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Daynia Pinnock's Chemical Attraction

Published:Monday | August 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence
Pinnock wanted to be an accountant before she fell in love with science.
Nuclear chemist Daynia Pinnock.

Daynia Pinnock grew up being 'one of the boys'. But the tomboy went on to stand out in a big way, becoming one of only three chemists who specialise in nuclear chemistry in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Pinnock grew up in Westmoreland, the last of six children. She remembers life in the country being full of joy and fun. She enjoyed it all, from playing with the boys to climbing trees and playing hopscotch.

When it came time for her to attend high school, she never truly considered specialising in the sciences. In fact, she loathed the idea. "When I was going to high school, I told my friends that they were crazy when they said that they wanted to pursue the sciences. I told them that it was too hard. So, on that first day of school when you introduce yourself, I said that I wanted to become an accountant. I really saw myself as a businesswoman," Pinnock told Outlook.

She never thought that would change. But one day, her physics teacher told her that he realised that she had a mental block to the subject. The teacher was possibly right, after all, at the age of 13 she had managed to get a grade one in CSEC information technology.

Pinnock took a step back and re-evaluated herself and realised that this was in fact true. Changing her attitude, she grew to love the subject. In her high school yearbook, she signed that she would either be a chemist or a pharmacist.

Everything had changed. Her fondness for chemistry developed because she realised that everything that happens can be explained through chemistry. In her eyes, it was like the connect-the-dots of science.




Her love affair with the subject, however, almost came to a halt during her first year at the University of the West Indies. Pinnock's love broke her heart - she failed chemistry. She felt defeated. She even considered switching faculties. But when you love something, it's hard for you to just throw it away. So, she went back to the exam paper, and realised that there was nothing on the paper that she had not been taught. It was time for her to take another approach. "I realised that I had come to university with the same high-school mentality. I thought that everything would be handed to me. So, after that, I changed my mindset altogether," she told Outlook.

Pinnock challenged herself and fell in love with chemistry all over again. She eventually graduated with a bachelor of science double major in chemistry and management studies, with Second-Class Honours.

It was then time to get a job. She heard of an opening for a chemist at the Molecular Imaging Institute of Jamaica. She had no idea what she was getting into. She was one of three chemists chosen to be trained by the institution in nuclear medicine. This was a whole different ball game and she was excited. Pinnock is now testing and making radiopharmaceuticals.

With all these achievements, it has never been all work for Pinnock. In fact, while at university, she danced, took part in different sporting activities and hall duties. Now, Pinnock enjoys spending her downtime at the beach as well as reading inspirational books.

If she could give one piece of advice to others, it would be to follow her favourite quote by Colin Powell - "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failures."

"If you are really passionate about something, you can achieve it. It might take someone two hours while it takes you four, but still, never give up," she said.