ONGOING POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH

 

Priscilla J. Sahadeo

The overarching aim of her research is to enhance the quality of cocoa beans by investigating the drying kinetics and optimizing drying techniques for a greenhouse-type dryer.

 

Sasha Ramkhelawan

Her research focuses on the early identification and prevention of acute myocardial infarction, commonly referred to as a heart attack. Her objectives are to determine the risk factors for heart attacks in Trinidad and Tobago and to develop a predictive model specific to this population. Through collaborations with public and private healthcare institutions, she is collecting data from patients with and without previous diagnosis of heart attacks via the use of questionnaires and physical examinations.

Given that heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death globally and locally, she is hope-filled about how her research can contribute to society. She believes her research can be beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago since it can potentially reduce the number of deaths due to heart attacks, thereby increasing life expectancy in her beloved country. This potential to positively impact her country and its population is the main reason for her consistency and dedication towards her research.

 

Nkese D. Mc Shine

She is investigating the areas of the Caribbean that will be subjected to declining wind resources under various projected climate change scenarios. This will advise on energy policies for Caribbean islands as they incorporate more wind power into their energy mix.

 

Nalini Dookie

The objective of her research is to develop a pre-feasibility modelling tool to estimate the energy output of utility scale photovoltaics in islands with limited solar radiation data sets and thus, to estimate the levelized cost of electricity generation from photovoltaics in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Brandon Rajkumar (Graduated with high commendation)

Sunspots are complex and chaotic features on the photosphere of the sun, which are direct indicators of solar magnetic activity. Solar magnetic activity can negatively impact power lines and communication systems here on Earth. As such, it is important to understand their creation and behaviour. By studying sunspots, we hope to gain a better understanding of their chaotic nature and thus improve our ability to predict solar magnetic activity. Brandon’s research utilizes fractal geometry to analyse white light images and magnetograms, collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, so that the chaotic nature of sunspot umbrae and penumbrae, as well as the magnetic fields which drive them, can be understood.

 

Ariel Chitan (thesis submitted)

The three-body problem dates back to Newton’s Principia. How do three bodies under the gravitational influence of each other move in time? The problem is easily stated yet finding a general solution has eluded the greatest of minds such as Newton, Lagrange, Euler and Poincaré to just name a few. This is because in the general case, the three-body problem is unsolvable. Her research focuses on the three-body problem as applied to black holes.

How does a system of three interacting black holes evolve through time? We study the effect of mass of the black holes, distances among the three black holes and spin of the black holes on this evolution. We can solve, numerically, specific three body configurations with the help of FORTRAN for orbital integration and MATLAB for data analysis. The final parameters we consider are: 1. The number of mergers of black holes, 2. The number of binary encounters, and 3. The lifetimes of the systems.

 

Justin Singh

The focus of Justin’s research is the Statistical Analysis of Quasars in terms of their spectroscopic redshift, identification, and the possibility of blue shifting. Quasars are a subgroup of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). AGNs are supermassive black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies and are actively ‘feeding’ on matter. Quasars are usually billions of light-years away but are sometimes mistaken for stars due to their brightness. They have a luminosity so large that they outshine their entire host galaxies. Because of these behemoths’ large distances away from the earth and the expansion of the universe, the light from them is redshifted when they reach earth. However, the widely accepted redshift scenario is not without some inconsistencies. This research delves into some of these inconsistencies and investigates the possibility of a complementary blue shift scenario to the redshift scenario.

 

Ethan Wyke

After having gained a great appreciation for quantum physics, genetics, and biochemistry throughout his undergraduate years, his main interest is in the emerging field of quantum biology – the use of quantum mechanical analysis to explain biological phenomena. Currently, he is working on quantum biophotonics related research (i.e., photosynthesis) utilizing computational techniques to examine theoretical quantum models of photosynthesis such as in the light-harvesting I reaction centre complex (LH1-RC) found in purple photosynthetic bacteria.

