Engineering innovator recognised

Press Release – University of Waikato

Engineering innovator recognised

Electrical Engineering Senior Lecturer Nihal Kularatna from the University of Waikato was named New Zealand Innovator of the Year at the New Zealand Engineering Excellence Awards at a gala dinner at Te Papa on 27 November.

The award recognises Mr Kularatna’s work in the field of electronic engineering during his career which spans 35 years.

When told he’d won the award, Mr Kularatna says he wondered if the judges had made a mistake.

“But I felt very happy,” he says. “I felt very mindful of the people who had helped shape my career over many, many decades.”

Mr Kularatna’s interest in electrical engineering began at an early age as he was growing up in Sri Lanka.

“I used to walk home from primary school across town with my friends. I started digging around in the garbage bins of radio repair shops picking up discarded components, which I didn’t know were resistors and capacitors. I enjoyed playing with them, and by the age of 10 I was able to use step-down transformers instead of batteries to light up bulbs.”

Post-high school, Mr Kularatna pursued his interest in electrical engineering, graduating with a BSc (Engineering)(Hons) from the University of Peradeniya in 1976.

From 1976 to 1985 he worked in Sri Lanka as an electronics engineer responsible for navigational aids and communications projects in civil aviation and digital telephone exchange systems. He started sending off articles about his research work to various electronic engineering magazines in the UK and US, and was surprised at how many ended up in print.

Mr Kularatna joined the Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in 1985 as a research and development engineer. He was appointed as CEO in 2000.

Mr Kularatna moved to New Zealand from Sri Lanka with his family in 2002 to take up a position at the University of Auckland, moving to the University of Waikato in 2006. His research work at Waikato is in the major area of power electronics and the sub-areas of supercapacitor applications, power conditioning and surge protection.

Mr Kularatna says one of the highlights of his career was having his first book – Modern electronic test & measuring instruments – published in 1996. He has authored seven books, with an eighth underway.

He has contributed over 100 papers to journals and international conference proceedings.

Initiated in 2005, the New Zealand Engineering Excellence Awards are the premier awards for engineering professionals in New Zealand. Leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship and young engineers are also recognised along with the use of leading-edge technology.


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