Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Dhananjani Eriyagama

I obtained my BSc degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and I moved to Houghton in 2015 with my husband. I am fortunate to be enrolled in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at Michigan Tech in 2017 spring, and I joined Dr. Fang’s research group. As a student researcher, I learned the skills needed in the laboratory and improved skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, mentoring junior researchers, communication, and leadership. It is a privilege to collaborate with colleagues in our laboratory on many research projects with different disciplines.

One of my research projects is the development of non-chromatographic method for synthetic oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) purification, and another is the automation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) synthesis. Synthetic oligonucleotides have applications in various fields. Even though ODN synthesis has improved significantly in the past decades, the purification of synthetic ODN still has many challenges. The most widely used HPLC purification is expensive and not suitable for large-scale and high throughput purification, and purification of long ODNs. We developed a non-chromatographic ODN purification method suitable for large-scale, high throughput, and long ODN purification. This method does not involve expensive reagents, solvents, or instrumentation, and it can significantly reduce the cost of synthetic ODN purification. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) have found applications in many fields, including the pharmaceutical industry. Due to the high labor demand of current synthesis and purification methods, it is expensive to obtain monodispersed PEGs. The method that we developed does not require purification of intermediates, and more importantly the entire synthesis is automated. As a result, we can obtain pure PEGs for a significantly lower cost.

I would like to convey my gratitude to The Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for providing the finishing fellowship award at a critical moment in my graduate study. The fellowship is important for me to focus on writing and defending my dissertation, and to graduate timely. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. Shiyue Fang, and Dr. Marina Tansova for their indispensable guidance throughout the program.