2022 Research Excellence Awards

Congratulations to the 2022 UNCG Research Excellence Award winners, Professor Ratnasingham Shivaji and Associate Professor Hemali Rathnayake.

Professor Ratnasingham Shivaji receives the Senior Research Excellence Award for his scholarship on partial differential equations.

The H. Barton Excellence Professor in Mathematics is an internationally known authority on classes of steady state reaction diffusion models known as “positone” and “semipositone” problems. Such models allow scientists to predict factors such as temperature and population in complex systems after long periods of time. His work has applications in combustion theory, chemical reactor theory, and population dynamics.

With over 2000 citations in the database of the American Mathematical Society, of which he is a fellow, Dr. Shivaji is highly recognized by the international mathematical community. He has given 25 plenary and keynote presentations around the world.

To date, Shivaji has published or had accepted for publication over 170 research papers, with over 150 of those appearing in SCI/SCIE-ranked journals – the world’s leading science and technology journals – including the Journal of Differential Equations, Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, and Communications in Partial Differential Equations.

He is also currently conducting NSF-funded work in the field of mathematical ecology, looking at diffusive models in population dynamics. Results from this line of research have appeared in the Journal of Mathematical Biology, the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, and American Naturalist.

Shivaji has received $674,330 in funding from the NSF for his research since 1989, with a considerable portion of that funding coming in two major grants received since joining UNCG. He has secured $197,000 in NSF funding to host several international research conferences. In addition, he was awarded $35,000 in funding from the Simons Foundation, which supports the advancement of research in basic science and mathematics.

Shivaji is known for his passion for teaching. He has served as co-PI on two NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates grants, with a total of $393,000 in funding, and, in 2020, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Mathematical Association of America, Southeastern Section. Over his career, he has mentored 19 PhD students, 15 masters students, and 31 undergraduate students on research projects.

Associate Professor Hemali Rathnayake receives the Junior Research Excellence Award for her scholarship on the design and synthesis of organic, organic-inorganic hybrid, and polymeric nanomaterials for energy harvesting, conversion, and storage.

Dr. Rathnayake is recognized for her interdisciplinary research combining chemistry and nanoscience. Her work has led to advances in several areas related to green energy, sustainability, and electronics manufacturing.

Most recently Dr. Rathnayake has worked in collaboration with UNCG alumna and her former graduate student Dr. Sheeba Dawood on a point-of-use filter technology to recover lithium – a vital material for the manufacture of batteries – from fracking wastewater. The invention has spurred a UNCG spin-off company, Minerva Lithium.

Since joining UNCG in the fall of 2016, Rathnayake has published 23 peer-reviewed research articles in leading journals – including high impact publications Applied Materials & Interfaces and the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters – and been granted 2 international patents, and filed 1 provisional patent.

She has also acquired $1.3 M in external funding from the Department of Defense’s Army Research Office, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Science Foundation I-Corps regional and national programs, and the NSF Small Business Innovation Research program. This includes DoD and USDA funding for the acquisition of a high-resolution transmission electron microscope and a field emission scanning electron microscope for the JSNN facility.

Rathnayake is also known for her work with graduate students, having mentored 5 PhD students and 3 MS students in the last five years. She also serves as a mentor for UNCG Middle College students.

Story by Hope Voorhees