Dr Shirin Haque is an astronomer, a senior lecturer, former deputy dean and former head of the Department of Physics, at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. She is the first and only woman to head the department to date. In 2018 she also became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious CARICOM Science Award. Dr Haque is an inspiring teacher and researcher in the cutting-edge field of astrobiology, at the UWI, which seeks to understand the complexities of life in the universe.
Dr. Shirin Haque
She has pioneered work on the Pitch Lake at La Brea and the mud volcanoes in Trinidad that is recognized internationally. She was featured on BBC’s Science in Action programme in 2008 for her work in Astrobiology at the Pitch Lake. She collaborates with astrobiologists in Finland, Germany and the USA. She started an observational astronomy programme at St Augustine, in collaboration with the University of Turku in Finland, and its success has brought more international attention to UWI with contribution of data to the monitoring of a monstrous binary black hole system and the first comet lander mission. The National Science Foundation in the USA, through the National
Radio Astronomy Observatory appointed her as programme director for the development of a Caribbean hub in radio astronomy in 2018.
Her love of astronomy and passion for teaching have led to significant success in popularizing astronomy in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider region through her research, public lectures, newspaper, magazine articles, short courses for the public, documentary videos and the first ever Caribbean Astronomy series on television on IeTV. She produces and is editor of the magazine The Intellectual – art, science and architecture distributed regionally and internationally.
Dr Haque is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, Member of the International Astronomical Union and the American Astronomical Society. She is a founding member of the Caribbean Institute of Astronomy (CARINA). This year she was appointed National Outreach Coordinator for Trinidad with the Office of Astronomy Outreach with the International Astronomical Union (2019). She chairs the national committee coordinating the naming of an exoplanet and its host star that would be visible from the country, which would be named by the people of Trinidad and Tobago in an historic act as the first locally named celestial object.
As an educator, Dr Haque is a dynamic student-centred instructor and model, especially to young women, creating opportunities for them to do research visits at international institutes. She has introduced several new courses including in Astrobiology. She also conducts astronomy and STEM workshops for teachers regionally and provides career guidance to secondary students. She was the co-chair of the International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA) held in Trinidad in 2009, with participants from 17 countries and co-organized the first ever Caribbean regional Astronomy conference in 2017.
Dr Haque has a multidisciplinary approach to her work, having completed an MPhil degree in Psychology. She has spearheaded fundraising activities in the faculty for needy children in the community and for students in the faculty.
She has won a number of awards for her work including in 2002, the Guardian Life Teaching Award, the international distinguished teacher award from the Association of Atlantic Universities in 2004, the Rudranath Capildeo Award for Applied Science and Technology (Silver) in 2013 and in 2011 the Women in Science and Technology medal, both from NIHERST which has also named her as a science icon. She featured in “60 under 60” for UWI 60th anniversary publication highlighting 60 outstanding academics at the University of the West Indies and in “Eminent women scientists in Latin America and the Caribbean” and then was honoured again with an award for outstanding work as a woman scientist for UWI’s 70th anniversary.