Archive for July, 2009


A World-class Filipino Physicist

In a country like the Philippines where there are less than a hundred doctorate degree holders in physics,  Dr. Arnel Salvador stands as a beacon to aspiring young scientists.  He is living proof that even with the lack of viable graduate schools in the country, one can still make a mark in his or her chosen profession.  If you work hard for it, you can be someone your nation will be proud of.  You can be an Arnel Salvador.

Dr. Salvador led a team of scientists from the Research and Extension, National Institute of Physics (NIP), who made breakthroughs in the field of fiber optic communications.  The team produced unique semiconductor materials like gallium arsenide (GaAs) and aluminum-gallium arsenide AIGaAs). By using a process called molecular beam enable faster and superior data transmission over conventional copper wires found in usual cables.

Dr. Salvador’s team won the converted Most Outstanding Research and Development Award given by the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology-Department of Science and Technology (PCAS-TD-DOST).

Dr. Salvador earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines in May 1983.  He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in December 1993 in the United States.  He is now the Associate Director for Research and Extension, National Institute of Physics (NIP, University of the Philippines).


► Filipino physicists share Einstein’s drive.


Disaster Manager Par Excellence

Raymundo PunongbayanA man of deep foresight with keen inclinations for aggressive research—that’s Dr. Raymundo S. Punongbayan.

The successful forecasts that saved thousands of lives during the 1991 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo was made possible through the able leadership of Dr. Punongbayan.  Dr. Punongbayan served as the director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOCS) from 1983 to 2002.

During Dr. Punongbayan’s term, PHIVOCS was recognized internationally as an authority in volcanological and seismological phenomena.  His efforts for thorough research on the fields of volcanology, seismology and disaster management as well as in establishing training and development programs for the PHIVOCS staff paid off well.

Dr. Punongbayan is best remembered as the one who mobilized his team to dig a 5-meter-deep drainage channel on the side of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano—10 years after its eruption—to spill off about a quarter of the swollen volcanic lake that formed since the eruption.  He helped save almost 40,000 lives from perishing from a potential flash flood.

Dr. Punongbayan also served as governor of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).  The PNRC has health and development projects that assist the Philippine government especially during times of disaster.

Dr. Punongbayan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1960.  He obtained his doctorate degree in Geology from the University of Colorado 1972.


Raymundo Punongbayan,

Raymundo S.

Filipinos Return as Volcano Lake Drains.


Visual courtesy:  top100pinoys


Better Habitat for Marine Life

1Curiosity of simple things, like observing creatures in the garden or watching the leaves change their color, can make a scientist out of a person.  Such curiosity and passion for what one does can bring out discoveries that can improve the quality of life, not just our own but other beings are well.  Dr. Helen T. Yap is one scientist with such ideals.

Dr. Yap cares passionately for the marine environment.  She started her research on how temperature, light, and other conditions, in the environment affect the growth of hard corals—the organisms that build reefs.  She believes that starting from the corals, other ecosystems can be protected and rebuilt, including the species and their habitats.

The Philippine government, recognizing Dr. Yap’s pioneering studies on the marine environment, specially the coral reefs, honored her in 1992 as one of the Outstanding Young Scientists.  Dr. Yap’s efforts led to a fuller understanding of the ecology of marine ecosystems.  Her exceptional ability in marine research has helped build international recognition for the marine scientists in the country.

Dr. Yap believes that pursuing a career in science is one way to help the country earn a proud place among the nations of the world,  she reminds her students to always be observant, meticulous, and patient.

At present, Dr. Yap works as an associate professor of marine biology at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, and also serves as member of the editorial board of the Journal of Marine Environmental Engineering, a United States Publication.

Dr. Yap obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees from UO Diliman.  She completed her doctorate degree in Marine Biology from the Wilhelm Pieck University in Rostock, Germany in 1987.


Dr. Angel Alcala

1Dr. Angel Alcala has devoted more than 30 years studying how to conserve the marine ecosystems throughout Southeast Asia.  What make him do this?  It’s the fact that the sea is threatened because of the very riches it holds.

Dr. Alcala is an authority on community ecology, biogeography, and the systematic of amphibians and reptiles.  He developed the first community-based program that created artificial coral reefs.  This program became the model for similar fisheries development programs throughout establishing the Apo, Sumilon, Carbin, an Pamilacan marine reserves in the Philippines,

Having written more than 60 scientific papers,  Dr. Alcala believes that marine reserves have a significant role in ensuring fish abundance even in areas beyond the protected sanctuaries.  This process, called “spillover,” is the focus of his work with the Pew Institute for Ocean Science.  To set up more effective marine sanctuaries local communities and organizations to manage and protect the sanctuaries.  Dr. Alcala believes that sustainable development ins only possible through informed and committed human involvement.

