Date of Birth: 1st Dec 1964

What institutions did she attend?

  • St Joseph TML School, Trinidad
  • St Augustine Girls’ High School, Trinidad
  • The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad- BSc in Physics, MPhil in Physics (Astronomy), PhD in Physics (Astronomy) granted in association with University of Virginia, USA

Other Achievements

  • Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching- The University of the West Indies, 2005
  • Distinguished Teacher Award from Association of Atlantic Universities, 2004
  • Recipient of the Most Outstanding Thesis Award for her PhD thesis on “Clustering of Galaxies in Pisces-Perseus”
  • Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

FUN FACTS:

Dr Haque enjoys popular science writing, photography, long drives with music, and quilt making. She collects Kelly dolls, and loves cooking and spending time with her two daughters.

Shirin Haque
Caribbean Women in STI

Dr Shirin Haque is the first woman to head the Department of Physics at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine. She is well known for advancing the study of astronomy at the university. Her research interests include quasars, cosmology, large scale structures and spin glasses. Her earlier work focussed on theoretical astronomy, the distribution of galaxies and possible blue shifts in quasars.

She is the co-founder of the Caribbean Institute of Astronomy (CARINA) and the Society for Physics Advancement Research and Collaboration (SPARC). She started an observational astronomy programme at St Augustine, in collaboration with the University of Turku in Finland, and its success brought international attention to UWI.

A strong believer in the importance of education, Dr Haque has distinguished herself as a dynamic student-centred instructor and an outstanding role model, especially to young women. She was the first in the department to make her courses available online, and has introduced a new course in astronomy for non-science majors. She also conducts astronomy workshops for teachers, provides career guidance to secondary students, and gives public lectures in astronomy. She was the co-chair of the International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA) held in Trinidad in 2009, with participants from 17 countries.

She is also working with universities in the USA, Canada and Finland on an astrobiology study of the Pitch Lake and mud volcanoes in Trinidad. Astrobiology is the interdisciplinary study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It encompasses the search for habitable environments. The local sites under study by Dr Haque’s team have an extreme environment for harbouring life since, at the subsurface, there is no light or nutrition as we know it. The findings can provide insights into how life began and whether it can exist on planets with similar conditions. The study has generated much interest and has been featured by the BBC and Discovery Channel.

Dr Haque speaks and writes in the media on topics in astronomy, and has produced two science documentaries for television, “Adventures in Discovery” and “All is Number”, with a third produced in 2012 entitled, “Losing Paradise”. She is also pursuing an MPhil in psychology, using wave technology and mathematical concepts to model psychological phenomena, e.g. how the impact of life events decays with time.

Shirin Tabassum Haque was born on 1st December, 1964 in Patna, India. She came to Trinidad with her parents at age 7 when her father, a plant virologist, was offered a position at UWI. She fondly remembers as a young child looking at the moon with a pair of binoculars and being blown away by its beauty.

Her advice to students is that, “There is so much in the natural world just waiting to be discovered. Never lose your childlike curiosity and fascination with things.”


CAREER INFORMATION

What is an astronomer?

Astronomers use physics and mathematics to learn about the nature of the universe. They study celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, planets, stars and galaxies. Modern astronomers spend a lot of time processing and analysing data. They develop their own computer programs and analysis techniques. Others work with radio telescopes like the Very Large Array to gather information.

The majority of astronomers spend their time conducting research. They also teach, design instruments, or work at
observatories. Their knowledge is used to solve problems in navigation, space flight and satellite communications, as well as to develop new instruments and techniques to observe and collect astronomical data.

Areas of Specialisation

  • Astrophysics
  • Astrobiology
  • Celestial mechanics
  • Radio and radar astronomy
  • Physical cosmology
  • Planetary science
  • Astronomical instrumentation

What do I need to study?

At CSEC and CAPE: Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry

Since astronomy is a subfield of physics, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in physics. Astronomers typically have a doctorate in physics or astronomy.

What skills and traits do I need?

  • Technological savvy to build instruments
  • Problem-solving and analytical skills
  • An inquisitive mind and imagination
  • Ability for abstract thinking
  • Reasoning
  • Observation skills
  • Patience and determination
  • Strong computing and communication skills

Famous Astronomers

  • Galileo Galilei
  • Johannes Kepler
  • Tycho Brahe
  • Caroline Herschel
  • Vera Rubin
  • Maria Mitchell
  • Edmund Halley
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