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Dr Ravindra Jayaratne

Dr Ravindra Jayaratne

Reader in Coastal Engineering, University of East London


Design, Water, Environmental Management


United Kingdom
My highlights

Awarded the Postgraduate Research Scholarship at National University of Singapore in 1998 

Awarded the Japanese Government Scholarship to pursue doctoral studies in 2001 

Written 100+ peer-reviewed journal and international conference articles in coastal engineering  

A day in my life

Every morning, after family commitments such as dropping my two daughters at their school at 8am, I go to the office at the University of East London's (UEL) Docklands Campus around 9am.

I generally have a Japanese green tea while I’m checking my daily emails and responding to urgent ones.

If I'm teaching (water engineering or mathematics) that day, I run through my lecture presentation slides/notes alongside the tutorial questions and answers.

I conduct one-to-one consultations with my project students – including PhDs – and provide feedback on their dissertation projects.

I also arrange project meetings with my research collaborators in the UK and overseas.

I contribute to the world coastal engineering community by accepting reviewer requests and reviewing their journal manuscripts.

Being a link tutor with UEL’s academic partners in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the UK, I solve academic queries raised by them.

I attend online CPD courses such as guest talks organised by the ICE. I get back home by 7pm every day.

On certain days, I have the flexibility to arrange and prioritise my workload.

The time has come to change our mindset and take ownership of saving the planet for us, and for future generations.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

I studied pure mathematics, applied mathematics, physics and chemistry for my A-levels in 1991.

I loved studying pure mathematics, particularly problems related to topics such as straight lines, parabolas, ellipses and hyperbolas. It was quite fun to use algebra to solve these questions.

The teaching style of my maths teacher at school was very inspiring. This led to good A-level results and getting into university in Sri Lanka.

Since the topics and modules of a civil engineering degree are tangible and visible (related to physical things), I chose civil engineering as a career.

Later on I decided to specialise in water engineering as I had some experience of flooding in Sri Lanka when I was a schoolboy.

We asked Ravindra

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

It’s an inspirational, exciting and rewarding profession solving complex engineering problems that humanity is facing by using mathematics and physics.

The infrastructure designs and solutions we develop for a particular engineering problem will be different from project to project. Therefore, civil engineers learn new things from their daily work.

Civil engineers work with people of various expertise and experience, helping people and the environment by designing and constructing sustainable, cost-effective infrastructure. This includes low-carbon buildings, roads with recycled materials, tunnels, dams, spillways and flood alleviation schemes.

Their design solutions consider extreme weather events, which have become worse due to climate change.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…

I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also a good maths teacher at all levels and a devoted gardener.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

Finding innovative solutions for complex civil engineering problems. Working with teams of various expertise and skills. Teaching theory and principles and applying it to real-world projects.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

Applying theory that I learned during my BSc and MEng degrees in real-world design and construction projects.

For example, finding correct depth of dredging, designing coffer dams, and coastal protection work (revetment design) under the reclamation project of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong islands in Singapore.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

I’ve been a research team member of key post-disaster field surveys (e.g. 2004 Indian Ocean, 2011 Tohoku tsunamis, etc) led by Waseda University, Japan.

I didn’t take part in some of their field surveys such as the 2010 Chile earthquake, 2013 Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines, 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia due to various academic commitments.

I wish I could’ve take part in these field studies to gain more knowledge about various destructive mechanisms of coastal defences and related infrastructure.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

Engineers are only good at technical subjects. I’ve been developing my essay writing skills and have great interest in investments.

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

Every citizen in the world has a part to play to save the planet from carbonisation and the climate crisis. Everyone needs to help make this planet safe for future generations.

The time has come to change our mindset and take ownership of saving the planet for us, and for future generations. It’s not someone else’s job to reduce the carbon footprint. This is our planet, and it’s our responsibility!

I make communities resilient by introducing adaptation to the expected climate situation.

My experience of working with Sturmer Flood Action Group in Essex under the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation grant in 2019 is an excellent example. 

To prepare for the natural hazards the community faces more frequently, they monitor water depth (surge) in nearby streams, installing a survey staff (measuring stick) and looking at the daily weather forecast.

Adaptation is also key to reduce the impact of climate change and the anxiety and stress that communities experience. They’re well prepared and they know the likely consequences before the natural disaster happens.

Moreover, I introduced the impacts of climate change into the design exercises (e.g. coastal defence structure and open channel/side weir) of my taught civil engineering modules at UEL.

Any hobbies?

Travelling, watching movies/dramas, and collecting pens and wristwatches.

Dr Jayaratne's career path

I obtained my BSc in Civil Engineering (Honours) degree from the University of Peradeniya in 1998.

I was awarded the Postgraduate Research Scholarship at National University of Singapore’s (NUS) in 1999 to pursue my Master of Engineering (MEng) degree in Coastal Engineering by research.

After completing my master’s degree, I was employed as a civil engineer at Toa Corporation. I worked on a land reclamation project merging Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong islands in the east coast of Singapore.

My role was to check the correct depth of dredging and produce shop drawings for construction.

While I was working there, I was offered the Japanese Government Scholarship (Monbukagakusho) in 2001 to pursue my doctoral studies in coastal engineering at Yokohama National University, in which I completed in 2004.

Once I returned to Sri Lanka in 2005, I was employed as a research engineer at Lanka Hydraulics Institute working on tsunami-rehabilitation work of damaged three fishery ports in southern part of Sri Lanka.

In 2006, I was employed as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Plymouth, working on a wave overtopping research project, funded by EPSRC.

I joined University of East London as a lecturer in civil engineering in 2008 and since then I have been contributing to both undergraduate and postgraduate civil engineering degree programmes.

I authored over 100 peer-reviewed journal and international conference articles in coastal engineering since 1998.

Major projects

  • “Fragility of coastal defence structures under tsunami-induced scour”, in collaboration with University of Michigan, funded by the Royal Society, UK, November 2021 – October 2023 (£12,000)
  • “Integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, in collaboration with UCL and Kansai University, Japan, funded by the Kansai University, April 2021 – March 2023 (£33,000)
  • “Relationship between beach profile evaluation and sediment mixing depth: Laboratory and mathematical modelling”, in collaboration with Yokohama National University, Japan, funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation (GBSF), June 2019 – November 2022 (£3,200)
  • “Compound flooding from tropical cyclone-induced sea surge and precipitation in Sri Lanka (C-FLOOD)”, in collaboration with University of Plymouth, UCL, University of Peradeniya, Coast Conservation & Coastal Resource Management Department of Sri Lanka, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), October 2018 – March 2022 (£252,804) 
  • “Awareness and preparedness of local communities in Vietnam and Indonesia under climate-driven and geophysical hazards”, in collaboration with Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Bandung Institute of Technology, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), November 2018 – July 2019 (£5,610)
  • “Understanding coastal erosion issues with a focus on the alleviation of natural hazards and risk analysis – A case study in Sri Lanka”, in collaboration with University of Tokyo, Yokohama National University, Japan and Coast Conservation & Coastal Resource Management Department of Sri Lanka, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF),November 2018 – July 2019 (£2,045)
  • “Community engagement in preparing for natural water disasters of different time and magnitude scales – A comparative study between UK and Japan”, in collaboration with UCL and Kansai University, Japan, funded by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, July 2018 – June 2019 (£7,000)