Sarah Gunasekera, a rising senior in the Honor College, is a double major in Applied Mathematics & Statistics and Biology, specializing in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics. She was recently awarded a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, and her independent research project under Dr. Carlos Simmerling involves using optimization methods to improve the computational tools used in RNA simulation. In her first year, Sarah began her undergraduate research journey with the Simmerling group, which led her to develop a profound appreciation for the ability of computational methods to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of expensive and time-consuming wet-lab experiments. 
This summer, she will continue her RNA simulation project at Stony Brook University as a Frances Velay Fellow.


The URECA website regularly features students' perspectives on research and/or creative activities.
Sarah Gunasekera is a student in the Honors College double majoring in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, and Biology with a specialization in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics. Sarah was recently announced as a recipient of the 2023 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national award recognizing outstanding undergraduates in math, science, and engineering – one of two Stony Brook students to achieve this honor in 2023.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Carlos Simmerling (Dept. of Chemistry), she performs optimization experiments on small RNA structures to refine computational tools. Sarah is a co-author of a paper “Accelerating the Ensemble Convergence of RNA Hairpin Simulations with a Replica Exchange Structure Reservoirpublished in the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation; was awarded a URECA summer fellowship in 2022; and this summer will be continuing her work on RNA simulation tools as a Frances Velay Fellow.  
Sarah has presented at Chemistry Research Day (Fall 2022), and the URECA Symposium (Spring 2023); has served as a General Chemistry Teaching Assistant (Fall 2021); and has held leadership roles as Vice President (AY 21-22) and President (AY 23-24) of the Stony Brook Tennis Club.
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