Our People

Upekha Liyanage

Dr | Research Officer

Cancer & Population Studies

+617 3845 3570



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