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International Man

by Clare Coppa

As northerners shovel snow, Deonarine Sarabjit sips fresh orange juice from his grove and scans the rolling plains of his native Trinidad.

Deo is a cricket-playing, country-music loving chemist with an enviable produce connection and international cache. He uses ASTM standards to test asphalt products for clients from Huston to Yokahama as head of Research and Technical Services at Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago (1978) Ltd., (LATT), in Brighton, La Brea.

Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, avocados, coconuts, bananas, and lemons grow on his 10-acre (4 hectare) estate in Princes Town, Trinidad. “The estate also has two income bearing crops—cocoa and coffee,” he says.

According to 2002 U.S. statistics, the republic of Trinidad and Tobago has an average maximum temperature of 89°F (32°C) and sits below the hurricane belt. “The West Indies is indeed a beautiful place to live,” says Sarabjit. “My experience with some winters in the U.S. has allowed me to appreciate even more the beautiful weather that consistently bathes our country
and others in the Caribbean.”

On a given day at LATT, he might be testing asphalt for airport runways in icy Reykjavik or humid Myanmar. “Applied research is a very exciting thing,” says Sarabjit, who graduated college with honors. “When we encounter challenges, it gives me an opportunity to establish research projects to solve problems.”

LATT produces Trinidad Lake Asphalt to improve roads, roofing, and other surfaces. Among many clients are China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “I love interacting with peers from various parts of the world,” he says. His employer draws natural bitumen from the nearby La Brea Tarpit, the world’s largest natural source of asphalt.

Sarabjit develops standards with ASTM Committees D04 on Road and Paving Materials and D08 on Roofing, Waterproofing, and Bituminous Materials. Despite his location he attends meetings regularly and brings his colleagues, says ASTM director Pat Picariello, adding, “He’s definitely a success story in international roofing.” Sarabjit is fond of his region’s calypso music and that’s not all. At a December ASTM meeting in Tennessee, he amused his stateside friends listening to a live country-western band. “I knew almost all the songs being played when some born and raised Americans did not have a clue about some of them,” he notes.

“The exposure to the system and interaction with various persons has made it very rewarding and I enjoy coming to ASTM,” says Sarabjit. He’ll reciprocate visitors with lemonade made with fresh sugarcane, and a game of cricket. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM