Professor Priyani Ashoka Paranagama graduated from the University of Kelaniya in 1986 with B.Sc. Honours degree in Chemistry with Second Class Upper Division. She joined the University of Kelaniya in 1990 as an Assistant Lecturer and proceeded to the Industrial and Technological Institute (ITI) to obtain her MPhil degree in Organic Chemistry in 1991. At ITI she was involved in analyzing spices and essential oils available in Sri Lanka. She obtained her PhD from University of Glasgow, UK in 1994 in the field of Bio Organic Chemistry and her PhD was based on mode of action of neem based biopesticides. In 2005 she was awarded the Fulbright fellowship to carry out her postdoctoral research at University of Arizona, USA on secondary metabolites of endophytic fungi and endolichenic fungi.
In 2003 she was promoted as a Professor and subsequently in 2011 as a Senior Professor, and in 2012 to the Chair of Chemistry. From 2009 to 2012 she served as the Head of the Department of Chemistry, University of Kelaniya. She has completed 25 years of service to the University of Kelaniya.
She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon and a Chartered Chemist (CChem) of the Royal Society of Chemistry. She is a member of several professional bodies in Sri Lanka. She was awarded the Dr. C. L. de Silva Gold medal for outstanding research in Chemical Sciences in 2015 and the M. U. S. Sultanbawa Gold Medal for achievements in her research career in 2008. She delivered the Professorial Oration on “A Journey through Sri Lankan Medicinal Plants, Essential Oils and Endolichenic Fungi; Bioactivity and Value Addition” at the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon in 2016. She participated in the conference organized by The World Academy of Science (TWAS) on shaping careers in Science in 2016. Professor Paranagama participated at this conference as one of the 40 outstanding scientists from developing countries. This conference was to discuss how the first international funding given to researches helped to propel their careers and the science in their home countries. She is a recipient of several national and international research grants, and received several honours and awards. She has published over 47 research papers in indexed journals, written or edited 7 books and published over 100 communications.
Her research interests are isolation and characterization of bioactive natural products from plants and endolichenic fungi, development of biopesticides, value addition of natural products and analysis of toxicity of trace metals. She has successfully supervised over fourteen postgraduate students and is currently supervising eight postgraduate students.
Professor Paranagama is involved in the educational programs conducted by the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon since 1995. She shared her knowledge and experience lecturing at College of Chemical Sciences. Furthermore, she held positions of the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon such as Secretary of the Council in 2004 and Secretary of the Admission and Ethical Practices Committee in 2009. Professor Paranagama is a Council member from 2003 to date, and a member of the Academic Board and the Board of Examiners. She served as a Full-time Visiting Senior Professor from January 2015 to October 2017. Professor Paranagama was the Dean, College of Chemical Sciences from June 2016 to October 2017. She was actively involved in preparation of documents for the institutional review of the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon in 2016. She served as the coordinator of many training seminars / workshops organized at the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon. She was the co-investigator of three research grants awarded from the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon and two of these research projects have been successfully completed. She has served as a supervisor for many undergraduate research students at the College of Chemical Sciences and enhanced their knowledge, experience and skills. In February 2018, she was appointed as the Director, Institute of Indigenous Medicine.