Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Hiruni Senarath Dassanayake, B.S. ’16

Founder, Global Mars
Major(s): Earth Science 

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

Since graduating from Buffalo State, I was accepted to a competitive summer internship opportunity with National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where I researched geomorphology of distal deposits related to formation of the Hale Crater on Margaritifer Terra, Mars.

Currently I am based and working from Sri Lanka on a global educational outreach project I founded, called “Global Mars”.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

Global Mars is global educational outreach project that focuses on lessening the cycle of poverty in disadvantaged communities in the world. Global Mars consists of a dynamic planetary science passion-based curriculum.

In the summer of 2017 the Global Mars team travelled to Matara, Sri Lanka, to work with disadvantaged students. The goal was to benefit students by helping them to identify problems in their own community and come up with long-term solutions, as well as to identify their own passion and look at science from a new perspective.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

My interest for planetary geology began in 2013 when I studied volcanism on Mars for one of my astronomy courses. I had just started my sophomore year in college. I enjoyed looking at planet Mars on my computer from my dorm room. My interest grew into a hobby and evolved as a project. I researched and discovered a possible crater lake in Margaritifer Terra, Mars through a 2015 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship Award from the Office of Undergraduate Research at Buffalo State.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

My undergraduate research at Buffalo State and my internship at the Smithsonian gave me great exposure, a strong network and specific research skills to a not-so-popular field science in Sri Lanka, “planetary science.” Being the only planetary scientist based in Sri Lanka with my specific research and educational outreach interest, I am building my Global Mars project towards my Ph.D. research and eventually hope to turn it in to a nonprofit organization in Sri Lanka.

When I am not occupied by my research, I spend my time blogging and communicating science to the general public.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

Under the guidance of Dr. Kevin Williams, I presented the findings of my 2015 summer research project at Geological Society of America (GSA) national meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. During my Smithsonian internship, I gave an oral presentation on Hale distal deposits, late water and geomorphic activity on Mars at the National Air and Space Museum intern presentations 2016. Dr. John Grant served as a mentor for this project. “Global Mars: The Martian Outreach Project in Sri Lanka” was done independently and findings of the project resulted in a published abstract at 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) 2018 in Woodlands, Texas.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Kevin Williams