For many graduate students, it can be a struggle to get involved outside of the classroom and the lab. Dinal Jayasekera can understand why.
“Coming into my program, I felt that I had to spend every waking hour in the lab, and that should not be the case,” he said. “I think it’s important to balance research and student involvement.”
As a graduate student researcher with an interest in neural engineering, Jayasekera worked in the labs of faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, including Wilson Ray, MD, and Eric Leuthardt, MD, professors of neurosurgery and affiliated faculty members with the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“The main reason I decided to rotate in the labs of neurosurgeons is that their research had a very heavy clinical focus,” Jayasekera said. “I wanted to be involved in work that would readily impact the lives of patients.”
That drive to better understand the clinical side of neural engineering even resulted in the opportunity to shadow a surgeon during spine surgery.
“It was my first time in the surgery room, and everyone was very welcoming,” Jayasekera said. “I got to know the ins and outs of a surgery for cervical myelopathy, which became the key focus of my thesis research.”
Outside of the lab, he was just as engaged, with an extensive and impressive list of accomplishments. Jayasekera has served as a member of the Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Council and helped to organize the department’s first-ever student research retreat; organized and led a graduate student group that presented a call-to-action statement to school leadership on diversity, equity and inclusion; served as social coordinator of the Association of Graduate Engineering Students during the COVID-19 lockdown; was a consultant for the BALSA Group; and hosted Beyond My Experience, a virtual interview series that connects students with BME doctoral alumni.
And this spring, he'll cap off all those achievements by graduating with a doctorate in biomedical engineering.
“I'm very proud of the McKelvey community that has come together to support, not just me, but all the other students who are trying to introduce these different initiatives,” he said.
He’s looking forward to taking his next step. Jayasekera will work as a decision analytics consultant for ZS Associates in Evanston, Illinois.
“I have come to realize that the pace of discoveries in research is a little slower than I’m used to,” he said. “Consulting offers me the opportunity to introduce changes to the health care sector at an accelerated rate, which appealed to me. I understand research needs that time to make sure the work is being done correctly, but I wanted to explore other opportunities in health care.”