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Meet Ador Torneo, development & governance researcher

1) What do you do?

I do research on various policy, governance, and development issues to understand them better and find ways to improve public policies, programs, and projects. Topics include international marriage migration, performance management system of the Philippine government, political interference on infrastructure projects, automated elections, among others. Governance and development are very diverse fields.

I also provide technical support and advice to governments, NGOs, and development organizations who need assistance. I evaluate their policies, programs, and projects, look for ways to improve them, and help develop new policies and programs where necessary. These range from small community water projects to international forest programs.

I also teach and train people how to do research. I enjoy sharing what I know about research with undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, university administrators, police, fire, jail, coast guard, and other professionals, hoping that it will help them and their organizations examine, understand, and address their own issues and concerns.

2) Where do you work?

I work in De La Salle University – Manila (DLSU), which is an excellent university for research, teaching, and extension work. I currently wear three hats, as Associate Professor of the Political Science Department, Research Fellow, and Director of the Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance.

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] In 2014, I was asked by the the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), including all the Commissioners in the en banc, to share with them our study on the Automated elections in 2013. This was the first time that I was consulted by a major government agency as an expert and on a very controversial topic at that.

[Right:] With the most memorable batch of students (AB Political Science) I taught in De La Salle University back in 2015. We spent a year doing quantitative research and this class knew how to work hard and have fun. They inspired me to teach.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far. 

I studied in East Central School and the Palawan National School in Puerto Princesa City for elementary and high school. I went to the University of the Philippines – Diliman for college– initially for BS Electronics and Communications Engineering, then I changed programs to BS Community Development in my third year.

I got a job in the Office of Social Concern and Involvement of the Ateneo de Manila University after graduation and after a year, enrolled in Master of Public Administration in the National College of Public Administration (NCPAG) in UP Diliman while working.

After graduating, I moved to the Asian Institute of Management as a Programs Manager in the Center for Development Management. I moved later to the La Salle Institute of Governance and the Department of Political Science in DLSU while I studied for a Doctor of Public Administration degree in UP NCPAG.

In 2010, my mentor and director in DLSU, Dr. Francisco Magno recommended me for a Ph.D. Public Administration program in Konkuk University in South Korea that had a working scholarship option, so I grabbed the opportunity and spent the next three years studying, getting exposed to hallyu, and doing research. I returned to DLSU in 2014.

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

I would just like to advise students to not be constrained by the expectations of society and their parents but instead to find their own purpose in life. A college degree is simply a means to an end. In my case, I made a big decision to shift track. I initially took up BS ECE in UP, a very popular and difficult program to get into. On my third year, however, struggle with finances, academics, and dwindling motivation nudged me to reflect on what I really wanted to do with my life. I just did not have much sense of purpose then.

I took up classes in Political Science and Community Development and found my calling working with poor communities. I also discovered that engaging top policy makers and international development organizations can create substantial impact in improving the lives of people, especially marginalized groups, so I pursued a career that let me do this. I am grateful that I took the leap, even if others at the time thought I was crazy for leaving a potentially high paying career in engineering if I stayed.

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Meet Jaimee-Ian Rodriguez, astrophysicist-in-training

1) What do you do?

I am an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelors degree in Physics and pursuing a career in Astrophysics. I’ve participated in research on galactic dynamics and evolution. In particular, I focus on star formation in dwarf galaxies and how it is regulated by supernovae feedback and photoionization. I’ve worked with high-resolution simulations, which are really cool and teach you a lot about the technical, computational side of science.

2) Where do you work?

I split my work among a lot of places throughout New York City. My home institution is Hunter College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY). My research is based at the American Museum of Natural History and the Center for Computational Astrophysics. I also recently began collaborating with a postdoc up at Harvard University. 

The decentralization of my work started just as a consequence of the fact that Hunter itself does not participate in much astrophysical research. I’m glad that I’ve been able to expand my networks in this way. It’s been a great exercise in stepping out of my comfort zone and has encouraged me to step out even further, leading me to places and platforms like this!

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Top:] Presenting the research I conducted this summer as part of the Banneker & Aztlan Instiute at Harvard. It was a beautiful program that not only engaged underrepresented students like myself in research, it also engaged us in critical theory that exposed the sources of oppression in our society and prompted us to lead the way to solve these problems. 

The slide pictured is actually from the portion of my talk in which I address the non-science aspects of that experience, and I draw this analogy which compares political/scientific superpowers to large galaxies whereas island nations (like the Philippines) would be dwarf galaxies, and how, even though public perception has a bias towards the larger/more powerful countries which obscures the hard work done by those elsewhere, the work done in smaller countries and smaller institutions is no less significant.

