Jun 10, 2019 News
“I’m inspired to come to work. Chemistry is a small department, but we are like family. I’m inspired by my students and their need to learn … I want them to understand the importance of the discipline and see themselves as practitioners of the field. My objective is to get them excited about learning and show them how to apply chemical knowledge to their reality,” admits Dr. Dawn Iona Fox, a Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Guyana.
In 2018, she was one of five female scientists to receive the 2018 Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) Elsevier Foundation Awards.
Each year, the Awards honour five female scientists in the developing world, who are often under-represented in the global scientific community. In addition to the accolade, Dr. Fox was given a trophy and a cash prize. She has expressed her gratitude to the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Guyana for the nomination.
“When I heard the news, I didn’t have the words to describe the feeling – but it was one of excitement,” she said. “We often work in isolation, so it was a feeling of empowerment to be recognized.”
Born in Bartica, Dr. Fox grew up in a single-parent household after her father passed away when she was just nine. From early on, she developed a love of reading. Her mother, Mrs Albertha King worked at the National Insurance Scheme, as well as the National Library Satellite in Bartica and gave English lessons in the evenings.
“Books were always a big part of my life,” she said. “My mom taught me to read from a young age.”
To pursue her secondary education, Dr. Fox moved to Georgetown and attended President’s College. There she spent seven years and was among the school’s second batch of graduates.
She confessed, “Secondary school taught me to be self-sufficient and made me a well-rounded individual.”
It is at secondary school that she discovered a love for chemistry. She acknowledges her teacher, Ms Grace Henry, who assisted and guided her along the path to science. At the time there were two topics in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) course: ‘Chemistry in Industry’ and ‘Chemistry in the Home’.
“These topics brought chemistry to life for me, I found out what common products like soap and toothpaste are made of, and why, and that’s what intrigued me.”
On completion of her secondary education, she wanted a year away from studies, so she took a job as a reporter at a newspaper called ‘Business Monthly’, there she worked for approximately one year before pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry at The University of Guyana in 1997. On completion of her degree, she had a three-month stint at the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST).
“Initially I didn’t intend to teach; I didn’t want to teach,” she admitted. “However, when I began my teaching journey at the University of Guyana in 1998 as a part-time lecturer, I fell in love with lecturing.”
She paused teaching to continue her studies. In 2002, she began reading for a Masters in Chemical Engineering at University of Auckland in New Zealand. After, she returned to Guyana she subsequently completed a Diploma in Education at The University of Guyana in 2004.
In 2011, Dr. Fox graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida with a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Today she lectures at The University of Guyana in Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry, as well as supervises final year research students.
Twenty years after her first foray into teaching, Dr. Fox still loves the profession. “I’m inspired to come to work,” she enthused.
“Chemistry is a small department, but we are like family. I’m inspired by my students and their need to learn … I want them to understand the importance of the discipline and see themselves as practitioners of the field. My objective is to get them excited about learning and show them how to apply chemical knowledge to their reality.”
Dr. Fox says she is grateful for her life and the opportunities it has afforded her. “I believe in God and I’m honored by the gifts I was afforded,” she said. This is why she continues to give of her time and talent to The University of Guyana.
During her leisure time, Dr. Fox loves to sing. “Singing has been a constant in my life,” she said. She has been a member of Woodside Choirs International, MS for as long as she has been a part of The University of Guyana family. She also enjoys reading and has a secret love for colouring.
“Many people may not know that, but it relaxes me,” she chuckles.
Her vision for the Faculty is greater recognition and deeper engagement with the University community. She hopes, too, that The University of Guyana will be seen as a global player with unique talents and expertise, and students will be able to be competitive anywhere in the world.
“We need to connect more with the people we serve,” she explained. “We need to support schools, farmers, teachers etc.”
The Vice-Chancellor, the Renaissance team and staff of the University of Guyana has since extended congratulations to Dr. Fox on achieving her award.
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