country. The institution's supportive research environment, including expert guidance,  research grants, exceptional library resources, and study leave provisions was extremely helpful and supportive towards completing my PhD.

Q: What challenges did you face as a woman pursuing a career in engineering?

A: Even though engineering is a male-dominated field, there are ample opportunities and diverse disciplines for females to fit in. Through resilience and dedication, I faced challenges and seized every chance to improve. I took gradual but lasting steps to reach my targets. With proper time management practices and work-life balance through good physical and mental health practices, women can confront challenges in this field as in every other field.

Q: Why do you believe participation of women in Engineering  is crucial?

A: Engineering is using science and mathematics to design products and services that improve people's lives. The participation of women in Engineering is crucial as they bring diverse perspectives and experiences that shape innovative solutions.  Their unique feminine traits, such as endurance, multitasking prowess, outstanding team coordination abilities, effective communication skills, and interpersonal skills, bolster teams and bring considerable value to the field of engineering. With their unique viewpoints, women in this field contribute directly to economic growth while also addressing social and environmental well-being.

Moreover, their involvement in Engineering drives societal progress, as evident in countries with high female representation in engineering and science-related areas. By fostering an inclusive environment, Engineering disciplines can harness the immense potential of women's contributions.

Q: What advice would you give to women considering a career in engineering, and why would SLIIT be an ideal choice?

A: I truly believe that Women can contribute diverse perspectives and experiences to engineering solutions, which is crucial for economic growth and societal well-being. First and foremost, believe in yourself and the unique perspectives you bring to engineering. Seek out supportive mentors to guide you in your career journey. Continuously look for opportunities to enhance your lifelong learning experiences and personal growth.

I wholly recommend SLIIT as an ideal choice for pursuing engineering studies due to several reasons. Especially its flexible approach, self-funded research grants, fee waivers for employees, excellent facilities, and a motivated staff that encourages research. SLIIT's collaborations with foreign universities and other international organizations provide valuable support and exposure. I am grateful to the support received from my supervisors and peers in achieving this milestone.

Beyond her academic achievements, Dr. Fernando’s accomplishments serve as an inspiration for women aspiring to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Overcoming challenges posed by limited resources and data availability, she persevered with the support of experienced supervisors and collaborations with international experts. 


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