Grace Sirju-Charran - Trinidad and Tobago 

Grace Sirju-Charran came into this world on 20th December, 1946 in Trinidad/ Trinidad. She was awarded a PhD in Plant Biochemistry. She teaches and carries out research on anatomical, biochemical and molecular studies on tuberisation in the tropical root crops (cassava, sweet potato and yam bean); Gender and Ethical issues in Science and Science Education at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

    • Accomplishments and honors 
      Dr. Sirju-Charran served as Subject Leader of Botany (1999-2000) and Head of the Department of life Sciences, University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine Campus, for six (6) years (2000-2006). She also served as Coordinator of the Women's Studies Group, St. Augustine campus, UWI during the period 1988-1992 and Ag. Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, UWI for the year 2008/2009. She is currently Subject Leader for Biochemistry. During her tenure as Head, the Department received the Principal's Award for the most productive department as well as the Best Researcher Award.


  • She has been the recipient of several Fellowships and Awards:
  • Dr. Honoris Causa - UNAM (University National Autonomous Mexico) - Mexico, 2011
  • Naparima Girls' High School Gold medal for general proficiency at GCE 'O' Level
  • T&T National Scholarship to pursue BSc. Natural Sciences
  • Esso Research Fellowship to pursue Graduate Studies
  • IUC Staff Development Fellowship
  • ACU Shell Fellowship in Biotechnology
  • UWI/ISS Staff Development Fellowship
  • UWI/Cable and Wireless Fellowship in Distance Education
  • UWI/IDB Fellowship for Biotechnology
  • bpTT Professional Development Fellowship
  • Senior Fulbright Award
  • Centre for Gender and Development Studies 10th Anniversary award
  • Naparima Girls' High School Alumnae Award
  • and more recently, Guardian Life/UWI Premium Award for Excellence in Teaching.


    • Contribution to the development of her country
      At the National level Dr. Sirju-Charran served as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST), and the Board of Management of the National Stadium. She is currently the UWI representative on UNESCO National Commission and is the Chair of the Science sub-sector committee. In this capacity she coordinated the production of three DVDs on "Water for Life" for use in science classes at early childhood and primary school and participated in a project to introduce the teaching of world religions at primary and lower secondary school level.

      Regionally, she is a founding member of the Bioethics Society of the English Speaking Caribbean (BSEC) and currently serves as its Treasurer. She has worked with Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) on the CSEC and CAPE Biology programmes.


    • Contribution in capacity building and new generations of scientists in her country 
      She began her teaching career teaching English and French at GCE 'O' level at her alma mater, Naparima Girls' High school, followed by teaching General Science at the lower secondary level. She began teaching at the tertiary level at UWI in 1975 and has taught undergraduate courses in Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology; Genetics and Plant breeding, Molecular Biology, Gender and Science and a graduate course on Bioethics. Several of her students are science teachers in secondary schools and at tertiary institutions, two of them were recently promoted to professorial status under her leadership as Head of the Department. She has supervised two (2) PhD and four (4) MPhil. Candidates and is currently supervising three (3) Ph. D candidates.


    • Reference to a few important publications: 
      She has authored and co-authored over 45 peer-reviewed publications and has delivered several conference and workshop presentations. These have been in the following areas:

      Tuberisation of tropical tuber crops:
    • Dabydeen, S. and G. Sirju- Charran (1990). The developmental anatomy of the root systems in yam bean. Pachyrhizus erosus (L.) Urban. Annals of Botany 66: 313-320.
      Sirju-Charran, G. and L. Wickham (1988). The development of alternative storage sink sites in sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas Lam.). Annals of Botany 61: 99-102.

Gender and ethical issues in science

    • Sirju -Charran, G. (1997) "Biotechnology: For Better For Worse, For Richer For Poorer?" In Readings in Gender, Science and Technology, Barbara Carby and Vilma McClenan (Eds.) Kingston, Jamaica: UWI, Centre for Gender and Development Studies and Faculty of Natural Sciences. pp. 146-151.
      Sirju-Charran G. (2002) Some Ethical Issues in Science and Technology: A Case Study in the Cloning of Human Cells. SIBI II World Conference on Bioethics, Gijon, Spain, Sept. 30th- 4th Oct., 2002 (CD Rom).

Science education

    • Sirju-Charran G. (2011) Shifting the Emphasis from Cognition to Non-cognitive Values in Science Education: A Case for the Inclusion of Critical Pedagogy in the Science Curriculum. Proceedings of EpiSTEME 4 International Conference on Science, Technology and Mathematics Education Eds. Sugra Chunawala and Meena Kharatmal. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai, India 5-9 Jan. 2011 pp 87-91.


    • Lessons to be learned from her career:
      It is possible to manage family responsibilities while building a career in Science, but it requires the support of family members, a household helper; graduate students and colleagues. Support of a mentor could be invaluable. Although performance of day-to-day activities may seem to bring little reward apart from personal satisfaction, the bigger rewards, often unanticipated come later. Nothing that is done from a place of love and caring goes unrewarded.


    • Reference to biographical material, including information about her family
      Dr. Sirju-Charran is the fourth child of a family of nine who grew up in a tiny village nestled in the Montserrat Hills of Trinidad. Her father was a school headmaster and her mother a housewife who had to leave the teaching service on becoming pregnant. She is the wife of an obstetrician/gynaecologist and the mother of three children: a computer/electrical engineer, a consultant radiologist and a counseling psychologist; and a grandmother of one.




Meet Grace Sirju-Charran:

Grace and her husband at the Taj Majal

Grace and her grandson Luke Charran