By RON FANFAIR
An extraordinary scholar was presented with a special award at the Barbados Charity Ball last Saturday night.
Dr. Juliet Daniel, an associate professor in McMaster University’s biology department where she has been teaching for the past decade, was the recipient of the Errol Walton Barrow memorial award launched last year to recognize a Barbadian in the Diaspora for outstanding professional and/or community service.
The late Barbadian prime minister and founder of the Democratic Labour Party, trained for the Royal Air Force in the Maritimes and was conferred with an honorary doctorate of Civil Law by McGill University in 1966, the same year he led his country to independence.
Daniel said she was extremely honoured to receive such a prestigious award – a crystal trophy and a seven-day vacation for two at the luxurious Almond Beach Resort – which was presented by Barrow’s son, the Atlanta-based David Barrow.
“I know that there are many other Barbadians who are worthy of this recognition,” she acknowledged. “Coming from very humble beginnings in Barbados and being the winner of this award, I hope, will serve as an example to young people that anything is possible once you set your mind to it. I will continue to be a good role model and mentor for young people in the Diaspora.”
A graduate of Barbados’ Queen’s College, Daniel did her B.Sc in Life Sciences at Queen’s University and her doctorate in Microbiology at the University of British Columbia. She then spent six years as a post-doctoral research fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
A recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence award, Daniel is committed to understanding how cancer cells escape from a primary tumour and travel to other parts of the body. Her most recent and exciting research discovery was the cloning and identification of a new transcription factor, which she called Kaiso.
“When I was in Tennessee, I was working in the lab studying cell to cell adhesion and my mentor called the gene P120,” she explained. “We were trying to understand how it worked and I was looking for protein that would interact with P120. I cloned the gene and he suggested I could name it anything I wanted.
“I decided it had to be something Caribbean, so I came up with Kaiso because that was something that was subtle, yet Caribbean. In addition, I love the music and I played kaiso every night I was in the lab.”
Her findings could lead to the development of therapeutic strategies and animal models for the treatment of malignant tumours.
Daniel supports the “Let’s Talk Science” national program that promotes and encourages elementary and middle-school students to pursue science careers and is a member of the African Caribbean Canadian Potpourri that awards scholarships annually to minority students entering university or other institutions of higher learning.