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Kansas State University doctoral student among 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellows

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 


MANHATTAN — Ananda Bandara, Kansas State University doctoral student in plant pathology, Sri Lanka, is one of 10 graduate students nationwide to receive a 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship.

As one of the oldest and most selective collegiate honor societies, Phi Kappa Phi recognizes and promotes academic excellence in all fields of higher education. The $10,000 fellowship will support Bandara while he finishes his dissertation and completes his degree.

"It is a great honor to become a recipient of the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship," Bandara said. "Becoming a nationally recognized award holder is a unique and memorable experience. Thank you so very much, Phi Kappa Phi."

Phi Kappa Phi membership, which Bandara has held since 2013, is a requirement for the fellowship. The applicant's need and significance of the original doctoral research also are part of the fellowship selection criteria.

"We are excited to see Mr. Bandara's research affirmed and supported by Phi Kappa Phi," said Jim Hohenbary, chair of the Graduate Fellowship Committee and director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. "Mr. Bandara is the first K-Stater to be recognized for this relatively new Dissertation Fellowship. I hope it will inspire other outstanding doctoral students at K-State to apply in future years."

Working with Chris Little, associate professor in plant pathology, Bandara researches the molecular interaction between grain sorghum and the plant pathogen that causes charcoal rot disease. Bandara said researchers predict the disease will become more severe as the climate warms and drought increases. He is trying to uncover the molecular basis of the interaction and understand the plant's mechanisms behind disease resistance or susceptibility to the disease.

"Charcoal rot is a devastating disease to sorghum and reported to cause $15 million annual economic loss in the state of Kansas," Bandara said. "Although sorghum breeders have been able to breed plants to somewhat resist the disease, we have been unable to achieve complete control of it. This is partly because disease resistance is complex and there is a lack of understanding on the molecular basis."

Bandara's research aim is to help researchers be better equipped to defend against stalk rotting diseases such as charcoal rot, which also is a problem in the sub-Saharan African region, where sorghum is a staple food. In addition to sorghum, the pathogen infects more than 500 plant species with important economic influence such as soybean, sunflower, sweet potato, alfalfa, sesame, peanut, cabbage, pepper, chickpea, potato and corn.

Bandara received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, where he also was a lecturer at the agricultural biology department before attending Kansas State University. He is a member of the American Phytopathological Society, the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America.


Joelle Pitts


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Ananda Bandara

Ananda Bandara, Kansas State University doctoral student in plant pathology, has received a $10,000 Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship.

Written by

Stephanie Jacques