[Bottom:] With some other students in the program kayaking in a nature reservation near Harvard. It reflects what I do to enjoy and nourish myself; I really love being in nature. The great thing about astronomy (and the sciences in general) is that you get to travel pretty frequently, and you get to see all these new sights. I love to hike around New York, but some of the best sights I’ve seen were in Maryland and Utah, when I visited for conferences.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far. 

I was born and raised in New York, and being American-born has afforded me a lot of privilege. This is something I have to thank my parents for, who immigrated from the Philippines in the 90s. I went to a relatively small high school called Newfield High School before going to Hunter College. I’ll be applying for graduate programs this fall to pursue a PhD. Some of my top choices include University of Texas at Austin, Harvard, and University of Washington.

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

I advocate for equality and justice in academia, the dominant institutions in the United States, and the world at large. I do so mainly through the clubs I head in school– the Coalition for the Revitalization of Asian American Studies at Hunter (CRAASH) and the Society for Physics and Astronomy. We bring attention to issues of inequality and oppression through workshops, movie screenings, and other activities.

My ambitions extend beyond just getting a PhD and attaining existing research positions. I plan on creating my own research project soon (hopefully through the Fulbright Program) which would push the boundaries of what I can do solely in astronomy and in the US. My current, rough draft idea involves gathering and examining the wealth of astronomical knowledge in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and empowering budding scientists in these areas by providing resources in whichever way I can. This idea is still a long way from becoming reality, however, I do want to make sure I work with the communities to establish goals that are not only relevant to me, but also to the people I interact with. If you are reading this and have any ideas, or just want to get into contact, feel free to . I’m happy to respond!

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Meet Colleen Marciel Rosales, atmospheric and indoor chemist

1) What do you do?

I work with lasers! I study the “Pac-man” of the atmosphere - the hydroxyl (OH) radical, the most important oxidant in the troposphere. I also study other radicals closely related to OH, called the hydroperoxy and peroxy radicals. 

I use laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy to detect these short-lived and very elusive radicals. Not a lot of instruments in the world can detect these radicals– thus it is very challenging and exciting! With a baseline knowledge of what amounts of these radicals are present, plus some modeling, we wish to understand how OH affects the behavior of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of other significant compounds such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone. I am particularly interested in the concentration and behavior of OH in the indoor environment, since we spend ~90% of our time indoors!

While I’m currently doing atmospheric and indoor air chemistry research, I’ve also maximized the opportunity to enhance my interest in environmental policy, since my university is one of the top schools in the US for environmental policy and management.  

2) Where do you work?

I am currently a Ph.D. student and Research Assistant at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA.

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] I work with lasers, and prior to doing my Ph.D. I have never encountered lasers, apart from laser pointers! There is a lot of physics, optics, electronics, and instrumentation involved in my work, which makes it daunting but very enriching!

[Right:] Coming from the sunny and tropical Philippines, moving to the American Midwest is no joke! This particular winter, we’ve experienced winter temperatures ranging from -18 to -15 deg C. But I love the pristine white snow and seeing it makes me feel like a kid and I just really want to play in it!

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far.

I graduated high school from Morning Dew Montessori in 2007, went to college at the University of the Philippines in Diliman for my Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and graduated in 2011. I continued on to do my Master’s degree in Chemistry in UP Diliman until 2016, until I decided to leave for the US to pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Science (Minor in Environmental Management) at Indiana University.

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

Sometimes, the path to knowing your passion isn’t straightforward. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but still keep your core values and skills intact. Personally, I have learned through years of exposing myself to different work environments that my goal in life is to bridge the gap between science and policy, serving as the nexus between scientists and policymakers. As an undergraduate, I always thought that a science career would always stay a science career. As I exposed myself to different environments, I have learned that people with interdisciplinary skills are greatly valued everywhere, and that knowing the fundamentals of science will equip us with the valuable tools that will help us understand the world in a more logical way.

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Meet Francia Avila, climate scientist

1) What do you do?

I am a climate scientist specialising in land-atmosphere interactions and climate extremes. Most of my research involves running experiments using climate models and analysing observational and model data to understand the different processes that cause climate extremes and find ways to predict how these extremes will behave in the future.

