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Sources: Sunanda Dissanayake, 785-532-1540, sunanda@k-state.edu;
and Alok Bhandari, 785-532-1586, bhandari@k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Sunanda is soo-NAHN-duh and Dissanayake is dis-ahn-eye-UH-kuh
News release prepared by: Tyler Sharp, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010

CIVIL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR NAMED FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University professor who was named a Fulbright scholar will spend seven months in Sri Lanka.

Sunanda Dissanayake, associate professor of civil engineering, will be teaching and assisting with curriculum enhancement at the University of Peradeniya. She also will conduct research on reducing highway fatalities and injuries in Sri Lanka. The issue is sizable in Sri Lanka, as in many other developing countries, because of the mix of vehicular, pedestrian and other traffic on roadways. Poor roadway design also contributes to numerous fatalities and injuries. Dissanayake has conducted similar research on United States roadways for a number of years.

"It's much needed in Sri Lanka because of the rapid rate of motorization that happened without much planning," she said. "They do not really do research related to highway safety."

The Fulbright application process involved evaluation by the Fulbright Commission and an equivalent commission in Sri Lanka. Dissanayake submitted a research proposal and contacted a university in the host country to find a place to teach.

Becoming energized will be one of the greatest benefits of the Fulbright award, Dissanayake said. "Once in a while you need a change or a break -- to go outside the regular routine, energize and come up with new ideas enriched by a different educational system than we have here," she said.

Dissanayake is considering establishing a study abroad program for engineering students. The free education system in Sri Lanka means that financial responsibility would be limited to living and travel expenses. She also hopes to develop some collaborative research efforts between the two countries.

Alok Bhandari, professor and head of the department of civil engineering, said Dissanayake is the department's second Fulbright Scholar since 2003.

"This award is a recognition of Dr. Dissanayake's outstanding research and outreach programs in the area of transportation engineering," he said. "As a Fulbright Scholar she will serve as K-State's ambassador in Sri Lanka while broadening her scholarly work to international road safety issues."

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The U.S. scholar program sends approximately 1,100 American scholars and professionals per year to around 125 countries, where they lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

Dissanayake joined K-State in 2002 and was promoted to associate professor in 2008. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, a master's from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and a doctorate from the University of South Florida.