Academic and Professional Career of Covel Rashique McDermot

Published on April 9, 2019 by Admin

 A famous writer once said, “The heights by great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” 

Covel McDermot did not have a clue as to where his pendulum in life would swing. With little parental guidance and financial aid, he ventured out into the unknown not knowing what lies ahead of him. However, little did he know that the hand of God was guiding him. The wisdom that he received from on High, along with the interpretation that he attached to this wisdom propelled him along into the dark, cold world where he was unaware of where fate would take him. The rest is history. Read on now in order to get a ‘sneak peek’into the life and achievements of this “legend” in his own rights. It has been a bitter/sweet experience, but he has made the impossible, possible, with the help of God and others. 

Covel Rashique McDermot affectionately called ‘Papa Skalla’ graduated in June 2000, from the Gayle Primary School in St. Mary.While a student at this noble institution he was very active in sports and cultural activities. He is the third child, born from the union of Ms. Adassa Coombs and Mr. Sylvester McDermot, now deceased.

Covel was successful in the GSAT Examinations in 2000 with an overall average of 83%. From those early years, the signs were visible that he was destined for greatness. He was placed at the school of his first choice which happened to be, the Oracabessa High School. Covel was motivated to attend this institution because his siblings were already in attendance there.

Covel McDermot graduated from the Oracabessa High School in July 2005 with a High School Diploma. He can be remembered for his brilliance, ambition and drive to succeed. During his tenure there as a student, he served as a Peer Counselor, Student Council Representative, Prefect and Head Boy. He was very active in Sports as an athlete, and he was also elected as the Group Captain for the Pottinger House Inter-House School Challenge Quiz team. Covel had a passion for Mathematics and Chemistry and would always be found at the black board during the break sessions or free session periods, teaching his fellow classmates.

Covel was academically inclined and was always observant, in that he was taking note of his seniors who were climbing the ladder of success, two of whom were Jermaine McKenzie and Palletha Jankie. Young Covel was expanding his clairvoyance and reading the history papers more when one day during the preparation for an Inter-House School Challenge Quiz match he came across the writings of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr: In a quote he said, “Oh, if I could touch the heart of the negro, of every black man, woman and child, to realize the responsibility that falls upon his/her shoulder to make the world what it ought to be for himself/herself and the people’s posterity and their race”. These words would forever change his view on life. Covel set out to positively impact the world and those around him by bio-engineering his own mind and cultivating new thoughts that were in alignment with his heart’s calling.

One writer said that “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life but as by the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed”. There were times when Covel faced tough financial constraints while attending school. There was no lunch money, no bus fare, no textbooks and no cash to cover his yearly tuition. He remembered vividly the times when Mrs. Young would call him on the microphone to come to the Principal’s office and his heart would race and appeared to skip a beat. He was sure then that she was calling him to ask about the outstanding balance owed for school fees, but instead most of the times she was calling him to make commendations on his academic achievements. He remembered Walwyn Walker, his dear friend, who would always be sharing his lunch with him from Grade seven through 11. Covel also remembered the many mornings he would await Mrs. Ruth White at the Rio Nuevo crossing to get free ride to school. These were moments that significantly humbled Covel and fueled him to achieve even more. 

Covel had his fair share of challenges and another aspect was behavioural challenge. Teachers realized that he was poised to do very well academically and so they assisted and encouraged him and saw to it that he did not waste his time. Covel disappointed many teachers when he challenged the vice principal in a fight and was nearly expelled from school while he was in grade nine. He was given a second chance which humbled him and he certainly did learn from his mistakes because he settled down and made good use of the opportunity given to him. Covel lived up to his expectations and was placed first in all top streams from Grades seven through 11 at the Oracabessa High School. He constantly attained averages above 85% in all subject areas except the English Language, which he neglected and failed to give equal attention and interest as the other subject areas. 

Owing to his poor financial status, Covel McDermot was placed on the Program of Advancement Through Health & Education (PATHE) in 2004. He proved himself to be worthy of this assistance by becoming the first All-Island PATHE Top Scholar Awardee in 2005, to obtain an academic average of 86.5% which was obtained in the December 2004 internal examinations. This did not go unnoticed because he was rewarded with J$20,000. and he also received recognition in the print media, on the radio and television in 2005 through 2007.

During his tenure at the Oracabessa High School Covel passed several subjects in the CXC, JSC and SSC examinations. He was awarded the Neil McGill trophy for outstanding academic excellence overall and also outstanding achievement in the 2005 CXC Examination. He was also given a two-year scholarship to a tertiary institution of his choice by the then Member of Parliament, and late Dr. Neil McGill. Sadly this never materialized. 

