Dr. Ganga Hettiarachchi is one of the world’s leading young scientists in the field of trace metal chemistry in soils. Her research at K-State focuses on understanding the chemistry of both nutrient and contaminant elements in soils, with the goal of developing solutions to agricultural or environmental problems. For example one of her current projects, goal is to find ways to remediate underutilized, mildly contaminated soils (often call “brownfields”) into soils suitable for productive use, such as community gardens. Another project focuses on understanding reaction products of fertilizers in soils to find ways to increase the fertilizer use efficiency.
Dr. Hettiarachchi was born and raised in a suburb of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Although not from a farm, her father thought agriculture would become increasingly important in the future and encouraged her to study agriculture as opposed to any pure science field when she entered the university. She selected soil chemistry as her area of emphasis while getting her B.S. degree at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, then went on to get her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in soil chemistry at Kansas State University.
After working in research positions at the US Environmental Protection Agency and Australia, and in a faculty position in Sri Lanka, she joined the Agronomy faculty at K-State in 2008. The opportunity to do both research and teaching, as well as the harmony of the faculty, are what drew her back to K-State.
While not involved in her work, Dr. Hettiarachchi enjoys spending time with her family including her two daughters and husband, and reading novels. She has always liked reading novels, and understanding different cultures.
Dr. Hettiarachchi advises students to find a niche for themselves in a field they enjoy and go with it as opposed to deciding on a field of study based strictly on the potential for job opportunities. She also advises students to take all the extra courses they can outside of their major.