LSU Chemistry Graduate Student Receives the 2020 Tom W. Dutton Award

by Gretchen Schneider | LSU Chemistry 

Ovini Weeratunge KankanamgeLSU Chemistry graduate student Ovini Weeratunge Kankanamge

BATON ROUGE, December 16, 2020- Ovini Weeratunge Kankanamge was recently named one of the recipients of the 2020 Tom W. Dutton Award. The scholarship, established in 1969, recognizes a female undergraduate or graduate student(s) for outstanding service to the University community through participation and leadership in community service activities while attending LSU.

“I feel blessed and honored to be a recipient of this prestigious award, and unquestionably this recognition would be an incredible encouragement for me to be more engaged in serving the community,” said Kankanamge.

Ovini Weeratunge Kankanamge is a fourth-year doctoral student in the McCarley research group. Her research involves the development of enzyme-activatable chemiluminescent probes in order to assist in fluorescent-guided surgeries for ovarian cancer, while facilitating its early diagnosis. 

"Ovini has done an excellent job engaging with the LSU community, as evidenced by her commitment to helping others be aware of high-visibility issues in and concerns of the international student population at LSU," said Professor Robin McCarley. 

Kankanamge is active in numerous student organizations at LSU, including the Chemistry Graduate Student Council (Committee Chair, 2018-2019), Sri Lankan Student Association (Secretary 2018-2020, President 2020-2021), and the International Student Association (Secretary 2020-2021). 

During her time at LSU, she has been involved in outreach activities across the campus and surrounding community. This past year, Kankanamge volunteered as the Director of Logistics for Geaux Big 2020.  Geaux Big Baton Rouge is LSU’s largest single day of service that unites current LSU students with the surrounding Baton Rouge community.

“We do gain a lot of opportunities and services from LSU, and I feel obliged at least to make an effort to return the favor,” said Kankanamge. “In addition, I believe that the experiences and life skills one would obtain through community service may sharpen him up to be a better leader, who could create a better world.”  

Kankanamge attended the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka for her undergraduate studies and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical biology in 2015. She plans on graduating with her Ph.D. in chemistry from LSU in Spring 2022. Following graduation, Kankanamge hopes to join academia and continue her service in science to the world as a professor. 



Gretchen Schneider
LSU Department of Chemistry