Covel understood what it meant to struggle and to fend for himself and the family and so from the tender age of nine he was selling ground provisions and fruits in the Ocho-Rios market. When he was much older, he and his friend and classmate, Derrick Collins would seek employment in the supermarket to package groceries for customers. Immediately after leaving high school, he was employed to Beaches Boscobel Hotel and Resort by the late Mr. Jeff McKitty, the then Board Chairman of the Oracabessa High School. He started out as a Cost Controller trainee in the Accounts Department, then as a Receiving clerk and later as a Storekeeper.

Covel acknowledged that his professional work experiences had taught him lifelong lessons which had guided his life into adulthood. One of the lessons that stood out in his mind was: “The more educated you are, the less work you will do physically.” It means then that education was a priority in order to find solutions to many of the perplexing problems that confront one personally and society as a whole. Therefore, Covel made up his mind to climb the education ladder all the way to the top.

The next rung on the education ladder was to be enrolled as a student at the College of Agriculture, Science & Education (CASE). Having obtained financial assistance from Mr. Jeff McKitty and Mr. Adolph Murdock, two of his lifelong mentors, Covel was able to complete the Associate Degree in Natural Science in 2007. While he was a student at CASE, he served as the Faculty of Science (FOS)

Representative, the Vice President for the Math Club and Science and Technology Coordinator for the Fraternity for Advanced and Scientific Thinkers (FAST) Club in the Faculty of Science. Covel was involved in athletics, where he won the annual sports day long jump event on two separate occasions. He was also a member of the CASE Inter-College Relay and Long Jump team, and the campus barber. 

Covel McDermot graduated from CASE with a credit in the Associate Degree in Natural Science with emphasis on Chemistry and Biology. He received the award for being the top student in Chemistry, the Dr. Dawn Barrett Adams award for being the most outstanding student in C.I.E.P. internship and the Dr. Lyndale Bloomfield award for being the most outstanding student in Natural Science for the year 2007. 

Immediately after leaving CASE, Covel worked as the Senior Medical Technologist at the Carib Medical Laboratory in Ocho Rios, St. Ann. In September 2007 he was employed by the Ministry of Education as a Science teacher. He took up his position at the Islington High School where he taught Integrated Science, Biology, Human & Social Biology, and later Chemistry to the senior school. Covel worked very hard with his students and he was very successful at getting very good CXC passes in these subject areas. After completing one year as a temporary classroom teacher he was appointed to a permanent position. During his tenure at this school, he served as a Form teacher and also Assistant Head of the Science Department. After three years at the Islington High School, Covel was ready again to upgrade his educational status. He applied for study leave from the Ministry of Education to pursue his first degree at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

In 2010, Covel was enrolled in the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, now Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He was one of two students, the other being Keisean Stevenson, and the only Jamaican student to earn First Class Honours in the Chemistry Degree programme in 2012. While in the Chemistry program Covel received numerous awards, some of which include: the recipient of the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (AFWUI) award receiving J$190,000. in 2011, the Middlesex Runner Up Carreras Regional Scholarship recipient with a cash value of J$100,000. in 2011 for academic excellence, the Department of Chemistry recipient of J$20,000. for attaining the highest score in the Organic Chemistry Examination in 2012. Covel was also a member of the Chemical Society Club where he served as Public Relations Officer.

Mr. McDermot gained some of his early research experiences working with well-established scientists at UWI, Mona as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. These scientists include Professor Paul Reese, Professor Helen Jacobs, and Professor Mohammed Bakir. Covel, assisted by Professor Bakir published his first peer-reviewed article entitled “Spectroscopic and electrochemical studies of [MCl2 (ղ2-N, N-dpksc)] (M = Zn, Cd, Hg and dpksc = di-2-pyridylketone semicarbazone)”, where he synthesized three novel inorganic compounds exhibiting industrial applications in the removal of heavy metals from chemical processes. 

Covel resumed his position at Islington High School in 2012 after successfully completing his first degree. He reintroduced the CXC Chemistry program to grade 10 students after it had been discontinued for a number of years. Covel, eager to qualify himself further and to continue his education, left a year later to pursue his second degree. However, the Chemistry program he started was bearing heavily on his mind and so he advised the then Principal, Mrs.Vinetta Clarke, to allow Mr. Leroy McKenzie, who was a capable candidate and also a good friend to continue with the program. Under his supervision, the institution received CXC passes in Chemistry with Odane Anderson attaining grade two in the subject area.