In particular, I look at how extremes in precipitation (e.g. flooding or drought), temperature (e.g. heatwaves) and winds (e.g. tropical cyclones), are affected by changes in the large scale (e.g. El Nino-Southern Oscillation, monsoons, greenhouse gas concentrations) as well as in the small scale (e.g. changes in land use, such as the conversion of forests to agricultural land to urban centres).

I also try to help educate the public about the science of climate change to enable them to make climate-informed decisions. I do this by working with partners in government and non-government organisations who are involved in disaster risk reduction and climate resilience advocacies. 

2) Where do you work?

I am currently working as a researcher at the Manila Observatory’s Regional Climate Systems Laboratory (MO-RCS). I am also a lecturer in the Environmental Science Department of Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and a part-time faculty at the Physics Department of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] This is a group photo from the 2014 Summer School on Attribution and Prediction of Extreme Events at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. At this summer school, experts and early career scientists from developing and non-developing countries came together in response to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)’s “Grand Challenge on Understanding and Predicting Weather and Climate Extremes”.

[Right:] This is a photo with my BS Environmental Science students in ADDU when we went to visit Cape San Agustin in Davao Oriental.  While a new lighthouse now stands guard to guide seafarers in navigating the southeastern tip of the Philippines, remnants of the old lighthouse still stands proud to show visitors the breathtaking view of waters from the Davao Gulf and Celebes Sea meeting the Pacific Ocean.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far:

  • Elementary - Universidad de Sta. Isabel, Naga City
  • High School - Philippine Science High School - Diliman, Quezon City
  • BS Physics with Computer Engineering/MS Physics (coursework) - Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City
  • PhD Climate Science - University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

After graduating from college, I worked as a programmer and system administrator at an IT company which allowed me to work well with computers, an important skill which then allowed me to transition well to climate modelling and data analysis.

I have also worked as a Research Assistant at the Klima Climate Change Information Centre at the Manila Observatory, which provided me with front row seats in learning not just about the science but also the policy and social development aspects of climate change.

While working as a researcher, I am also involved in teaching — which is one of the best way to continue learning, while also providing me with the opportunity to share my knowledge to my students.   

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

I encourage young (and not so young) students to stay curious and continue asking the hard questions. You may not find the answers right away (if at all), but the journey of finding the answers is the reward in itself.

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Meet Genie Lorenzo, atmospheric scientist

1) What do you do?

I am part of a team that observes the weather and air quality in selected areas in the Philippines. We deploy and analyze data from weather stations and air samplers so that we can better understand local and regional atmospheric systems.  

2) Where do you work?

I work at the Air Quality Dynamics and Instrumentation and Technology Development Laboratories in the Manila Observatory– a 153 year-old scientific institution and the oldest one in the Philippines!

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Top:] My first assignment at the Manila Observatory was to collect air samples on filters using these samplers from different locations in Metro Manila.  From the samples (black-colored circles in the foreground), it was determined that traffic is the greatest contributor to fine particulate pollution in Metro Manila.  

[Bottom:] We visit Davao Oriental regularly to check on weather stations we deployed after Super Typhoon Pablo devastated parts of the province in 2012.  In this visit, we also shared with the Science teachers of Maryknoll Cateel (one of those affected by the storm) some basic optical set-ups (a coinbank spectroscope pointed at clouds for diffused sunlight and a basic refractor telescope in the foreground) which they can use for their classes.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far. 

My love for science was nurtured in Philippine Science High School, and from there I became interested in Physics. I finished my BS Physics in Ateneo de Manila University where I first heard about the Manila Observatory, where I eventually worked, and thereafter also pursued a Masters in Electronics Engineering (Ateneo de Manila University).  

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks for featuring the diverse work of Pinoy Scientists from all over, it is encouraging. I hope more young ones will be inspired to engage in science. To learn more about the work of the Manila Observatory, visit www.observatory.ph

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Meet Jae Rodriguez, geneticist

1) What do you do?

I am an assistant professor currently on study leave to pursue Ph.D. studies. My research aims to trace the origins and understand the evolutionary adaptations of the Sama Dilaut (also known as the Badjao), traditional sea nomads of Island Southeast Asia. 

Most of my fieldwork is done in Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the country. After community consultations, I will collect DNA samples from various populations in the Sulu archipelago, then do the laboratory analysis in Germany.

My interest in genetics aside, I love that I get to travel, meet different people, and get engaged with other disciplines. Right now, I am also learning the local languages and will soon live among the communities to document aspects of their history and culture. I work with a team that includes a linguist, a cultural anthropologist, an animal scientist, and local partners in Tawi-Tawi. I think approaching the problem through different disciplinal lenses will be very fruitful.

