News Releases

National Awards Shine Light on Stellar Achievements by UWI Scientists

For Release Upon Receipt - September 25, 2023

St. Augustine


ST AUGUSTINE, Trinidad & Tobago, Monday 25 September, 2023 – In what can only be described as a stellar victory for commitment and distinction in national service, three distinguished UWI professors have been conferred with the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT), the nation’s highest award. The UWI takes immense pride in joining the national community in congratulating Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan Professor Clement Imbert, and Professor John Agard who each received their National Awards at the Republic Day celebrations hosted by the Office of the President on Sunday 24th September 2023.  

These distinguished ORTT recipients from The UWI have demonstrated extraordinary dedication, with their groundbreaking work significantly impacting both academia and the broader community as they embody the ethos of excellence and service that UWI strives to instil.  The UWI is proud to note that among the National Award recipients are several current and former members of The UWI St. Augustine staff. Notably, these include:

Professor Dr Pathmanathan Umaharan, Director of the Cocoa Research Centre, UWI, St Augustine Campus - Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, in the spheres of science/agricultural development.

Professor Umaharan meticulously orchestrated the transformative elevation of the Cocoa Research Unit to a fully realized, standalone campus centre. He was the driving force behind innovative research initiatives that pioneered genetic methodologies to mitigate losses attributed to diseases and enhance resilience to climate variations.  His relentless pursuit of excellence facilitated the inception of the world’s inaugural molecular breeding programme specific to cocoa, setting a benchmark in the realm of agricultural research. Moreover, under his visionary leadership, a revolutionary global DNA fingerprinting service was launched alongside a premier quality certification service, both significant in optimizing cocoa quality on a global scale. 

Professor Umaharan’s endeavours have not only forged new frontiers in cocoa research but also elevated The UWI to unprecedented heights, earning it the prestigious accolade of the world’s leading cocoa research institution, a recognition bestowed by the European Union. Professor Umaharan’s research interests are in genetics, plant breeding, biotechnology and molecular biology and, over the years, have included researching disease resistance, flavour, colour and improved yield in pigeon peas, anthurium, tomatoes, cacao and hot peppers, making the world-renowned 'scorpion pepper' a global household name. 

Professor Clement Imbert, University Professor (Emeritus), Mechanical/Metallurgic Engineer, UWI - Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago honoured for innovation, steelpan technology, education and culture and the arts. 

Leveraging his incomparable knowledge and standing within the engineering and education communities, Professor Imbert played a crucial role in obtaining accreditation for the local engineering fraternity. Professor Imbert’s significant contributions have been instrumental in the evolution of the steelpan. As a co-founder of The UWI Steelpan Development Centre and an integral member of the team that developed the revolutionary G-Pan, Professor Imbert has been pivotal in propelling innovations within the realm of musical engineering. His enduring commitment and pioneering works have etched his name as a seminal figure in the world of steelpan development.

Professor John Agard, Executive Director, Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development, UWI - Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, recognised for environment/climate change and biodiversity protection.

Professor Agard’s research is universally acclaimed both regionally and internationally, spanning realms such as natural resources management, water quality, and marine and terrestrial ecology, extending to the profound impacts of climate change on both natural ecosystems and human systems.  Professor Agard played a pivotal role as the co-chair of a group of distinguished scientists, appointed by the UN Secretary-General, to draft the second quadrennial Global Sustainable Development Report in 2023. His unique vision encompasses a society that acknowledges diverse forms of wealth, including biodiversity, which exist beyond the measurable boundaries of GDP.

Dr Bruce Paddington, Retired, Lecturer and Founder and Co-owner of Banyan Productions TT - Chaconia Medal, Gold in the spheres of media/film industry.

Sieunarine Persad Coosal, Executive Director of Coosal's Construction Company and a UWI Honourary Graduate 2021 - Chaconia Medal, Gold for entrepreneurship/philanthropy.

Professor Surujpal Teelucksingh, Medical Doctor and current Professor - Chaconia Medal, Silver in the sphere of medicine.

Wayne Gerrard Bertrand (posthumously), Former Coordinator of the Petroleum Geoscience Unit at the Faculty of Engineering- Hummingbird Medal, Gold for energy and education.

Richard Escalante, Former Employee of the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Social Sciences - Humming Bird Medal, Gold in the sphere of education.

Leslie Reuben Hoyte, Retired, Former Employee of the UWI Open Campus - Public Service Medal of Merit, Gold in the spheres of public service/sport and physical education.

The enduring contribution of these ORTT recipients and other national awardees’ spans diverse fields, encompassing science, agriculture, culture, the arts and humanities, reflecting the versatility and comprehensive approach to education and research at The UWI. Their significant efforts have played a pivotal role in uplifting communities, addressing societal challenges, and contributing to the intellectual richness of our nation.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal of The UWI St. Augustine Campus, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, warmly congratulated the 2023 National Award recipients, thanking them for their contributions both to The UWI and to the wider community:

“We are incredibly proud of all our awardees from The UWI; we are certainly leading the way. The nation’s highest awards were all given to UWI Professors and this speaks to the value of education at the institution.  Such a significant achievement must be lauded as The UWI is not only well represented in all the ORTT awardees, but also, at all levels - our faculty, staff and honourary graduates are all to be commended for making the nation’s honourable list. The stellar achievements of our scientists are a testament to our commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and scientific understanding and reaffirms that our quest for impactful research has never wavered. Their exemplary work acts as an inspiration to present and future generations of scholars, researchers, and leaders at The UWI who play a pivotal role in advancing our nation’s progress, enriching our society and fortifying the foundations of our nation.”


About The University of the West Indies

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region for the past 75 years. 

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Global Campus, and global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world. 

The UWI has been consistently ranked among the top universities globally by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education (THE). The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists since its debut in the rankings in 2018. In addition to its leading position in the Caribbean in the World University Rankings, it is also in the top 25 for Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 100 global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the leading universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action. 

2023 marks The UWI’s 75th anniversary. The Diamond jubilee milestone themed “UWI at 75. Rooted. Ready. Rising.” features initiatives purposely designed and aligned to reflect on the past, confront the present, and articulate plans for the future of the regional University. 

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