Outstanding Collegiate Member
Washington State University
For creating opportunities for women, underrepresented students, and international students in STEM; for strong leadership and compassionate mentoring; and for increasing graduate-level involvement and service to SWE.
Ayumi Manawadu is a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering at Washington State University (WSU), where she also earned an M.S. degree. She holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. Before visiting the U.S., Manawadu received recognition for her volunteer activities and academic performance as a Gates Cambridge Scholarship Award finalist, a top Emerging Young Leader of Sri Lanka, and a President’s Guide Award recipient.
She brought that same spirit of service to WSU when she became involved in the university’s SWE section. As the FY19 industry mentor program coordinator, Manawadu expanded its scope to include graduate students and developed a virtual component before it became necessary. A program that began with six mentor-mentee pairs blossomed to about 60 such pairs, offering students the chance to envision themselves in STEM careers. Then, she doubled the volunteer participation at the WSU SWE’s annual community outreach event, Kids’ Science and Engineering Day, to a record high of more than 300 students. Later, as vice president, she expanded the event further, increased funding, and introduced a graduate student spotlight to the section’s weekly newsletter.
Recognizing that graduate students have different needs, Manawadu established a SWE graduate group (GradSWE) at WSU. As the group’s director, she organizes events to help students succeed in graduate school and beyond. She also serves as the FY22 diversity and inclusion lead of the GradSWE leadership team to improve diversity among GradSWE groups nationwide. At the Society level, she was awarded the FY20 GradSWE Outstanding Individual award for “her commitment to SWE at WSU, STEM outreach, and community and cultural engagement.”
At WSU, Manawadu has taught two gateway courses in structural engineering to more than 140 undergraduate students as the primary instructor. She became the most effective and sought-after teaching assistant in the department and was honored with the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.
Her current research focuses on the mechanics and durability of concrete-shotcrete interface bonds. Specifically, she uses fracture mechanics, strength tests, and smart sensors to detect the long-term durability of concrete-shotcrete bonds. Presenting her research, Manawadu was among the top nine in the U.S. at the national three-minute thesis (3MT) showcase organized by the Council of Graduate Schools. She also won co-first place at the Western Regional 3MT Competition, runner-up of the WSU 3MT finals, and finalist at the WE20 Rapid Fire Competition. She received WSU’s Alfred Suksdorf Scholarship and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society membership following these accomplishments.
Outside of SWE, Manawadu was the Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Students Association president and has organized several events to support student success. She has mentored more than a dozen international engineering graduate students to help them acclimate to life in the U.S., especially during the pandemic. Manawadu has also organized numerous outreach events, including a tech-trek for community kids to visit WSU engineering laboratories. For her services to WSU, graduate students, and the community, Manawadu received the WSU President’s Award for Leadership, Graduate and Professional Students Association Senator of the Year award, and the Karen DePauw Leadership Award.
She is an avid traveler and enjoys cooking, playing basketball, and the outdoors.