2) Where do you work?

Since 2007, I have been teaching at the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of the Philippines Los Baños. I belong to the Genetics and Molecular Biology Division, pioneer of genetics instruction in the country. Teaching human genetics and evolutionary biology is personally enjoyable as I get to share with my students my research interests.

3) Tell us about the photos.

[Left:] From my TEDx talk at UPLB on how DNA can contribute answers to big questions such as ‘where we come from’. To conclude, I remarked that the DNA story is a story of how our ancestors had always mixed, a success story of how we conquered and adapted to diverse environments, and most importantly, a story of our shared humanity—that despite our differences in appearance, beliefs, or political inclinations, deep in our DNA we are 99.9% identical.

[Right:] Way back in 2012, I was singing with the UPLB Choral Ensemble at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA). We won the Grand Prize! The years I spent performing with the choir have been a rich artistic experience– we sang pieces of diverse languages and time periods. I am no longer that active in the choral arena, but I still get invited to sing in weddings and official functions.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far.

I took my Bachelor’s degree in biology, Major in genetics at UPLB. Initially, I wanted to pursue medicine but taking BIO 30 (Genetics) during my second year inspired me to choose the academe. Under the guidance of Dr. Rita P. Laude, I worked on the genetic diversity of Philippine beef cattle populations in Ilocos and Mindanao. It was my first taste of travel and adventure while doing scientific research.

I earned my Master’s degree in genetics with a Minor in molecular biology and biotechnology also from UPLB. Hoping to work on the genetics of indigenous peoples (IPs) for my thesis, I contacted Dr. Maria Corazon A. De Ungria, head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory at UP Diliman. I later considered a forensics topic because of the complicated logistics of IP research. For my thesis, I did comparative studies for the various steps of DNA testing for sexual assault samples. It was very challenging as I had to go through ethical review, write for grant applications, and invite donors to provide biological (often intimate) samples. Yet it was very productive, and I got to present my findings in countries such as Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, and Croatia. You can find published papers from this thesis here, and a few more manuscripts are in preparation. Since there are no national guidelines for routine forensic DNA testing in criminal investigations, it is hoped that the results from our study can also contribute to policy recommendations.

Some years later, I came across fiction books by Harry Nimmo, an American anthropologist who in the sixties spent many months of field work among the Sama Dilaut of Tawi-Tawi. Inspired by the stories and the rigor of his ethnographic work, it became clear to me what I wanted to do, and so I wrote a Ph.D. proposal. Since January 2018, I am on study leave as a Ph.D. candidate under the Molecular Anthropology program of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. I am privileged to have Dr. Mark Stoneking as supervisor, one of the proponents of the Mitochondrial Eve concept, the idea that all mitochondrial DNA of humans today are descended from a single woman who lived in Africa several thousands of years ago.

5)    Anything else you’d like to share?

Sir Alec Jeffreys, father of DNA fingerprinting, is a personal hero. Sometime in the eighties when he was curious with what DNA cutting enzymes could do to his co-worker’s DNA, he discovered DNA fingerprints. Its applications in parentage testing and human identification immediately dawned on him. I think science becomes powerful when your curiosity is coupled with the desire to impact society.

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Meet Bren Mark Felisilda, chemist

1) What do you do?

I’m an analytical chemist and electrochemist. My research interests lie at the nexus of electrochemistry and analytical chemistry and its vast applications, especially for developing new sensing platforms and detection techniques. 

My Ph.D. research focused on the exploration of the electrochemistry at liquid-liquid interfaces (imagine oil and water) and its application for investigating behavior and detection of biological macromolecules. 

I am also interested in the use of electrochemistry for environmental applications (e.g. water and wastewater remediation). I explored this during my Master’s research and developed a bimetallic electrocatalystfor nitrate reduction in water.

2) Where do you work?

I just started working as a Science Policy Intern with the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra. Here, I am looking at the current research system from a different perspective and seeing how evidence-based policy can greatly help shape the future of science, technology, and innovation for a nation. 

Before this, I completed my Ph.D. in Chemistry at the Curtin Institute for Functional Molecules and Interfaces (CIFMI) at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. Aside from my Ph.D. research, I was also a sessional academic at Curtin and was involved in laboratory demonstrations as well as workshop facilitation for various chemistry units at the first, second and third-year undergraduate levels.

3) Tell us about the photos.

