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Sri Lankan student comes to Lassonde to pursue passion for space

Krishnika Raveendranathan, photo by Elaine Smith
Krishnika Raveendranathan. Photo by Elaine Smith.

Article written by Elaine Smith.

A childhood fascination with science fiction movies brought Lassonde School of Engineering student Krishnika Raveendranathan across the ocean from Sri Lanka to study space engineering at York University, where she is currently doing a co-op term with aerospace company Pratt & Whitney.

“I’m passionate about the space industry,” says Raveendranathan. “I was always fascinated by science fiction and it made me curious about how you actually went to space.”

Her curiosity led her to York, once she began to research space engineering as a possible field of study after high school.

“York has one of Canada’s leading space engineering programs, so it seemed practical,” Raveendranathan says. “When I was accepted, I was very excited.”

Now in her final year of study, Raveendranathan is as passionate as she was upon entering the space engineering program.

“We learn about space science and satellites, but also take a mix of electrical and mechanical engineering courses, so I am learning a wide range of engineering topics,” she says. “It gives me a broader scope to choose my career path.

“The courses are very interesting and when you like what you are doing, the passion is there.”

Raveendranathan has recently begun a co-op term as an aerodynamic intern with Pratt & Whitney, working on aircraft engine aerodynamics. Although she is still training there, she is excited about being able to apply classroom theory to an industry engineering problem.

“This will be a whole new level of experience,” she says. “Aviation is different from what I do now, so it will give me insights into what that industry is all about. I’m glad I ended up here.”

Raveendranathan may be new to aviation, but she isn’t a co-op novice. Last summer, she worked as an intern for Lassonde’s k2i Academy, a program that brings high school students to campus to do research with help from Lassonde student mentors.

She and a fellow intern helped a group of about 10 high school students create a smart sensing light system using machine learning. They were responsible for giving lessons and providing guidance as the youth worked on their project.

“I liked mentoring and teaching,” she says. “The students were almost our age, so it wasn’t like a teacher-student relationship; it was more like a friendship environment. I gained a lot of experiences and connections myself.”

Making connections and friends has been a constant during Raveendranathan’s university career. After taking her first-year courses online during the COVID-19 pandemic, she came to Canada knowing no one but family and casual connections made during York International’s online coffee breaks. Volunteering, work-study positions and joining clubs have allowed her to make friends.

Raveendranathan volunteered for York International, arranging online coffee breaks for international students on campus to meet each other and she worked as a campus ambassador at Lassonde events and university fairs. She also joined the Lassonde Engineering Society.

“If there was one thing I would tell international students, it’s not to be shy: Just get involved, talk to people and make friends,” she says. “Through connections, you learn a lot.”

Although she doesn’t yet know where her own career and connections will lead her, space is still her passion, as is helping other students from Sri Lanka who want to pursue a similar interest. Meanwhile, she’s enjoying her final year at York.

“I love York: the culture, the diversity and the people. There are a lot of opportunities for students to learn and I’m glad I chose to come here.”