Mahendra Prinath Dias

BScEng, MS(USA), PhD(USA)

Associate Professor
Department of Electrical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
University of Moratuwa
Moratuwa 10400, Sri Lanka

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Email: dias@elect.mrt.ac.lk
Tel: +94-112650301 Ext:3205,
         +94-112653181
Fax: +94-112650625

I was born on the 4th of July 1951, as the eldest son of devout Christian parents, Shelton and Muriel Diasof Moratumulla, Moratuwa. I started my education at Moratumulla Methodist High School, which was then located in the premises of the Moratumulla Methodist Church, not very far from University of Moratuwa. I subsequently entered Prince of Wales’ College, Moratuwa and then Ananda College, Colombo, from where I sat for my GCE Advanced Level Examination, in 1968. My GCE Ordinary Level results were just one distinction and five credits and Advanced Level results were 2 Bs, 1C and 1S, which are very poor by current standards. But my Advanced Level results were good enough to secure admission to the Engineering Faculty of University of Peradeniya, in September 1969. I was in the last batch of students to be admitted to Universities purely on merit.

I was fortunate to be have been taught by teachers of the caliber of Prof. Kumar David, Prof. J.B.X. Devotta, Prof. J.A. Gunawardena, Prof. N.B. Rambukwella, Prof. LakshmanJayathilaka and Prof. W.P. Jayasekara, to name a few. Prof. Rohan Lucas was an instructor during my first year at Peradeniya. I graduated in 1974, with a Second Class (Upper Division) degree in Electrical Engineering and was appointed a Temporary Instructor and subsequently a Temporary Assistant Lecturer. A few months later on the 9th of September 1974, I joined University of Moratuwa, which was then the Katubedda Campus of University of Sri Lanka, as an Assistant Lecturer.

I got married in 1976 and my wife Kusum and I have a daughter and a son. Keshika graduated with a degree in IT from Curtin University through SLIIT, but has chosen a teaching career. She lives in Maryland, USA with her husband Sudila and baby daughter Kimaya and is a teacher at Tacoma Children's School in Washington DC. Sudila is working at the head office of World Vision International in Washington DC, after graduating with a Masters degree from the Fletcher School of International Affairs of Tuft University, Boston. Our son Praveen works as an IT Engineer at the London Office of Amadeus IT Group after graduating with anMEng. Degree from Imperial College, London.

 

I was fortunate to have been able to work under Prof. Sam Karunaratne who was Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering when I joined the University. Upon his suggestion I decided to specialize in Nuclear Engineering after being influenced by a book written by Eva Curie about her mother Marie Curie Slodowska. I had the good fortune to visit Radium Institute in Paris and see the original manuscript of this book and many other memorabilia of Madame Curie’s life, including her Nobel Prize awards. I completed my postgraduate studies in Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University of USA under a Fellowship awarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). During my last year at Texas A&M, I taught two Courses on Nuclear Reactor Theory to senior (final year) undergraduates and received a very good student feedback, which according to the Head of the Department Prof. Karl Erdmann was one of the best he had seen in his teaching career. I returned to Sri Lanka after completion of my postgraduate studies and was promoted lecturer in 1982, Senior Lecturer in 1989 and Associate Professor in 2001.

I was appointed Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka in 1992, a position I held until 2003, working under seven Ministers in three Governments. Highlights of my tenure at the AEA were construction of a new building at a cost of 110 million Rupees and establishing the laboratories required for the AEA’s scientific programme, adoption and implementation of Radiation Protection Regulations drafted according to international standards, establishing an organizational structure and increasing the AEA’s income eight fold. I also had the opportunity to host the then Director General of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, when he visited Sri Lanka.

 

I resigned from the University and from the Atomic Energy Authority in 2003 to accept an appointment as the Coordinator of the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) programme of the IAEA, in the Department for Technical Cooperation. RCA is an inter-governmental agreement among seventeen countries in the Asia and the Pacific Region, for regional cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. My duties involved managing 15-20 projects in any given year, annually organizing 40-50 regional training courses and technical meetings, annually organizing two high level policy meetingsand implementing the decisions made at these meetings. During my tenure extensive improvements were made to the procedure for developing the RCA technical programme and the procedures for implementing the RCA Projects. As a result the implementation rate increased from about 50% to 78% and fifteen Success Stories based on RCA projects were published. In 2010 I received the IAEA Distinguished Service Award, an annual award received by 6 staff members out of a staff of 2200, from the Director General of the IAEA, Dr. Yukiye Amano, for my contribution to the RCA. I also received a Merit Award for Team Work along with colleagues of the Department for Nuclear Sciences and Applications in 2005. The IAEA, along with its Director General, Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, during my tenure at the IAEA. All staff members were given a replica of the award.

I returned to Sri Lanka in 2011 after completing my tenure at the IAEA and re-joined University of Moratuwa as a Senior Lecturer.

The persons who influenced me mostly in addition to my parentswere, Prof. Sam Karuraratne, Dr. Douglas Nethsinghea former Chairman of the AEA and Dr. Clarence E. Lee, my advisor at Texas A&M University. I have tried my best to lead a life based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Below are a few photographs from my days at the IAEA.

Receiving the Distinguished Service Award from DG IAEA, Dr. Yukye Amano

With Deputy Director General for Technical Coopreation, Ms. Ana Maria Cetto

With collegues in the Asia and Pacific Divison

With Mr. Peter Salema, Director

Recipients of the Group Merit Award in 2005

Replica of the Nobel Peace Prize



© Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Katubedda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. 2012
Tel: +94 11 2650301 Ext:3200, Fax: +94 11 2650622