Chemistry Graduate Student Contributes to Nanotechnology Discovery

Thakshila Liyanage | Ph.D. Student | Analytical Chemistry

Thakshila Liyanage’s involvement in Rajesh Sardar’s laboratory recently helped contribute to something pretty exciting: the creation of a nanotechnology-based sensor that may improve cancer detection. The sensor, which is now awaiting approval for a patent, was developed as a part of a research collaboration between IUPUI School of Science and Indiana University School of Medicine. Working with Sardar was a great way for Liyanage to apply her passion for biomedical research to a project that will have potentially groundbreaking impact in human health.

The IUPUI Graduate Office recently sat down with Liyanage to discuss her experiences at IUPUI:

Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?

I chose IUPUI over other universities mainly due to my interest in biosensing applications. Under the supervision of Dr. Rajesh Sardar, our laboratory has fabricated ultrasensitive nanosensor for  microRNA detection and quantification using gold nanoprisms. IUPUI has the resources required to work on ground breaking research to lead the world in science, and I wanted to be a part of that.

Another reason is IUPUI’s location. Indianapolis is home to prestigious leading industries related to my studies, including Eli Lilly, Dow, etc., which have sharpened IUPUI’s mission in terms of chemistry.

What’s been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?

My favorite academic accomplishment so far has been researching the current method of detecting  microRNA directly in plasma of cancer patients.  Except ours, all other existing microRNA assay techniques are either semi-quantitative or they required amplification. We developed highly sensitive, label-free, non-destructive, highly specific methods to detect Cancer MicroRNA based on the unique optical properties of chemically synthesized gold nanoprisms.

This research would help with the early diagnosis of cancer and, hopefully, it would benefit many people in the near future. I am proud to be a part of this academic accomplishment, and it has been my favorite research to be a part of to date.

What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?

Indianapolis is a welcoming city with beautiful people. It is highly diverse and offers an incredible international experience. I have attended one of the races at the Indianapolis 500 and have explored the city’s museums, as well as sampled different local and international foods here.

In the summer and fall, every day at 5 a.m., I start my day by running around Indy’s best landscape, which is the downtown canal. And for me, it is heaven on earth.