Name: Rukshala Illukkumbura
Country: Sri Lanka (university in Germany)
Mentor: Ian Macara
Hi! My name is Rukshala Illukkumbura and I’m from Sri Lanka (the tiny island often referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean). I am currently studying in Germany, at Jacobs University Bremen where my major is Biochemistry and Cell Biology.
I came to know about the program in my first year at university where I heard one of my seniors describing her experience at VISRA. There were so many appealing facets of VISRA which drew me in: the opportunity to carry out research in whichever field you wished to pursue; the mind-boggling amount of faculty members you could choose to list as your PI – all with varying, but equally fascinating, projects; the chance to collaborate with a diverse community and the fun that is sure to accompany the work.
Since my interests lie in cellular biology I was thrilled when I was accepted into the Macara Lab in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. The Macara Lab has several ongoing projects but I was most interested in learning about proteins involved in loss of cell polarity (eg: Par3) during breast cancer metastasis. My project utilized the novel gene targeting technology: Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats systems (or CRISPR for short) to generate a Par3 knock out cell line. While it came with a few challenges I was thrilled to be working on such an exciting project.
As fascinating and thrilling my life in the lab was, I was also enthralled by the city of Nashville. Together with my fellow VISRA participants, we discovered from day 1 onwards that there is always something going on: whether it be music concerts or dance lessons or parades. Everyone is very friendly and eager to help you out if you get lost. This program and this city are life experiences you definitely do not want to miss out on!