2019-2020 Eric Williams 'School Bags' Essay Winner is Passionate About Climate Change

Diego Barnett, a novel climate change activist and Chemical Engineering student at the University of Toronto, is passionate about developing sustainable and energy efficient water technology. He graduated from Queen’s College Guyana in 2019 with an Associate Degree in Natural Sciences and received a national award for his impeccable performance at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination. Subsequently, he was employed by Guyana Water Incorporated as a Quality Analyst. During this time, he performed microbiological and chemistry-based tests on water samples to ascertain their compliance with the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality. 

DIEgobaFurthermore, he collaborated with chemical engineers and lab technicians to provide numerous communities in Guyana with safe water. This period of employment enlightened him on the severity of water scarcity and poor water quality which had been exacerbated by climate change. This new awareness ignited a burning desire to make a significant contribution to alleviating climate change through experience in the water treatment industry. He won the Eric Williams “School Bags” Essay Competition 2019-2020 for his research paper on climate change as a global crisis. The

paper examined the origin and negative effects of climate change and strategies citizens and governments can implement to alleviate climate change. It is expected to be published online on CARICOM Newsletter, Journal of African American History, Trinidad Express newspaper, Caribbean Today, UWI TV, UWI Today and Caribbean Beat Inflight Magazine. The hope is that the information provided can encourage and equip citizens and governments to address climate change together.

In 2021, he commenced his pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Currently, he is collaborating with University of Toronto researchers to design a module to demonstrate the scalability and practicality of a forward osmosis and freeze concentration technology to reduce water consumption and provide clean water. He intends to present the technology to industry professionals and fellow students at the University of Toronto’s Undergraduate Engineering Research Day 2023 to promote energy efficient and sustainable water technologies as a means to address global challenges. In addition, he has amassed numerous accolades such as the University of Toronto Engineering International Scholar Award, Dean’s Undergraduate Student Summer Research Pivot Fellowship and Dean’s Honor List. 

He credits his success to faith in Jesus Christ, family support and the scripture “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all things shall be added unto you”. His academic merit is complemented by his desire to help others. As an academic mentor attached to the University of Toronto and community mentor in Agricola Guyana, he led students through experiences of self-discovery to refine and strengthen their technical and soft skills. Managing students helped him to develop as a leader as he learnt how to better identify and meet the needs of others to facilitate their growth and productivity to achieve a broader goal. He is a soccer enthusiast who plays intramural soccer at the University of Toronto. He believes that being an effective team player is an essential attribute of a good leader.

Diego is expected to graduate in June, 2026 with a B.A.Sc. in Chemical Engineering, Minor in Engineering Business and Certificate in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Toronto. He is strongly considering graduate school and ultimately wishes to make an immense contribution to technological advancements that combat climate change for a better environment for the present and future generations.