BY JON CRONIN
Professor Sharon Lall-Ramnaraine said that she owes her work ethic and determination to her Guyanese education.
Lall-Ramnaraine moved to the United States from Guyana a year after her parents arrived after having completed her bachelor’s degree in science at the University of Guyana in 1995.
After settling in Queens with her parents, she received her master’s degree in chemistry from Queens College and then completed her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the Graduate Center of the City of University of New York.
“I was very fortunate,” she said. “I didn’t go through the regular channels to get into the Ph.D. program. I was recruited and pursued.”
Lall-Ramnaraine added that one of the top reasons why her parents moved to the United States was to provide her with better educational opportunities. She noted that struggles she faced as a student in Guyana invigorated her to be more receptive to these news opportunities.
“I credit most of my success to the very strong foundation from the schools I attended in Guyana,” she said.
She credits her teachers in Guyana for giving her the education she needed, despite a lack of access to the textbooks or computers needed to make the educational process easier.
“When you’re here [in the United States], you don’t let an opportunity pass you by because you understand the importance of it,” she noted.
As a professor, Lall-Ramnaraine said she notices that her students often rely on their smartphone or an app to calculate formulas. She tells them that there will be situations in their careers during which cell phones or downloaded apps will not be available and calculations will have to be done in their heads.
She noted that the adversity she experienced has allowed her to work on equal ground with colleagues from such institutions such as Yale, Columbia and Harvard universities.
“A lot of my drive comes from a feeling that it allows other people like me—Guyanese or any women of color, it makes others see that they can do it too,” she said.
Lall-Ramnaraine has taught chemistry at Queensborough Community College since 2004 and is now a tenured professor. At the college, she conducts research and designs ionic liquids—liquid salts. The compounds created can be then used as a source of sustainable energy products, such as longer-lasting lithium ion batteries.
She believes in teaching her students about research and practicing it in the classroom. Every summer, Lall-Ramnaraine leads a research group of students specializing in ionic liquids at Brookhaven National Laboratories on Long Island. Some of the formulas created with her students are then sold to companies that aim to maintain batteries with longer lives.
Through her career, the professor has written and won 28 research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Con Edison, Strem Chemicals Inc., the City University of New York and other agencies.
In her 14 years as a professor at Queensborough Community College, she has mentored 34 undergraduate students in her field. She said that she picks students with excellent common core grades.
“Research is extra,” she notes.
She is the 2018 winner of the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship award at Queensborough Community College.
Lall-Ramnaraine lives with her husband of 16 years in Queens Village—which is 10 minutes from where she teaches—and two children,
Julian, 9, and Roshen, 14. The professor and her husband, Kumar Ramnaraine, met as high school students in Guyana in 1987.