For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Aneeka Ratnayake ’14, who is a perfect example of grit and determination – conducting medical research in both North America and abroad, while working towards her master’s degree in Public Health.
Guided by a love of learning and the desire to be challenged, Aneeka came to Ridley to complete the IB Diploma Programme during her final two years of high school. While she came to advance her educational proficiency, she was delighted to uncover another side to her education, learning about community, collaboration and service. She says, “my time at Ridley taught me the importance of a holistic approach to life… I think without Ridley, I would have never been so interested in qualitative and human-subject research”. When she wasn’t conducting experiments in the science lab or delving into a thought-provoking research project, Aneeka was heavily involved in debate, played hockey and tutored students in French and Math.
After graduating in 2014, Aneeka followed her passion for health sciences to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to study in the field of public health. While thriving amongst her peers, Aneeka has spent the last four years absorbing all the information she can, while jumping at opportunities that have come her way – whether it’s sitting on the executive board of an annual school event or embarking on a wilderness leadership retreat.
Similar to Ridley’s experiential-learning trip to South Africa, Aneeka spent a few weeks in Ecuador during her junior year of university. There, she explored one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world alongside leading experts in tropical biology. Although it was not her area of study, she welcomed the unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded individuals and conduct research that she may not have otherwise had the chance to partake in.
The school year is not the only time Aneeka embraces exceptional opportunities. During her summers, Aneeka has been conducting research with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and more recently, aiding in research done by Johns Hopkins University. In addition to her work in HIV, Aneeka recently began working with a team to conduct formative research on nutrition in rural Guinea mining communities. This summer, she will be traveling to Guinea in West Africa to conduct research and collaborate on this study with the local university.
While Aneeka’s endeavors are extensive, her present focus is completing her undergraduate degree and continuing her work in HIV stricken regions. In addition to this, Aneeka has already begun taking courses for the master’s degree she will be starting in September. “The program I will start focuses on social and behavioural interventions and will allow me to continue my research on behavioural trends in Baltimore’s HIV positive population,” shares Aneeka.
“I plan to spend a few years working after my master’s, before returning to school to complete a PhD in behavioral aspects of public health and hopefully move towards a career in academia.” – Aneeka Ratnayake ’14
Aneeka keeps her schedule full of rewarding experiences and opportunities that fuel her passions – demonstrating grit and determination. It is truly inspiring to see such a young individual transforming the globe.
To Ridleians who are exploring areas that interest them, Aneeka imparts:
“My biggest piece of advice would be to take opportunities presented to you, even if you don’t think they will be a perfect fit for your academic/personal goals. When I first applied for a summer internship [at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network], I was more interested in the neuroscience side of the work begin done than the public health side of things…However, I greatly enjoyed the work, and felt challenged by the greater social and behavioural aspects involved in HIV research. Had I not given this a chance…I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve been granted over the past four years.” – Aneeka Ratnayake ’14
TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.
Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to firstname.lastname@example.org.