THE THREE top national awards for 2023 have been given to career scientists.
Professors Clement Imbert, John Agard and Pathmanathan Umaharan between them have more than a century of dedicated service not just in their spheres of study, but more compellingly, in the application of science to the development of culture, agriculture and the environment.
Imbert is professor emeritus in mechanical and metallurgical engineering at the University of West Indies. In addition to his scholarly work, he has pushed for accreditation of the local engineering fraternity and serves on the board of the Accreditation Council of TT, the board of governors of UTT and chairs the MIC Institute of Technology. At Cariri in 1974, he commissioned the first steelpan mechanical press and later co-founded the UWI Steelpan Development Centre. He also worked with the team that developed the G-Pan.
Professor Agard serves as the executive director of the Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development at the UWI. He has long been a voice, sometimes a lonely one, urging a serious and sustainable approach to local environmental issues. Agard participates as an author of the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change which has issued reports on climate change since 1988. It has taken decades for Agard's vision of a society that acknowledges the importance of living in harmony with nature to become widely accepted in TT. His research in natural resource management, water quality, marine and the world's ecology are an important resource for future scientists.
Dr Umaharan is a professor of genetics and the director of the Cocoa Research Centre at UWI, which he expanded into a full Campus Centre. The work of the centre under his guidance has provided a scientific nexus for efforts to resuscitate the cocoa crop in TT and the work on the continuity of the Trinitario strain. His work on curating a gene bank for cocoa and outreach to working farmers has dramatically improved the potential of cocoa's development.
Dr Umaharan's team has worked on the tolerance of cocoa crops to climate change, the development of the first molecular breeding programme in cocoa, the creation of a global cocoa DNA fingerprinting service and the certification of cocoa quality. The Cocoa Research Centre has been recognised as a top global cocoa research institution by the European Union.
In recognising the work of these three champions of the scientific method in TT across a range of disciplines, there is an important wider recognition of the role of science in our nation's development.
The Order of Trinidad and Tobago in 2023 has benchmarked the value of science in the nation's growth and encourages future generations to continue the pioneering work of these deserving recipients.