What institutions did she attend?

  • Meadowbrook Preparatory School, Jamaica
  • St Andrew High School for Girls, Jamaica
  • The University of the West Indies- BSc in Special Chemistry, PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry

Other Achievements

  • Licensed Reactor Operator 1 for the Canadian SLOWPOKE-II research reactor used to analyse soil, plant and food samples
  • Consultant to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency on the increased use of under-utilised research reactors
  • Promoted to Senior Lecturer at UWI, 1992
  • Co-supervised several postgraduate projects

FUN FACTS:

She loves to dance and was a founding member of the L’Acadco Dance Company in Jamaica. She also paints and had her first joint exhibition in 2009. As part of her community involvement in Germany, she assists a high school with their theatre and musical productions.

Hilary Ann Robotham Westmeier (Date of Birth: 3rd Nov 1955)

Caribbean Women in STI

Dr Hilary Ann Robotham Westmeier is a chemist who specialises in applications of nuclear analytical techniques. She was the lead scientist under the directorship of Professor Gerald Lalor at the Centre for Nuclear Sciences, now called the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS), at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica. There, she managed the activities of the facility, developed its multi-disciplinary research projects and supervised laboratories. Her role at ICENS was an enormous challenge for a young woman who had only just completed her doctorate and had little work experience. ICENS, nevertheless, became internationally recognised as a centre of excellence during her tenure from 1983 to 1993.

While at ICENS, her main research work involved the mapping of the geochemistry of soils and radiation levels throughout Jamaica. She was instrumental in setting up a pilot facility for monitoring the exposure levels of workers who handled radioactive materials or worked with radiation, and she helped to develop methods and programmes for monitoring chemical pollutants in the environment.

Throughout her career, Dr Westmeier has conducted training in nuclear analytical techniques and radiation safety in several countries including El Salvador, Costa Rica, Greece, Mongolia and Thailand. As Collaborating Scientist at Dr. Westmeier GmbH in Germany, she is involved in an exciting project investigating the transforming of highly reactive long-lived nuclear waste to safer states – a process known as nuclear transmutation.

Hilary Ann Robotham Westmeier (née Davis) was born on 3rd November, 1955 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She enjoyed school, and loved mathematics and literature. Her parents had a hard time finding enough books for her to read. She credits her success to being guided by a “village” of people with love, patience, understanding and foresight.

She advises students that, “There is nothing magical or exotic about being a scientist…it is often a difficult road to travel, but it’s exciting, stimulating and endlessly full of surprises.”


CAREER INFORMATION

What is an analytical chemist?

Analytical chemists investigate the composition and chemical nature of substances and try to understand how they behave under different conditions. They study both natural and man-made materials. Using nuclear analytical techniques, they can, in many instances, reach very high sensitivity and study materials with very high precision. Moreover, nuclear techniques are used to modify the identity of individual atoms in a material, thus making possible the identification and quantification of individual elements.

The work of nuclear analytical chemists has many uses and is in high demand globally. These scientists develop processes and products (molecules), calibrate procedures, standardise experimental results, and develop new tools to provide more accurate chemical information. They contribute to solving problems in almost all areas of chemistry, and they work in industry, universities and government. Their work helps in setting environmental standards; assessing the quality and safety of food, drugs and water; and aiding with the diagnosis of diseases.

Areas of Specialisation

  • Instrumental analytical chemistry
  • Inorganic or organic analytical chemistry
  • Nuclear spectroscopy

What do I need to study?

At CSEC and CAPE: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry, with a major in analytical chemistry, is required. One can also major in nuclear chemistry, which has many uses and is in demand globally. A master’s degree or doctorate and continuing education are important for professional advancement.

What skills and traits do I need?

  • Good laboratory skills
  • Solid background in chemistry
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience and precision
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Computer and instrumentation skills
  • Ability to work on teams

Famous Nuclear Chemists

  • George Charles de Hevesy
  • Damiaan de Soete
  • Gerhart Friedlander
  • Amares Chatt