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Scientists nurture young ‘Einsteins’

By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:59:00 02/10/2008

Filed Under: Science (general)

Scientists and technologists are among the main drivers of a country?s economic development. Vibrant economies usually have a high scientist-to-population ratio. Consider: In 2002, Singapore had 4,613 scientists and engineers engaged in research and development per million population, Malaysia had 726 and Vietnam 516. Indonesia had 445 the previous year.

In contrast, the Philippines was at the bottom with only 108 scientists and engineers engaged in R&D per million population, according to a 2003 Department of Science and Technology data.

The low ratio may be changing soon. A number of Filipino scientists and technocrats have been jetting to and from the Philippines, helping develop a critical mass of young scientists in the country.

The scientists have been coming in any way they can?in their personal capacity or through invitations from local-based colleagues, universities or government-initiated programs. They teach, lecture, form collaborations, lend expertise, and sometimes give young scientists the experience to work in laboratories abroad.

The government formed the Balik Scientist Program in 1975 to encourage scientists abroad to teach and lend their expertise in the Philippines. Close to 300 scientists, researchers and engineers have since joined the program.

The recent improvement of the program and the encouraging turnout of returning scientists are partly due to suggestions of the Philippine-based scientists from the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering (Paase), said its president, Alvin B. Culaba.

Paase director Giselle Concepcion said government could provide a substantial startup grant for returnees with doctorates so they could set up laboratories, purchase equipment and supplies, and hire personnel based on their project proposals.

She also suggested that housing be provided to balik scientists in the first few years.

R&D is inherently expensive. It often requires running laboratories with highly skilled researchers and costly equipment. The scientific community has campaigned for physical infrastructure, and in response, the government recently declared an area on the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City as a National Science Complex (NSC). Government has also provided P500 million in the first year for its completion. Additional support is expected in the coming years to complete the P1.7-billion budget for the NSC.

Because part of the budget involves acquiring equipment, the scientific community is formulating an endowment fund (about P1 billion) for the maintenance of NSC facilities, according to Concepcion.

With physical infrastructure and some of the brightest scientific minds, the Philippines could do well in creating a critical mass of young scientists. Below are some of the Balik Scientist awardees who have shared their knowledge with their host institutions and other groups since 2006.

JOHNNY P. ABILAY earned his doctorate in dairy science, major in reproductive physiology, including artificial insemination and embryo transfer and split minors in poultry nutrition and experimental statistics, in 1979 at Louisiana State University (LSU). He finished his bachelor?s degree in agriculture, major in animal husbandry, in 1958 at University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños.

He is expected to apply the ?Keshoee? system of dairy genetic engineering to help develop the Philippine dairy industry. He developed the system based on many years of work experience at UP College of Agriculture, the private sector and as Food and Agriculture Organization scholar in dairy cattle breeding and genetics at LSU.

His host institution is the National Dairy Authority, Animal and Dairy Science Cluster, College of Agriculture, UP Los Baños.

obtained his doctorate in physics at State University of New York (1969), his master?s in physics at University of Iowa (1964) and his bachelor?s degree in physics at UP (1959). He is a Marion Reilly Professor Emeritus, Research Professor at the Department of Physics, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

Part of what he needs to accomplish is to let physics and computer science students participate in his research program on time series analysis of biophysical data. His host institution is UP Diliman.

earned his doctorate in food technology at University of Gent in Belgium in 1996, his master?s in food science, also at University of Gent, 1992 and his post-doctorate in food engineering at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in 1999. He finished his master?s in agricultural engineering at UP Los Baños in 1989 and his bachelor?s degree in agricultural engineering at Leyte State University in 1983.

He is a research scientist (food innovation) at Research & Development Centre, Manildra Group in Victoria, Australia.

Part of what he needs to accomplish is to share innovative foods, nutrition development and food packaging design developed in Australia. His host institutions are University of Santo Tomas, Cavite State University, Industrial Technology Development Institute, and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

ROBERTO S. CLEMENTE finished his doctorate in agro-environmental engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, his master?s in soil and water engineering at Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok and his bachelor?s degree in agricultural engineering at UP Los Baños. He is an associate professor at the Water and Engineering Management, School of Engineering and Technology, Asian Institute of Technology in Pathumthani, Thailand.

One of his duties is to assess land uses like farming systems that pose threats to water sources, especially during high runoff and leaching events. His host institution is the San Pablo City Water District.

VICTOR C. GAVINO earned his doctorate in physiological chemistry at Ohio State University (1981), his master?s in food science at University of Minnesota (1977), and his bachelor?s degree in chemistry at UP Diliman (1973). He is a professeur titulaire (equivalent to full professor) at the Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine Université de Montréal in Canada.

