Date of Birth: 20th Dec 1946

What institutions did she attend?

  • Tortuga Anglican Primary School, Trinidad
  • Fifth Company AC School, Trinidad
  • Naparima Girls’ High School, Trinidad
  • The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, Trinidad- BSc in Chemistry and Botany, PhD in Agriculture

Other Achievements 

  • Recipient of UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award, 2010
  • Member of the Organisation of Women Scientists in the Developing World (OWSDW)
  • Member of the Bioethics Society of the English-speaking Caribbean
  • Past Member of the American Society of Plant Physiologists and the New York Academy of Science
  • Senior Fulbright Award, University of Minnesota, 1996

FUN FACTS:

She enjoys dancing, travelling, meeting new people, and working with youth.

 

She also likes collecting cook books and recipes, and creating amazing cakes and breads.

Grace Sirju-Charran
Caribbean Women in STI

UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Awardee, Dr Grace Sirju-Charran is a respected plant biochemist and lecturer who is well known for her special interest in gender studies. She has contributed to the field of plant science through her study of tropical tuber crops and legumes. Work on her doctoral thesis led to the discovery that sweet potato, which produces root tubers, can also produce stem tubers, and that light was an important environmental factor in this process. This process was repeated in research on cassava. Hoping to find out more about the influence of light on the genes involved in tuberisation in tropical crops, she is conducting studies on storage organ formation in greenhouse-grown and tissue-cultured plants of tropical tubers such as cassava, sweet potato and yam. These studies aim to compare the biochemistry of root and stem tubers in sweet potato and cassava and to determine the influence of light on storage organ formation.

Dr Sirju-Charran has also contributed to the field of gender studies as she is committed to examining the dynamics between gender and science, and gender and agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago. She developed and taught an undergraduate course on gender and science at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, Trinidad, and is working on a publication entitled “Perspectives and Contributions of Caribbean Women Scientists”. In 2003, she received the Centre for Gender and Development 10th Anniversary Award.

Dr Sirju-Charran has given dedicated service to the National Commission of UNESCO and chaired its sub-committee on science. She also gave service to the national Environmental Management Authority and non-governmental organisations for women and gender affairs.

Her long career in teaching science began at Naparima Girls’ High School, after which she then moved on to Aranguez Junior Secondary School. She now holds the post of Senior Lecturer at UWI, St Augustine. She is also a former Head of the Department of Life Sciences and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies.

Grace Sirju-Charran was born on 20th December, 1946 in Princes Town, Trinidad but spent most of her childhood in the quaint village of Tortuga. She remembers herself as always being inquisitive about nature from an early age. This interest propelled her outstanding academic performance in the sciences and, later, a rich professional life in teaching and research. She describes her greatest achievement as being able to manage a family of a husband and three children, while also building a career in a male-dominated field. Her life motto is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… to give is to receive.”


CAREER INFORMATION

What is a plant biochemist?

Plant biochemists study the chemical composition of plants. They work towards understanding how biological, chemical and environmental factors influence the way plants grow. These scientists work at universities, governmental agencies, research institutes and for large companies that produce pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, foods, feeds, and consumer products. They also improve and develop techniques to cultivate crops, control pests, and extend crop storage life.

What do I need to study?

At CSEC and CAPE: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics

At the tertiary level, a bachelor’s degree in biology, botany, environmental science, biochemistry or chemistry with
specialities in cell biology, genetics, molecular biology or biophysics is compulsory. To undertake research or teaching at a senior level, an MSc or PhD degree is needed in plant biochemistry or a related field.

What skills and traits do I need?

  • An interest in nature and the environment
  • Organisation skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Good observational skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Patience and perseverance

Famous Plant Biochemists

  • James F. Bonner
  • Joseph E. Varner
  • Marshall D. Hatch
  • R. John Ellis
  • Jan Anderson
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