 

Bryan Hibbert

Bryan’s foremost interests are the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. His current research involves experimentation with an English conversational-telephone-speech (CTS) transcription system which is based on artificial neural networks (ANNs). This research seeks to build upon the research of Microsoft and IBM by investigating the impact of implementing a competitive English CTS transcription system using field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). In particular, the impact on the system’s footprint, power requirement, and latency will be investigated.

 

Stephanie Mohammed

The concept associated with bio-electromagnetic principles and tissues effect from the intermediate frequency range has been explored and forms the basis of her research. On a daily basis we are fully exposed to a substantial amount of Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) from both natural (lightning and sunlight) and manmade sources (radio, cell phones, power lines, electrical appliances and medical equipment). This classification of frequency radiation exposure is considered non-threatening because of the insufficient energy it has to produce damage in biological tissue. Yet, the effect of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) generally on the human body can be devastating for health or essential for physiological processes. In fact, certain frequencies have been used and are currently being used in many medical devices. Our aim is to test the effect of Radio frequency EMR during the development of Induced - Polycystic Ovaries using Sprague Dawley Rats. In polycystic ovaries, proliferation of cells to form cysts affects receptor expression and growth in response to signal exposure which brings about some of the symptoms associated with the condition such as anovulation, hirsutism, and multiple cysts.

 

Randy Ramadhar Singh

Randy is assessing various energy transition pathways for Trinidad and Tobago away from a natural gas-based economy to a renewable energy future.

 

Nikolai Mohammed

Nikolai's research is focused on determining the wave power potential across the Caribbean region and locating areas of high wave power resources for further study using wave power technologies.

 

Vekash Khan

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) are living, galvanic electrochemical systems in which the anoxic activity of microorganisms on waste matter generates electrons and cations and hence electricity.  We are doing experimental work on designing and optimizing MFC prototype for its applications towards clean and sustainable energy generation, wastewater treatment, oil spill remediation or some other bio-remediated activities.

According to the EMA, there has been 377 oils spills in Trinidad between 2015 and 2018. Consequently, petroleum substances and chemicals are contaminating sea water which cause alarm due to the toxicity and effects on the human population, wildlife and the environment. MFC is a non-invasive remediation technique that can repair the contaminated entities organically. Currently, the materials used for this technology are expensive, along with the energy production being minimal, which means the technology is not yet ready for commercialization. Vekash’ s research will play significant role in understanding how this technology can be applicable to oil spills in Trinidad, considering the number of spills the island had in the recent years.

 

Marisa Singh (awarded with Phd Physics 2016)

More than eighty percent of the world energy consumption stems from fossil fuels. This cannot be sustained given the limited resources and greenhouse gas production. The fuel cell is one of the most promising forms of renewable energy sources available to us presently and is already being used in many applications around the world. Fuel cells are electrochemical energy conversion devices that use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and water. There are different types of Fuel cells that operate using different fuels and they are usually characterized by the type of electrolytes employed in them as well as their working temperatures.

My research involves developing a new electrolyte for direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), an intermediate temperature fuel cell that uses methanol as its fuel. Nafion is the commercially available membrane on the market however; it still has its fair share of problems such as cost and complex fabrication processes etc. Therefore, there is a need to develop a new membrane or improve the already available Nafion membrane. My research involves a new series of anhydrous binary and ternary acid-base electrolyte systems that have been developed using various acids, bases and polymers. Their properties are analyzed to determine their suitability for use in DMFCs. 

 

Candis Suzie Ragoonath

“There are numerous Renewable Energy Resources available to us here on Earth. However, the lack of harnessing and implementing these resources are great. One such form of this non depleting resource that can limit our exhaustion of fossil fuels is that of Geothermal Energy. This energy utilizes the natural heating from the Earth’s interior resulting from the process of Radiogenic decay. When this thermal radiogenic heat is coupled with a suitable geofluid it can then be extracted to provide a source of Renewable energy for both direct and indirect usage.

My Research contribution to this disciplinary area will seek to investigate and analyse the following:

For countries such as Trinidad that do not posses these natural geothermal reservoirs, an Enhanced Geothermal System, (EGS) can be implemented to create the reservoirs artificially given  that the geologic settings  and specific Geothermal parameters are suitable to support the reservoir.

