Focus on Lakshmi Wijeyewickrema

From Greenwich, London to Melbourne with a few pitstops along the way, we introduce you to Dr Lakshmi Wijeyewickrema, a biochemist at  La Trobe University.

After first stepping into the lush grounds of La Trobe University in 2015 as a Research Officer, Dr Wijeyewickrema progressed to Lab Head within the Infection and Immunity theme at La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) and is a favoured Biochemistry and Genetics lecturer.

A fascination with blood enzymes began 14 years ago when Dr Wijeyewickrema was undertaking her PhD, examining the effect of snake venom enzymes on human blood. Today her lab looks at the biochemistry of blood enzymes associated with immune response.

‘Enzymes are the unsung heroes of the body – without them life would be impossible. Enzymes also play an essential role in inflammation and other functions of the immune system. Inflammation is one of the body’s most important mechanisms for protecting itself against danger. Understanding how enzymes work is so important to understanding how we can prevent and fight disease,' said Dr Wijeyewickrema with her trademark enthusiasm.

Lakshmi is also a strong advocate for supporting and encouraging women in science, her laboratory is a #girlpower haven.

This passion for mentoring the next generation of scientists saw Lakshmi take on a teaching role at La Trobe (whilst continuing her research). ‘My students are an amazing group of humans. Diverse in every possible way.’

‘Each one of my students has challenged my way of thinking. I feel very privileged to be amongst them and I am quite sure they have taught me far more than I have taught them.’

When not in the lecture theatre or fulfilling her role as graduate research coordinator, you’re likely to find Lakshmi on the squash court. She has captained the La Trobe University A Cup Women’s squash team to a grand final and is known for challenging colleagues to take to the court for a friendly game. With Melbourne’s lockdown restricting team sports, Lakshmi has found a new obsession – becoming Queen of the Mountain on as many cycling Strava segments as possible. And with fervent dedication, she’s well on her way, within her allowed travel radius of course!

In 2022 Dr Wijeyewickrema looks forward to introducing a new group of first year university students to the world of science and mentoring her graduate research students.

Take a look at the benefits of studying Science at La Trobe University.