Upekha is a medically trained researcher. She completed her PhD in Statistical Genetics from the School of Medicine, University of Queensland in 2020. Her PhD is focused on identifying the novel genetic variants associated with skin cancer risk, melanoma and keratinocyte cancer (KC) and exploring the causal associations between modifiable risk factors and skin cancer and overall cancer risk. From her PhD work, newly identified genetic variants associated with skin cancer risk may potentially be useful as future drug targets, and for the polygenic risk score construction. The findings of causal inference on overall cancer risk and skin cancer may inform public health policies. Following completion of PhD, Upekha started postdoctoral training in Prof. Adele Green’s lab in QIMR Berghofer. Her research includes genetic risk prediction of skin cancer and identifying the associations of genetic variants with the skin cancer risk in Queensland cohorts.
2020-Current: Research Officer
2018-2020: Casual Academic, School of Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Queensland
2018: Fieldwork Research Assistant, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania
2013-2016: Medical Officer, Ministry of Health Sri Lanka
2011-2012: Coordinator to the Registrar, Sri Lanka Medical Council, Sri Lanka
2011-2012: Research Surveillance Officer, Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka
Currently Upekha is working in the Cancer and Population Studies group, Population Health Department in QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. She is involved in various Genetic Epidemiology and Traditional Epidemiology projects, which aim to evaluate the genetic risk prediction of keratinocyte cancer risk, weight gain in post heart transplantation and identifying the associations of genetic variants with the risk of skin cancer.
Her first author publication, the largest genetic study of non-melanoma skin cancer to date, doubled the genes identified previously and revealed potential immunotherapy drug targets.
Her causal inference work has led to a better understanding of modifiable risk factors and skin cancer risk.
2020-Current: ARCS Australia
2020-Current: Women In Technology
2019-Current: American Association of Cancer Research
2018-2019: Mentee, Industry Mentoring Network in STEM
2014-Current: Sri Lanka Medical Council
2018-2019: Royal Australian college of general practitioners (RACGP)
2018-2019: Public Health Association, Australia
2018-2019: Committee member, co- organiser of Australian Society of Medical Research, medical research week
2020:Interviewer for the applicants seeking admission into the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program in School of Medicine, University of Queensland
2020: Examiner for the Clinical History and Examination Assessment Phase 1 MD program, School of Medicine, University of Queensland
2020: Medical student mentor, University of Queensland
2018: Judge’s award for the best poster presentation, Clinical and Public Health symposium, University of Queensland
2019: Competitive QIMR travel awards to attend Annual meeting of American Association of Cancer Research, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2017: Tuition fee scholarship Summer Institute of Statistical Genetics, University of Queensland
2016-2019: University of Queensland tuition fee scholarship for PhD
2016-2019: QIMR Berghofer competitive lab-based scholarship for PhD
2020: PhD, Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland
2012: Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka