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PhD Awarded

9 Sep 2021 - 16:15

Congratulations to Dr Tharindu Senapathi for obtaining his PhD at the July 2021 graduation ceremony. Dr Senapathi’s doctoral thesis titled ‘Development of a Computational Platform for System Based High Throughput Drug Discovery Illustrated on Pneumococcal Sialidases’ focused on combining computational chemistry with bioinformatics methodologies in aid of furthering drug discovery and development.

Tharindu performed his doctoral research in the Computational and Modelling laboratory, where he developed his expertise in computational Glycoenzymology. His research revealed how sialic acid processing enzymes (sialyltransferases and sialidases) work. Using the FEARCF method, he discovered reaction mechanisms of Neuraminidases. These mechanisms made possible the rational design of Transition State Analogue inhibitor models. To discover inhibitors from existing large molecular databases, he developed a computational platform that links computational chemistry with computational biology making the designing of novel inhibitors using rigorous and accurate methods such as free energy methods easily accessible and useable.

Tharindu developed his skills in chemistry and biochemistry during his postgraduate studies when he joined SCRU in 2015 with a pure chemistry background, completing his undergraduate studies in nanochemistry followed by an Honours degree in chemistry. His postgraduate studies were a fresh start in computational chemistry, where he learnt almost all his computational skills at SCRU. Furthermore, his chemistry background was significant in developing his skills in computational chemistry. To successfully conduct a reaction dynamics simulation of an enzyme, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics.

Dr Tharindu Senapathi is employed as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka. Read more about his experience in the Scientific Computing Research Unit.

Tharindu was a part of the team that developed the BRIDGE platform. He says, “I developed my skills in many programming languages as well as web servers while working on this project. I have learnt about good practices such as version controlling and packaging. I was fortunate enough to work as a systems administrator and got hands-on experience in software and hardware building and maintaining a cluster working on SCRU’s high-performance computing cluster. My training at SCRU allowed me to teach and mentor students as a senior student in the unit. I was involved with teaching and mentoring undergraduates, Masters’ and PhD students.”

Tharindu had this to say about his experience in the SCRU labs, “I had a great experience at SCRU and was fortunate to have a great supervisor, Prof Kevin Naidoo, a very kind and caring person with profound subject knowledge. I have learned a lot from my supervisor, not just the subject knowledge but also how to become a better researcher and a human being. I had regular access to the supervisor, and the reporting system in place at SCRU allows supervisors to keep track of the students very well. I was also very fortunate to have two great co-supervisors, Dr Werner Crous during my masters and Dr Chris Barnett during my PhD. I have learnt a lot from my co-supervisors, specifically technical skills. Also, I had significant opportunities to work with international collaborators and travel to an international lab to get more exposure from experts in the field. I was part of a group of researchers with diverse backgrounds and skills and had the opportunity to work with a diverse group and to make friends while learning.