From Sri Lanka to Portales: Graduate Student Discusses Journey to ENMU

Jayamini Madumali Mudugamuwa Hewage
Jayamini Madumali Mudugamuwa Hewage

From Sri Lanka to Portales: Graduate Student Discusses Journey to ENMU

Jayamini Madumali Mudugamuwa Hewage, a graduate chemistry student at Eastern New Mexico University, was born in Kadawatha, Sri Lanka and came to the states to further her education. She is the oldest of three, with a younger brother and sister. In the Kadawatha area, her father owns and operates a business.

She studied chemistry, zoology and botany in Sri Lanka at the University of Kelaniya and obtained her degree in 2015. She pursued a post-graduate diploma at the University of Columbo, also in Sri Lanka, in 2016. She then decided to apply to Eastern for graduate level chemistry because it is in a "small town and there's nothing much to distract you from studying."

Jayamini started studying chemistry in high school. "It was difficult for me in the beginning, [it] felt like I was trying to learn a new language," she explained.  Miss Kajanka Karunarathne, her chemistry teacher, made the class "do lots of lab experiments [instead of just focusing on theory], so making compounds changing colors in solutions made me wanted to study chemistry more. It became more interesting as I learned new things every day."

If you are struggling to enjoy chemistry, Jayamini suggests taking a lab class with theory because it helps you to understand the subject and experiments make the subject fun.

Her favorite class at ENMU, "Quantum Chemistry," also happened to be the toughest class she has taken. "I like it because I had to come home and do a lot of studying and figure out the math I did not know. So besides learning chemistry, I learned a lot of math in that class," she explained.

"I like all the classes I took at Eastern because the professors were really helpful," she said. "They would answer the questions I had and guided me to do well in my research project. I made some good friends here who also helped me with my studies."

Dr. Juchao Yan has been her mentor throughout her research project, where she is determining if lipids extracted from algae can be converted into biofuel. Dr. James Finley helped to develop and improve her presentation skills. "Dr. C and Dr. Elliott Stollar helped me a lot throughout my time at Eastern," she added.

Her favorite part of being a Greyhound is getting to enjoy the ENMU campus. "It's beautiful and has lots of space. There are lots of extracurricular activities going on which is interesting, as well."

During her time as an undergraduate student in Sri Lanka, Jayamini met her now husband. He moved to New Mexico a year after she did to also pursue a master's degree in chemistry. "I would like to thank him for all the support he gives me as a fellow student and my life partner," she said.

Jayamini works as a graduate assistant in the Department of Physical Sciences. She also teaches two general chemistry lab classes for freshmen students. She grades labs and exams, prepares exams and explains the lab at the beginning of class. Ultimately, she hopes to work in research or join the academic realm to make students enjoy chemistry more.

Her next step is to attend a Ph.D. program for chemistry after graduating from ENMU this spring. She has several applications out for the fall semester.


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