Prof. Valentine Joseph Memorial Gold Medal Winner – 2021

Prof. Valentine Joseph Memorial Gold Medal 2021 Winner: Osanda Abhiru Illeperuma

Where did you grow up?

I am Osanda Abhiru Illeperuma. I grew up in a small village called Unanvitiya located in the District of Galle. I received my primary education from Christ Church Boys’ College

– Galle and after passing the grade five scholarship examination, I got the opportunity to conduct my secondary education at St. Aloysius’ College- Galle, one of the most prestigious schools in Sri Lanka. After passing the G.C.E. Ordinary Level Examination with flying colors, I chose to pursue my advanced level studies in physical sciences. I could obtain high distinctions for all the subjects (Combined mathematics, physics and chemistry) in the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination. My passion and enthusiasm to learn natural sciences motivated me to apply for the BSc. degree in Physical Science at the Faculty of Science, University of Colombo.

Why did you decide to major in mathematics?

I entered the University of Colombo with the intention of pursuing my undergraduate degree majoring in chemistry. From my childhood, I was passionate about quantum mechanical applications in chemistry. Hence, after entering the university, I chose the subject combination of Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Chemistry and Computer Science. With time, I began to develop a serious passion for the enthralling rigor and precision that is possessed by pure mathematics. Also, I fell in love with the subtle solutions that pure mathematicians propose and the way they present their findings in a systematic manner. At the same time, I was fortunate to study fascinating areas in mathematics, both pure and applied, from the best lecturers in the country. As a result of all these reasons, I decided to major in mathematics.

Out of all the subjects you learned at UoC, what is your favorite course?

I am a huge fan of Algebra and always interested in learning abstract algebraic structures and their applications in various other branches in science, especially computer science. Hence, out of all the courses I learned during my undergraduate years, Field and Galois Theory was my favorite. Also, I loved studying Category Theory (although it is not a part of my undergraduate curriculum), since my final year research project was based on Category Theory.

What do you know about the late Prof. Joseph?

I heard about Prof. Joseph for the first time when I was studying for the advanced level examination. I came across his book “Gathikaya” for Advanced Level students. Although I did not fully understand his wonderful work in the area of general relativity, I went through a few of his articles. After entering the university, I watched his last lecture on “Einstein: The Wunderkind” through youtube during my first year. Listening to this lecture helped me to figure out that he was a great personality who can convey deep ideas in a simple format blending both the philosophy and insight to those ideas. His contribution to academia is invaluable. Although, unfortunately, I could not meet him in person, I am greatly honored to hold this gold medal entitled after Prof. Joseph who was without a doubt one of the brilliant and magnificent mathematicians ever born in Sri Lanka.

Where are you planning to do your graduate studies, a potential area and your future career ambition?

I have already applied for the graduate programs in mathematics at US universities. Since I am extremely interested in learning advanced algebraic structures and applying them for understanding and formulating theories in computing, I am planning to conduct my further education in the field of Algebra with an inclination towards theoretical computer science. My future plans are to pursue a PhD from a leading university in the world and after the completion of the doctorate, to undertake a postdoctoral fellowship. Equipped with a doctorate and postdoctoral experience, I am planning to become an academic conducting research with the expectation of rendering an eminent contribution to the intellectual sphere of mathematics and computer science.

[The following is the interview transcript of the 2020 Prof. Valentine Joseph Gold medal winner, Osanda Abhiru Illeperuma conducted by Dr. Kirthi Premadasa.]