AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with Amarillo College announced that the university has named the first endowed Distinguished Research Scientist as part of the Badger Bold fundraising campaign.

Officials said that Dr. Asanga Ranasinghe, professor of chemistry, was honored with the appointment as he continues to develop new products and techniques, collaborate with other scientists in his field, and include students in paid lab research.

“Amarillo College is fast changing the perspectives about research at community colleges,” Vice President of Institutional Advancement Joe Bill Sherrod said. “Endowments such as this honor faculty for meritorious work, and our College is blessed to have exceptionally talented faculty who are enriching the academic environment and inspiring our budding scholars. Establishing research scientist endowments is among the foremost priorities of our College’s philanthropic efforts, and with Dr. Ranasinghe’s appointment I think we are off to a fabulous start.”

Ranasinghe, officials noted, joined AC in 2017 and researched new “drug-analysis methodologies, to automated liquid handling systems, construction of photovoltaic devices, electrochemical speciation of uranium…”

“I’m honored to have been selected for this endowed position, which is something you usually see only at big universities,” Ranasinghe said. “This will provide us with many excellent opportunities, especially for our students to enjoy research-related experiences normally associated with what graduate students get to do at the university level. We now have the wherewithal to perform proprietary research with an eye on intellectual property rights, generating revenue streams, and putting more students on the path to highly viable careers in the sciences, or even entrepreneurially.”

Officials added that Ranasinghe began a STEM Research Club and introduced research seminars into his chemistry classes. Some of the STEM students have joined Ranasinghe in his investigative research with the Amarillo Police Department and the FBI to analyze and identify illegal substances including fentanyl.

“We are constantly on call now for both those agencies,” Ranasinghe said. “Each has had representatives on our campus, and we are happy to participate in efforts to help identify and control illegal drugs in our community.”

The Amarillo College Foundation gave $250,000 towards Badger Bold, a campaign to establish the Distinguished Research Scientist endowment at AC. The campaign, officials said, aims to “enhance the College and transform the economic vitality of the region.”

Currently, the Badger Bold campaign has garnered $31.5 million with a goal of $45 million for the fundraising campaign.