Implementation of an EGS requires proper reservoir profiling in order to attain a suitable geothermal gradient, as it is an important factor that will determine whether such a system can be developed to harness this form of renewable energy in this country.”

 

Shaazia Salina Mohammed (awarded with MPhil Physics 2016)

“Tobago’s reefs like any other are subjected to a number of natural and anthropogenic stressors. However, the most pervasive of these is that of increasing sea temperature that has resulted in unprecedented bleaching events. Monitoring of these events has therefore become imperative. At present the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed certain remote sensing methods using sea surface temperature (SST) to predict bleaching.  These predictions however, are usually underestimated due to the low resolution (50km) of the dataset.

My research contributes to improving this by utilizing a higher spatial resolution (4km) dataset to assess reefs specifically around Tobago. Analysis of these two datasets allows for improved predictions that can be useful to better management practices within the reefs.”

 

Tennille Marajh

The main objective of this research was to examine the performance of a horizontal ground-coupled heat exchanger for space cooling/air-conditioning in Trinidad, West Indies. In this study, the underground was used as a heat sink, in light of the fact that Trinidad, as well as the other Caribbean islands, only experience the dry and wet seasons. Consequently, the aim was to provide air conditioning for a small office, with water heating as a by-product. Various mathematical software were used to model, simulate and monitor the effects of heat transfer for a horizontal GHP system by using in-situ ground data and as a result, determine the temperature influence on the surrounding soil. An underground temperature survey is fundamental when assessing the possibility of implementing GHP systems in any region. Weather data was also used to incorporate thermal effects on the ground, since the loops were considered to be at a shallow depth. The total cooling load for the office was calculated and the minimum length of the geothermal heat exchangers required was determined. Modeling of the heat exchangers was performed for normal operating conditions and simulation, with validation, was completed for a 1-year period, in order to investigate the feasibility of using GHP systems for air-conditioning in Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension, the Caribbean region.

 

Chelsea Manwah (awarded with MPhil Physics 2016)

Anthropometry is the study of human body measurements, whereas physical anthropometry refers to the measurements of the human body in order to distinguish physical differences among human beings (Barthol 2010). These measurements are then referred to as anthropometric data. Anthropometric databases are compilations of anthropometric data for a specific population, developed to accurately represent the physical composition of that user population and are sampled based on innate variables such as age, sex and ethnicity. Consequently, research (Pheasant 1986) has shown that even with in a relatively homogeneous group of people, there are measurable differences in body shape and size that arise among people of the same inherent characteristics due to variation in individual lifestyle, living and working conditions which lead to variations in anthropometric characteristics worldwide. The Trinidad and Tobago Republic has one of the most uniquely ethnically heterogeneous populations of the Caribbean. As such  anthropometric and somatic characteristics of the local  user population will not be accurrately defined  by any other population or their anthropometric characteristics.

My research aims to start the development of an anthropometric database for the Trinidad and Tobago population. Having received certification as a Level I Technician by the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK) in 2013, this research is currently in the data collection phase. The anthropometric protocols being utilized in this project are those outlined in ISO 15535: 2012 in order to collect high quality data in accordance with international standards. Applications of population specific anthropometric data are far- reaching both to the academic community as well as industry as it is an essential tool used in industry where there is a human-workspace interaction. As a developing nation, suitably designed products are in high demand both for industry and for the everyday consumer. Thus the need for population specific anthropometric data is increasing rapidly. The lack of local anthropometric data leads to problems not only in industry, workspace and equipment design but also can lead to the poor design of school and office furniture that can lead to onset of certain musculoskeletal disorders.