Dr. Alcala has headed the Institute of Marine Biology at the University of the Philippines and was deputy executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development.  He has been a visiting researcher at various universities and establishments, including the University of Florida and the Smithsonian Institution.  Dr. Alcala has also worked for the Philippine government as secretary of Environment and National Resources, and as chairman of the Commission on Higher Education .

He holds doctorate and masters degrees in biological sciences from Standford University in the United States.


► Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation.

►  National Academy of Science and Technology.

Photo courtesy:


Dr. Michael D. Purugganan

michaelDr. Michael D. Purugganan, a man described by his peers as one who is “distressingly fond of black clothing,” is a principal investigator for plant genome diversity

Have you seen mangoes or papaya with (really) flawless skins, not to mention pest-resistant?  Or maybe big gumamela flowers in varying colors?  Well, these are just examples of what plant geneticists achieve in their work.

Dr. Michael D. Purugganan is one such scientist who goes deeper into probing plants by studying the genes involved in controlling plant shoot formation and flower development.  He specializes in evolutionary genetics of plants.

Dr. Purugganan is currently an associate professor of genetics at the north Carolina State University in the United States.  He heads a laboratory in the Department of Genetics at NCSU, which engages in assessing the factors involved in the development of plants of the same species on the molecular level.

His team looks into the specific plant development pathways then maps and isolates the genes responsible for the plant’s form the intricate floral patterns and variations—a glimpse into a plant’s evolutionary adaptation and diversity.

A prolific researcher who has published papers in the fields of molecular population genetics, quantitative genetics, developmental biology and evolutionary ecology.  Dr. Purugganan was named William Neal Reynolds Professor of Genetics (2005). 

Dr. Parugganan obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of the Philippines Diliman (1985), his master’s degree in empirical and theoretical biophysical chemistry from Columbia University, and his Ph.D in botany from the University of Georgia in 1993.


Michael D. Purugganan Personal Homepage.

Department of Genetics Laboratory Homepage, NCSU. http://purugganan.gnets.ncsu.edj/


Photo courtesy:  puruggananlab


Evelyn Mae T. Mendoza

1Academician in the Forefront of Plant Biotechnology.  It there is a plant expert in the Philippines who can answer questions on plant biotechnology, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and nutritional acceptability of plant foods, it would probably be no other than Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson Mendoza.

For more than 25 years Dr. Mendoza has been actively conducting researchers on molecular mechanism of plant resistance to pests and disease, biochemical factors affecting nutritional quality and acceptability of plants foods, as well as plant biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology applications in plant breeding.

Through her many efforts, she assures people that there’s nothing to fear about genetically modified foods.  She notes that new agricultural biotechnology products are being developed through tissue culture, gene-cloning, genome mapping, marker-assisted breeding, and diagnostics.

As program leader of the plant biotechnology program at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), Dr. Mendoza conducts local and international consultations on rules governing biotech plants and plant products.  She also led the development of the masteral and doctoral programs in molecular biology and biotechnology at UPLB.

Dr. Mendoza obtained her bachelor’s degree in chemistry (cum laude) from Mapua Institute of Technology in 1967, and her master’s degree (1971) and doctorate degree (1975) in biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the United States.  She is currently a professor of biochemistry at the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), College of Agriculture, and affiliate professor at the Institute of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences, at UPLB.  Dr. Mendoza was elected to the National Academy of Science and Technology as an academician in 1992.


Jesus Natividad Sarol, Ph.D.

0001The term epidemiology may sound so Greek to many, students and professionals alike.  It is, in fact, one of the more important fields of medicine because it concerns the incidence and prevalence of disease in large populations.  Simply put, epidemiology deals with the detection of the source and cause of epidemics.

In this very obscure field, one young scientist shines because of his immense contributions to the Philippine science community that have continuously benefited many Filipinos.  He is Dr. Jesus N. Sarol, a full professor of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics – University of the Philippines Manila, who has earned the nod of the country’[s top scientists.  He also happens to be a 2003 Outstanding Young Scientist for Epidemiology, as awarded by the National Academy of Science and Technology (DOST) and the government’s highest advisory and recognition board on S&T.

Dr. Sarol combines the fields of epidemiology and biostatistics (the application of statistics to biological and medical data).  He has thus become very active in studying food fortification, as well as prevalent diseases in the country, on which he conducted pioneering research on the burden of disease.  He was also the biostatistician in the award-winning project,  “The 1997 National Tuberculosis Prevalence Study”, conducted by the Tropical Disease Foundation.

Dr. Sarol was born in Manila on February 17, 1963.  He finished his Master of Science and Ph.D. in Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of California in Los Angeles in 1991 and 1996, respectively.  He graduated with a degree in Statistics from the University of the Philippines, Diliman in 1983.  – Aristotle P. Carandang

July 2009

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