[Top:] The top half of the photo was taken during my final conference as a Ph.D. candidate. I was among the presenters awarded a “Highly Commended Oral Prize”. This was in University of Tasmania, Australia. 

The bottom half of the photo was taken during my first international conference where almost everyone in our group attended– making it very memorable. This was in University of Auckland, New Zealand.

[Bottom:] Performing is my other passion. If I was not able to pursue science as a career, I believe I would be a performing artist. This photo is a collage of several of my performances over the years.

4) Tell us about your academic path so far.

I was a curious child, as what my family would say. I was always keen on watching “Sineskwela” on television as a student of City Central School. This fascination for science was further developed when I was accepted for a Special Science Class in Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School. It was during this time when I was exposed more to the interesting world of Chemistry. I decided to take up BS Chemistry at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan. My undergraduate research was on the spectrophotometric investigation of pesticides and I was awarded a student research grant!

It was my research supervisor, Asst. Prof. Primitiva Adarna who invited me to work for the Chemistry Department as an Asst. Instructor in the same university. I then decided to pursue my graduate studies and this decision brought me to Hanbat National University in Daejeon, South Korea. I finished my Master of Engineering in Applied Chemistry with Prof. Jang Myoun Ko, where I explored the development and characterization of bimetallic electrocatalysts for nitrate reduction. While I was writing my Master’s thesis, I was already searching for an opportunity to do my Ph.D. This search has flown me here in Australia where I did my Doctor of Philosophy – Chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Damien Arrigan at Curtin University

During my stay at Curtin, I was also working as a Sessional Academic where I handled laboratory demonstrations and facilitated workshops for various chemistry and chemical engineering units at different year levels. I was recently conferred my Ph.D. degree but I am still waiting to walk down that aisle for my graduation ceremony this coming September. After my internship, I would like to continue doing research so I am also in the process of searching for that next challenge.

5) What else do you want to share?

First, I would like to invite the younger generation to pursue science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM) as a career. I believe everyone is innately curious and it is how we nurture that curiosity that makes the difference.

Second, if you have already decided to pursue STEM as a career but are held back by the idea that it is too expensive for your family, please do not lose hope. There are numerous opportunities (e.g. scholarships) for deserving students so just approach the right people (e.g. your teacher or guidance counselor) and they will surely guide you. I was able to finish my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees with the aid of scholarships, so I say grab every opportunity and seize the moment.

Last, I’d like to form networks with fellow scientists and science-enthusiasts so please invite me through LinkedIn or ResearchGate!

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Meet Yasmin Ortiga, sociologist

1) What do you do?

I am a sociologist interested in issues related to migration, education, and work. I like to study how ideas about “skill” and “knowledge” define the way people pursue their migration dreams, and how this also changes the purpose of schools within migrant-sending countries. I started out by investigating how Philippine universities attempt to educate their students for “export” (expanding courses like nursing and HRM). Now, I’m looking at a growing influx of international students (some from as far as Nigeria and Yemen) into these schools. I never thought this would really be possible!

2) Where do you work?

I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Singapore Management University.

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] People often don’t realize that an academic’s work is not only doing research, but actually writing it down! Journal articles, newspaper columns, and annual reports all require the skill of clarity and storytelling. Sadly, they don’t teach you any of this in grad school. The nice thing about this work is that it’s really flexible – you can write in your pajamas, at home, or in a nice cafe. The con of writing is that people often think you’re not doing anything (because you’re still in your pajamas or eating cookies at the same time).

[Right:] I used to consider myself an illustrator, but I haven’t drawn anything since I began my PhD (at hanggang ngayon wala pa rin!). This photo is how I like to feed my “artist self”: spending a slow afternoon at a museum, and taking extra time to read all the captions. This artwork is by a group called teamLab, artists who like to combined technology, science, and art.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far. 

I thought I wanted to be a doctor so I took B.A. Psychology as a pre-med course at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. After Biology 11, I quickly realized that medicine wasn’t for me. Dr. Beth De Castro’s class on field methods made me fall in love with qualitative research so I worked for her research center for a year before I did my master’s in Human Development at Harvard University. I then spent three years working at the National Institute of Education, Singapore before deciding to pursue a PhD in Syracuse University. Throughout this entire path, the best decision I made was to work first before doing the PhD. :)

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

They say academic work is about teaching, research, and service. A lot of the time you will find that the jobs available only expect you to do one or the other. I advise graduate students to avoid the temptation of boxing yourself in, to say that “I just do research” or “I’m really a teacher.” In my husband’s former university, their motto is for students to “to search, to learn, and to serve.” As professors, I like to think it is our duty to help them achieve all three.

