With eight patents to her name and others pending, chemist Dolly Nicholas epitiomises the pioneering spirit that is at the heart of all innovation and scientific discovery.

As Dolly Nicholas herself admits, any young girl considering a career in chemistry might be tempted to see it as a man’s area of expertise, but she’s the living proof that nothing could be further from the truth – at least not in the 21st century.

A chemist of international standing, Dolly remains the first and only woman to be given a national Trinidad and Tobago award for scientific invention. She has received the Chaconia Silver medal for her inventions and also a public service medal of merit. A winner in the process category of the Prime Minister’s awards for innovation and invention in 2000, under the same awards’ programme, Dolly received a special award of merit in the field of chemistry, in 2002. With a number of patents to her name and a few more pending, it’s fair to say that when it comes to innovation and invention, Dolly shows no sign of resting on her considerable laurels.

Dedication and Determination

While it’s hard not to be impressed by her list of awards, what’s more impressive in a way, is the amount of hard work, dedication, and dedication Dolly had to show to forge such an illustrious professional career. Born in Gasparillo, Trinidad in 1952, she was one of nine siblings. From an early age, their parents instilled in all nine children the importance of acquiring a good education and, despite the lack of money, all nine of them managed to get funding to go to university.

Dolly Mungalsingh attended the Gasparillo Government School and Naparima Girls’ High School in Trinidad. She then enrolled at Lakehead University in Canada, where she awarded a BSc in environmental polymer chemistry and a MSc in analytical chemistry from Queen’s University, also in Canada.

Professional Life

After graduating, Dolly worked for the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute and then for Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. Despite the fairly modest laboratory facilities, it was here where Dolly started along the inventor’s road, coming up with a range of unique paints, adhesives and coatings.

After a short stint as a materials scientist with the Dunlop Tire Corporation in New York, Dolly became research and development director for Asphalt Products Trinidad Ltd. Now a consultant with R&D Environmental Solutions Inc., she is a member of the Third World Organisation for Women in Science and Scientists without Borders.

Patents

Dolly has a number of patents to her name, including one for emulsion and effluent treatment processes; a process to treat and break down emulsions; a process to treat waste fluids from petroleum and petrochemical industries, and others. One of her more recent patents involves a process whereby soft drink ‘plastic’ bottles can be converted into usable products such as epoxy coatings.

Passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, she works as a facilitator in various programmes involving students. Away from the lab and research, Dolly enjoys reading, meeting up with friends, and doing voluntary work.