Covel had a combined passion to accomplish and achieve and this required tremendous sacrifice at times. He was never afraid to make strong decisions and take risks. In 2013, he was awarded the Department of Chemistry award at the University of the West Indies, Mona, to pursue his doctoral degree, however, he had other options and instead he took up another scholarship, the McIntire Stennis and Forestry Research grant, offered from Delaware State University through the Dean, Dr. D. Marsh. This was to pursue the master’s degree in plant science from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Covel, while working as a Graduate Research Assistant, was able to maintain a Grade Point Average of 4.0 for four consecutive semesters while completing a master’s degree in Plant Science. He published his second peer-reviewed article entitled “Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: a review”, co-authored with Dr. Sathya Elavarthi, his Principal Investigator. Covel also published his research thesis entitled “Morphological, physiological and biochemical adaptations of Petiveria alliacea L. (Guinea Hen weed) to prolonged drought stress”. While at Delaware State University, Covel served as a Public Relations Officer in the Caribbean Students’ Association. He was also the supervisor for the Farm Experience Program and the group leader for Delaware State University Study Abroad Program- Agriculture, Tourism, and Sustainability in Costa Rica. 

In 2015, Covel was offered a 50% scholarship towards his doctoral degree at North Carolina State University but he did not take up the offer. Weeks later Mr. McDermot obtained a 4-year scholarship from the University of Delaware (UD) Graduate School and the Plant and Soil Science Department in Newark, Delaware through Dr. Tara Trammell to pursue his doctoral degree in Plant Science, allowing him to major in Urban Ecology for the next five years. Mr. McDermot is a current Graduate Research Assistant in the Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems (FRAME) program at the University of Delaware. 

Covel’s research and travelling experiences catapulted at the University of Delaware. In 2018 he was awarded the Ecological Society of America (ESA) Biogeosciences Student Travel grant to attend the 103rd ESA Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana and an Honorary Mention for a poster talk at the ESA Mid-Atlantic Chapter Meeting at Rutgers University in New Jersey, along with a cash award of US$100. Covel served as Senator of the Plant and Soil Science Department in the Graduate Student Government at the University of Delaware. 

Mr. McDermot was successful in his Candidacy Oral and Written Examinations in April 2018 and was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy candidacy. Dr. McDermot’s dissertation is entitled “Urbanization and non-native plant invasion impacts in urban forests in cities” and is supervised by Dr. Tara Trammell. Dr. McDermot has traveled to more than nine states across the United States to-date sharing his research findings at conference meetings and he also gave an impressive oral presentation at the 103rd Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2018, of which he has been a member since 2017. 

Dr. McDermot also participated in many voluntary academic services and community activities. He is presently a Scholar from Under-represented Groups in Engineering and Social Sciences (SURGE) member. SURGE is a two-year pilot program funded by the National Science Foundation which deals with grants. It aims at increasing the number of racial and ethnic minority graduate researchers in the STEM field with a disaster focus and developing professional and research opportunities that involve outreach and problem solving for vulnerable communities in the United States and its territories. He has had the opportunity to travel to United States and countries in the Caribbean such as the U.S.Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Dr. McDermot is currently writing three manuscripts for submission and awaits his upcoming graduation and dissertation defense later on this year. It is clear to see that his life was one of involvement and service and also an inspiration to whom he came in contact with. 

Dr. McDermot is the first person in his family to obtain an Associate, Bachelors, Master’s and a Ph.D. degree, the first person from his community to earn a Ph.D. degree and the first past students of his alma mater, the Oracabessa High School to earn a Natural Science Ph.D. degree. He is also the second past student, the first being Dr. Peter Nelson, his friend, from CASE Natural Science 2007 group to earn a Ph.D. At first, he thought that living at twenty-four different houses was not ideal but looking at it from a different perspective he said that it was worth the journey as he drifts closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Dr. McDermot is happily married to Venessa McDermot. The couple has two daughters together and they have been together for almost 13 years. 

His ultimate aim is to positively impact the students of his Alma mater, Oracabessa High School, with his stories, achievements and accomplishments so that they can be motivated to discover and unveil the potentials within themselves as individuals, who have total control of their destinies in life. 

His favourite life quote is “No Excuses! Just Possibilities to Exploit and Greatness to Attain; First Make the Sacrifices”. 

Dr. C. R. McDermot wants to publicly thank Adassa Coombs (mother and cheerleader), Adolph Murdock (senior mentor), Peter Nelson, study partner and mentor, Jeff McKitty , senior mentor, Walwyn Walker and Conwayne Jarrett, friends and supporters, Ruth White, senior mentor, Venessa McDermot, wife and director, Hyacinth Young, mentor, Kacie-Ann McDermot, daughter and supporter, Yvonne McKitty mentor’s wife, and the hardcore supporters from the streets who continue to help shaping his academic success. 

Covel Mcdermot
Covel McDermot, Ph.D.

In the words of Daniel Webster, “If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and instill into them just principles, we are then engraving that upon tablets which no time will efface, but will brighten and brighten to all eternity.”