 

Randy Koon Koon (awarded with Phd Physics 2017)

The current research is based on further developing the understanding of the Winnipeg and Deadwood formations of Estevan, Canada. The rationale of the research is to add towards the collective known pool for the future establishment of Canada’s first Geothermal Power Plant at Estevan. The well and core data are selectively attained from AccuMap – an oil and gas mapping, data management and analysis software for companies operating in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and Frontier areas. Firstly by inserting all relevant data into the developed mathematical model all its analytical solution and plots are attained. A direct comparison of these solutions and plots for these formations can be compared to a conventional type geothermal system. The primary solution that these systems exhibit is the extent of thermal expansion the fracture walls experience due to the thermal strain of the geothermal fluid. Secondly to obtain further insight as to the degree of deformation and also to acquire velocity profiles across these formations, a numerical process is pursued that involves performing simulations. The Multiphysics software COMOSL is utilized to acquire such simulations (3D plots, graphs). Darcy’s velocity flow profiles are coupled with temperature and integrated with the mechanical design of the system to yield simulations that illustrate the extent of the behavior that these fractured systems exhibit.

 

Kerrilee Stewart (awarded with Phd Physics 2016)

“At the Department of Physics, UWI St. Augustine Campus, Fuel Cell Materials Research Lab (FCMRL), research into new proton conducting materials is carried out. This includes the synthesis and modification of titanium dioxide nanotubes, novel polymers and polymer grafting using ozonolysis. The lab also has a fuel cell test station which can be utilized to simulate the behaviour of the materials synthesized in actual fuel cell conditions. Research into the use of ionic liquids in Dye sensitized solar cells and lithium battery materials are also carried out.”

 

Stasha Balkissoon (awarded with MPhil Physics 2014)

A study to access the rainfall aggressiveness nature for the Caroni region. This study employs the use of the Modified Fournier Index which describes the rainfall aggressive nature for data scare regions such as the Caroni Basin in Trinidad. The use of 6 rain gauge stations in this study was use to analyze the rainfall distribution and its spatial and temporal nature of the rainfall aggressiveness. Overall, the basin is considered very aggressive when using the CORINE classification. It is noted that from the results obtained that the windward stations are more aggressiveness than the leeward stations and the return period of the MFI is station dependent.  Also, the distributional study indicates that the MFI follows either a lognormal distribution or a normal distribution for these stations and there is no visible spatial pattern for the probability distributions for the six stations under this study. 

 

Sharlene Beharry

Topic of research: Rainfall and temperature in Trinidad and Tobago.

Climate analyses and impact assessments are critical to the sustainable development in small islands states. Water resources, agriculture, ecosystems, coastal zones and health are all vulnerable to a changing climate. Currently, Trinidad and Tobago is focus of the statistical analyses of rainfall, temperature and related extreme events. The results of these are essential inputs in development of impact models of the individual sectors previously mention, of a changing climate in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

 

Nia Thompson

The greatest design advantage of the photovoltaic (PV) solar cell, is that the greater the intensity of the solar radiation incident on its surface, the greater the amount of current that can be generated. However, the solar radiation can only be absorbed within a particular range of wavelengths dependent on the material from which the PV cell is made. The remaining spectral wavelengths is absorbed as heat, which means the greater the intensity of the solar radiation, the greater the temperature of the cell which lowers the conversion efficiency of the cell which limits the current flowing through the cell. PV cells are manufactured to specific performance parameters set at STC, which do not naturally occur in the real world environment (especially not at near equator latitudes). My research aims to investigate the effect of this excess heat on the performance parameters of a poly-crystalline solar cell, and develop a method for cooling the cell making use of the ‘waste’ heat.

 

Sarah Sue Calbio (awarded with MPhil Physics April 2012)

Transiting exoplanets are among the most interesting and actively studied astronomical objects of our time. Their discovery, by time series of photometric measurements, is complicated by the fact that there are many other astrophysical scenarios that mimic their transit signatures. As such, all suspected transiting planets, discovered by transit search surveys, must first be vetted using follow-up high precision spectroscopic observations. Unfortunately, this type of spectroscopic measurement is difficult to come by; it requires large telescopes, specialized equipment and relatively extensive chunks of observing time. This places a premium on the need to pre-select candidates such that, those which are most promising are treated with priority and are vetted first. My work focused on such a pre-selection technique, which can be used to prioritize transiting planet candidates for follow-up observations.

