Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Dr. Sarath Gunapala received his primary & secondary education from Nalanda College, Colombo. Dr. Gunapala received his BSc in physics from the University of Colombo and the PhD in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1986. He joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in 1992 where he is the Senior Research Scientist. Dr. Gunapala is actively involved in inventing and developing instruments for the use of space exploration, medical research, etc.
He developed an infrared photo detector which detects early stages of breast cancer. This sensor detects the infrared energy emitted by the body and has found many uses in other fields such as crime detection, pollution detection, weather prediction, monitoring crop health, tropical rainforest deforestation, etc. He was involved with the successful 2004 Mars mission and looking forward to the 2009 space lab mission. His dream is that the infrared techniques he developed would help humanity. He was inducted to the United States Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2001.