As a balik scientist, he is tasked with raising general knowledge in lipid biochemistry and developing a ?roadmap? for studies on the lipid biochemistry of coconut oil, in particular with lauric acid. His host institution is Ateneo de Manila University.

finished her doctorate in chemistry at University of California, Los Angeles (1985) and her bachelor?s degree in chemistry at UP Diliman (1980). She is a professor at University of Toronto, and MaRS Mentor at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. She is vice president for research of Northern NanoTechnologies in Ontario, and associate director of the Institute for Optical Sciences at University of Toronto. She is also chair of the scientific advisory board of Axela Biosensors Inc.

Among her tasks under the balik scientist program are to deliver seminars on general and technical topics to academic institutions and teach parts of basic courses in physical chemistry or specialty courses i.e. structural biomaterials, biophysical chemistry and colloid chemistry. Her host institution is UP Diliman.

JANE BETTY J. GOH earned her doctorate in chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia (1997) and her bachelor?s degree in chemistry at UP Diliman (1989). She is the founder of Molecular Construction, a company that provides consulting services to both industry and academic research groups. She is a cofounder and consultant for Northern Nanotechnologies Inc., a firm involved in developing and commercializing nanomaterials.

Among her duties is to give lectures on synthetic chemistry and its application to nanotechnology as part of graduate courses in chemistry and to conduct a seminar for undergraduate students. Her host institution is UP Diliman.

LEOPOLD L. ILAG obtained his doctorate in molecular neurobiology, medical biochemistry and biophysics at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden (1997). He finished his bachelor?s degree in biology (major in genetics) at UP Los Baños (1991). He is the director of Stockholm University Proteomics Facility and associate professor of analytical chemistry at the Arrhenius Laboratory of Natural Sciences, Stockholm University.

Ilag is to teach introduction to proteomics and explore areas of collaboration on environmental proteomics. His host institution is the College of Arts and Sciences? Institute of Biological Sciences, UP Los Baños.

TERESITA FRIANEZA-KULLBERG earned her doctorate in inorganic and physical chemistry at Texas A&M University (1980). She finished her bachelor?s degree in chemistry at UP Diliman (1973). She is the business owner of Kesh Invecom LLC in Gastonia, North Carolina.

She will introduce the concept of new product development to a graduate class. They will then present an innovation or a new product concept and propose steps to achieve this goal from laboratory to pilot to production stage. Her host institution is the College of Science Institute of Chemistry, UP Diliman.

finished his doctorate in dairy nutrition (minor in reproductive physiology) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (1963). He earned his master?s in animal husbandry (minor in animal physiology) at Kansas State University (1958) and his bachelor?s degree in agriculture (major in agronomy, minor in animal husbandry) at UP Los Baños (1955). He is a consultant to OMR, a firm in Illinois.

Part of his work is to report on recent research information and technology in livestock production and nutrition. His host institution is UP Los Baños? College of Agriculture?s Dairy Training and Research Institute.

obtained his doctorate in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University (1968), his master?s in computer science, also at Johns Hopkins University (1984) and his bachelor?s degree in physics at UP Diliman (1960). He is adjunct professor at the Marine Science Institute, College of Science, UP Diliman. Part of his work is to coteach a course on immunology at the UP Diliman?s National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. His host institution is UP Diliman.

DANIEL C. PECKLEY JR. earned his doctorate in civil-geotechnical engineering at University of Tokyo (2007), his master?s in civil-structural engineering at Saitama University in Japan (1998) and his bachelor?s degree in civil engineering at UP Diliman (1995).

He will visit not only Banaue Rice Terraces to assess the problem of paddy erosion but also landslide-prone areas like Leyte, Quezon, Rizal and Marinduque. He will also customize a practical and cost-effective approach to geohazard mitigation and management that will empower barangays and communities, start the development of a geotechnical and water-resources engineering staff laboratory at Kalinga-Apayao State College (KASC), and be a part-time professor and researcher at KASC, his host institution.

AYLEN B. RAMOS finished her doctorate in environmental engineering at Griffith University in Australia (2001), her master?s in environmental technology and management at Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand (1993) and bachelor?s degree in chemistry at University of San Agustin (1987). She is the laboratory manager of and adjunct professor at New Jersey City University.

Among her duties is to enhance the knowledge base, and teaching, and research and consulting capabilities of University of San Carlos? faculty and staff in environmental science. Her host institution is University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

KELVIN S. RODOLFO earned his doctorate in geological sciences at University of Southern California (1967), his master?s in geological sciences, also at USC (1964) and his bachelor?s degree in geology at UP Diliman (1958). He is a professor emeritus of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Illinois in Chicago. He is an adjunct professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), UP Diliman.

He will study the forensics of lahar from Mayon that killed hundreds of people in 2006 and the mitigation of future lahar flows; revise and develop the Philippine edition of the book ?General Science for Environmental Earth Science;? continue analysis of land subsidence and related flooding and tidal incursion in Central Luzon and coastal Metro Manila; and teach a Geo 297 course on climate change and its Philippine implications. His host institution is UP NIGS.

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