 

Monica Boodhan

Solar distillation is a process that is analogous to the naturally occurring hydrological cycle. It employs solar energy to purify brackish, saline or otherwise impure water. The product water is of a very high state of purity, free of dissolved salts, minerals, pathogens, bacteria and the vast majority of other contaminants found in impure water. This project seeks to optimize the performance of an array of cascade-type solar distillation systems located on the rooftop of the Natural Sciences Building of the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad. Various parameters, inclusive of glazing thickness and still orientation, were investigated in the first part of the experimental work. Secondly, the effect on the rate of distillation due to the addition of heat storage materials was investigated. Geometrical parameters such as orientation of the solar still, thickness of the glazing and the use of heat storage materials were seen to have significant impacts on the performance of cascade design solar stills. Furthermore, the investigative work validated a correlation between meteorological parameters such as solar radiation, ambient temperature and the productivity of solar stills.

 

Melissa De Freitas

The La Soufriere volcano is a live volcano, having erupted three times since 1902, with its most recent eruption occurring in 1979. A field reconnaissance study (1996) revealed hot springs on the south western flank of the La Soufriere volcano, along the Wallibou River. Chemical analysis of these springs pointed towards a conclusion that the fluids were derived from a deep geothermal reservoir mixed with surface water. Caribbean Power Ltd later confirmed evidence of geothermal subsurface manifestation acquiring low resistivity readings along the Wallibou sector of the volcano confirming the presence of a hydrothermal system. The geothermal gradient beneath the island however is unconfirmed since to date no wells have been drilled into the prospective hydrothermal system.

  

Shane Baldeosingh

The Objective of my research is to examine the impact of sea level rise on low lying areas located at four sites in Trinidad:

  • Caroni Swamp 
  • Godineau
  • Nariva Swamp
  • Icacos

Inundation or salt water intrusion in the coastal areas of our country, pose a major threat to agricultural land use, population and ecosystem services. Historically within the four (4) study sites, Major barriers for the Creek Road, Groins on the East Coast and Preservation of the Mangrove in Caroni would have halted the intrusion of salt water inland. However with increasing sea level, we are seeing that this is no longer enough. The methods which I am using is GIS and SimCLIM: GIS will be utilized to look at past and present impacts of the study areas, while the SimCLIM software will be used to examine current impacts and develop future scenarios, in which the results will show impacts on agriculture, housing, ecosystems, and the economic cost of sea level rise. Using these impact models, adaptation strategies to slow down future impacts of climate change will be developed.  

 

Shazaad Ali Shah (awarded with MPhil Physics in 2013)

Solar Disinfection (SODIS) is the method usually applied internationally to purifying water in rural areas when pipe borne water is not available. Using Poly Ethylene Terephtalate (PET) bottles the process takes 4 hours under the environmental conditions of Trinidad and Tobago. We have built and tested a portable reactor for decontamination on a larger scale than that possible with bottles. The active surface of this reactor is a coating of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on frosted glass or on a flexible plastic surface coated with glass ballotini of average diameter 0.5 mm. The plastic surface is more suitable for use in rural areas and post disasters situations. In each case Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (35nm) were deposited by a sedimentation process. E. coli contaminated water placed in the reservoir of the reactor was pumped over the active surface at a rate of 48 L/hr while it was exposed to sunlight. E. coli degradation was rapid for the both surfaces, total elimination taking place within 10 to 30 minutes depending on the solar conditions.

 

Jamin Atkins (awarded with Phd Physics 2020)

With large deployment of computer based technology for many different purposes has created the need for a more natural method of interfacing with these devices. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) is one of the techniques currently used to allow communication with computer systems via the use of natural language. While ASR systems with recognition accuracies of nearly over 95% have been reported in laboratory conditions, the stark differences from the real world environment make it particularly difficult to implement these systems in real world conditions and attain the same level of performance.  The reality of the situation is that when these systems are implemented in the real world the recognition accuracies are usually between 30 -45% which is unacceptable. The main reason for this drop is accuracy is the presence of background noise.  Being random in nature it is very difficult to predict the changes that the different kinds of background noise can impart on the signal.

