Dr Phylicia Ricketts, pioneering scientist and former PM Youth awardee, has died
Dr Phylicia Ricketts receives the Prime Minister's Youth Award for innovation in science and technology from Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Saturday, November 24, 2018.

Dr Phylicia Ricketts, a pioneering Jamaican scientist and Prime Minister’s National Youth Award recipient, has died.

Dr Ricketts passed away on February 24 after a battle with illness.

At the time of her death, she was a lecturer in the faculty of Science and Technology, Physics, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona.

A thanksgiving service for the life of Dr Ricketts will be held 9am Saturday at the Portmore Gospel Assembly in Portmore, St Catherine.

In 2018, Dr Ricketts was awarded the Prime Minister's Youth Award for innovation in science and technology.

Last year, she was among nine Jamaican women across the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) who were recognised by the Scientific Research Council (SRC) in its inaugural Science and Technology XXtrordineers programme.

Science and Technology Minister Daryl Vaz presents a plaque to S&T XXtrordineers honouree Dr Phylicia Ricketts.

READ: Dr Phylicia Ricketts: Pioneering research on mercury exposure

In a heartfelt tribute to Dr Ricketts after her passing, the SRC hailed her as “an outstanding female voice in physics who pioneered the use of nuclear technology to provide scientific solutions to environmental and health problems in Jamaica.

“As an industrious and self-motivated academic, with a passion for research, Dr Ricketts was essential in monitoring essential, toxic and radioactive elements in the environment and their effects on human health,” the SRC continued. “Her research output provided critical resources from the Caribbean perspective that could contribute to the Minamata Convention on the elimination and reduction of mercury in the environment.”

The agency added that the “invaluable scientific contribution of Dr Phylicia Ricketts will never be forgotten.”

Ricketts became fascinated with physics while she was a student at the all-girl Immaculate Conception High School. After leaving high school she went on to complete a PhD at the UWI in Applied Physics with a specialisation in Medical Physics which involves linking concepts in physics to medicine. She noted in an interview that the linkages are obvious and can be seen in MRs, CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds. She explained that concepts in physics are applied to these different imaging modalities.

In explaining why she was so drawn to physics and why she was so intent on figuring out how things worked, Ricketts said: “I had an aunt that passed away from cancer. During the whole treatment process I was interested in the different types of treatments such as chemotherapy, X-rays, etc. That sparked my interest in nuclear physics".

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