A new take on technology
Nicolas Drayton knew his job would be daunting when he signed on in May of 2009 as the new program director for the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCoR). But his passion for science and technology outweighed the prospect of hard work and long hours.
VI-ESPCoR, which is housed at the University of the Virgin Islands, has been active in the territory since 2005. It is part of a network of programs throughout the United States supported by the National Science Foundation.
Drayton says EPSCoR’s objective is to broaden the base of science in communities and encourage people to pursue science and technology as viable career options. EPSCor's programs vary according to geographic region. Drayton says there are many “...challenges and opportunities presented by climate change in a tropical environment.”
A native of Barbados, Drayton lives and breathes science. He received a master’s degree in coastal biology from the University of North Carolina and has worked in marine conservation. Previously he was the Ocean Conservancy’s program director for Caribbean ecosystems where he promoted best management practices for coral reefs, marine parks and protected areas. He was a key force in establishing the East End Marine Park in St. Croix.
During the past year and a half at EPSCoR Drayton has harnessed opportunities to demonstrate how research findings can lead to practical application and innovation. He has also succeeded in making science and technology more approachable and relevant, especially among students in the territory’s classrooms.
He is accomplishing this through a“ Celebrity Science in the Classroom” program, which sponsors practical presentations from well known or compelling figures who have careers in scientific fields. Drayton says he wants the program to provide information as well as develop mentoring relationships. And he wants no girls left behind. Drayton says he purposefully has sought out women scientists to send a message that girls can and should pursue careers in science and technology.
Debbie Berebichez, the first Mexican woman ever to earn a Ph.D in physics at Stanford University, is one female scientist who has visited the territory’s classrooms. Berebichez pursued two postdoctoral fellowships in applied mathematics and physics and conducted research at Columbia University's Applied Physics and Mathematics department and New York University's Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences. She works closely with physicist Nobel Laureate Robert Laughlin to promote public understanding of science. She also works as a part time fashion model and has made appearances on national television.
Drayton's passion is to personalize science and technology.
Drayton hopes more people will think creatively about science and technology and its relation to all aspects of our lives and lifestyles.
He says “ I’m very excited by my position, because it’s about impacting a new standard of science in the territory, which ultimately will have an impact on the economy.”
Note: VI EPSCoR is funded by a $11.5 million five year grant from the National Science Foundation. The U.S. Virgin Islands received its first VI EPSCoR grant in 2004. The territory is the smallest jurisdiction to receive such an award, and the University of the Virgin Islands is the only historically black University to receive this award.
Maura Curley is publisher of virginvoices.com