This research specifically aims to target the effect of Babble Noise clean speech and to provide insight to possible negation. Babble noise also known as the cocktail party effect is the result of many competing conversations in the background resulting in a distorted signal. This form of noise is particularly difficult to negate as its effect spectrum is the same as the original clean speech making attempts of negation by the application of traditional signal processing techniques almost impossible. This research seeks to solve the problem by analyzing the signals in the Mel Frequency Spectral Domain (MFCC) where added dimensionality of the signal provides more information to work with when trying to separate the signals. At current, research has shown that the MFCCs of clean and corrupted speech are statistically different hence a classification of the speech signals into clean and babble corrupted is possible.  Further work seeks to define the actual distribution of the babble corrupted speech and define the change in distribution of clean speech caused by the distorting babble.

 

Abuenameh Aiyejina (awarded with Phd Physics 2020)

I am investigating a polaritonic implementation of the Bose-Hubbard model proposed by Hartmann et al. The Bose-Hubbard model describes bosons on a lattice where the bosons can hop between lattice sites and there is a repulsion between bosons on the same site. The proposed implementation consists of an array of coupled optical cavities, each containing a large number of 4-level atoms that are driven by an external laser. This system can be described in terms of a Bose-Hubbard model for combined atom-photon excitations called polaritons. I am looking at the effects of disorder on this system by introducing disorder into the Rabi frequency of the driving by the laser in different cavities. This disorder affects the strength of the on-site repulsion between bosons and the hopping between sites. I’ve looked at the effect of this disorder on the phase diagram of the system. In the absence of disorder, the system exhibits an insulating phase called the Mott-insulator phase, and a conducting phase called the superfluid phase. When disorder is added, the system additionally exhibits another insulating phase called the Bose-glass phase. I am also looking at the effect of this disorder on the dynamics of this system. In particular, I’ve looked at the response of the system to a ramp in the Rabi frequency from the superfluid phase to the Mott-insulator phase and back. I have investigated the effect of the timescale of the ramp on various properties of the system.

 

Vijay Nanan

The intention of research concentrates on how geomagnetic variations affect weather patterns in the Caribbean, i.e. Tropical storms and Cyclones during the solar cycle. There are 24 solar cycles ranging from 1755 to present. We are focusing on solar cycles 15(1913) to 24(to present) a period of 10 years. Primary focus for this range concentrated on the start of the cycle, when finished, the duration period and the maximum number of sunspot noted for the period. The geomagnetic variations during the peak and low solar activity were observed giving us an insight on sunspot activity for both periods. In understanding this phenomena, data from hurricanes born over the Caribbean region for a period of time are currently being collected and then compared with respect to the cosmic ray intensity, the sunspots numbers and the geomagnetic parameters (Ap- planetary index  24 hour range) and (Kp- estimated planetary K- index 3 hour range)  before and after the tropical storms. Using the Minitab software the data will be presented via graphical records. What we are trying to figure out is how the relatively small fluctuations of the 11- year solar cycle can produce the magnitude of observed climate signals in the Tropical regions.

 

Miguel Andrews

Countries such as Trinidad and Tobago depend highly on its fossil fuels for energy production due to which it is gaining a reputation for a leading greenhouse gas contributor in the world. To take care of our environment we have to find out renewable resources that are readily available in the region such as solar energy, wind energy, hydro power, geothermal, biomass, ethanol and hydrogen. Exploitation of these readily available resources is necessary for sustainable renewable energy technologies. Micro bacterial fuel cell (MFC) is emerging as one of the cheap, clean and efficient renewable energy source.  It uses waste water/bacteria to produce electricity, hydrogen and drinking water. This source of energy has huge potential in Trinidad as we have Caroni and Nariva Swamp, which are very good source of microbes. As many different types of fuel cell systems have been employed a sufficiently novel one had to be identified. Microbial Fuel Cells were determined to meet these criteria. Despite having been in the public domain for several years, research in this area within the past ten years is small when compared to PEM and Solid Oxide fuel cells – indicating an opportunity. We are developing prototype of MFC and will try to optimize the performance of MFC using different combinations of microbes, electrodes or membranes. Currently, a physical model of a test microbial fuel cell is being built using 3D printing technology. The physical models will also be built in COMSOL and tested concurrently.

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