Associate Professor - Soil and Environmental Chemistry
Dr. Ganga Hettiarachchi is one of the top up-and-coming young scientists in the field of soil chemistry. But her interests also encompass the less scientific world of literature. A native of Sri Lanka, she grew up in the suburbs of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, reading a wide range of novels.
“My native language is Sinhalese, and fortunately for me when I was growing up, many of the world’s classic novels have been translated into Sinhalese. This allowed me to gain an understanding of many other cultures,” she says. She was not alone in her love for reading. Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, and the highest in South Asia, she adds. Among her favorite novels, by the way, is "The Good Earth," a 1931 novel by Pearl S. Buck about family life in a Chinese village.
As a soil chemist, Dr. Hettiarachchi is helping remediate and reuse soils mildly contaminated with trace elements and organic compounds into productive soils, such as community gardens. Her research also focuses on understanding reaction products of soil-applied nutrients. Her goal is to help optimize crops’ access to nutrients as well as minimize environmental issues associated with off-site movement of excess nutrients