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Meet Michael Arieh Medina, environmental researcher

1) What do you do?

I work as an assistant professor of environmental science at the Department of Environmental Science - College of Forestry and Environmental Science in Central Mindanao University, an agricultural state university in Mindanao, Philippines.

Half of my workload involves teaching courses under our BS in Environmental Science and MS in Environmental Management degree programs. Specifically, I teach courses in environmental systems modeling and simulation, corporate environmental management, program monitoring and evaluation, and environmental resource governance, among others– in both the undergraduate and graduate programs offered by our department.

My research focuses on topics in line with climate change adaptation and mitigation and climate-related disaster risk reduction and management. In general, my scientific work is geared towards the development of community-level initiatives in mitigating climate change as well as the promotion of climate resilience in marginalized communities.

2) Where do you work?

Central Mindanao University (CMU), was built by Americans in 1910 as an agricultural elementary school in Bukidnon, Philippines and was later transformed into a university in 1965. I live within the university campus with my family amidst the distinct blend of academic and rural life.

I am a faculty member of the College of Forestry and Environmental Science (CFES), one of the nine colleges in CMU. CFES has been awarded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as the Center of Excellence in Forestry Education and also as the Center of Development in Environmental Science.

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] In one of our extension programs in Lake Apo, Valencia City, Bukidnon, I talked to farmers about the consequences of climate change on the agricultural sector and how they can counteract its effects through existing adaptation technologies.

[Right:] Though a lot of my time is taken up by university work, I always try to make up for lost family time. This was taken during one of our family outings.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far.

I am a product of Catholic education in both my elementary and high school years from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy in Mati, Davao Oriental. I have an undergraduate degree in environmental science from CMU. After completing a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning at the University of Mindanao (UM), I took up a doctorate degree in Development Research Administration at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP). 

I consider myself lucky to have an academically-diverse field of discipline. I practically stand at the interface between the biophysical sciences and the social sciences. This gives me a wider perspective on our current environmental problems and heightens my insights on what scientific solutions can be applied to address it.

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so it’s not unusual that I am a fan of alternative music. I’m not ashamed to say that I got emotional when I found out that Kurt Cobain died and that the Eraserheads disbanded. Deep inside, I still long to play in a band and write rock song lyrics instead of scientific articles. 

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Meet Erlyn Rachelle “Lyn” Macarayan-de Vera, epidemiologist and public health researcher

1) What do you do?

Using statistics and geospatial information systems, I examine and map survey datasets and medical registries from different countries globally, analyzing how existing health infrastructures and services can be best optimized to translate to better health outcomes and patient experience of medical care. I also work in disease modeling, estimating the spread of diseases and how it may affect global health.

2) Where do you work?

Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and a research fellow at the Ariadne Labs, a joint center between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard founded by Dr. Atul Gawande. I also work as a research consultant for international organizations and a communications consultant for Health Systems Global, an international membership organization promoting health systems research knowledge and translation.

3) Tell us about the photos!

[Left:] I chose this photo because I think the text “earth” in the background symbolizes my desire to learn more about the world. I love to travel and experience new cultures. In the past years, I was able to go around Asia, lived in Australia, traveled around Europe, and visited some African countries for research. I enjoy spending time with the locals and being able to learn at least some basics of their languages. 

I also really like nature a lot so I spend some time exploring natural landscapes (the photo here shows the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada), reminding me of the beauty of the world we live in. Learning about new stuff is always fun for me – be it in sports, music, arts, farming, etc.

[Right:] At a recent research trip in Ghana– where our team field-tested a new primary care survey on primary care. This photo was taken in one of the hospitals where the enumerators interviewed the medical facility heads before rolling out the survey across Ghana. Responses were then captured using mobile-based technology. In just a few weeks, we get the data back in the US and I then spend time coding and mapping the collected datasets using software tools like Stata, R, ArcGIS etc. 

The teams I work with have projects that span across the globe and track country performance over time, allowing us to examine and compare health systems, as well as patient experience (e.g. quality of medical care) and health outcomes (e.g. disease prevalence, mortality rates), in different countries.

4) Tell us about your academic career path so far.

I didn’t plan to be an academic nor to be in this research area, so my career path may not be as straightforward as of others. I initially wanted to be a medical doctor, so I pursued a nursing degree for college in preparation. After some time working as a nurse in the Philippines, I was inspired by the WHO’s report saying, “Why treat people only to send them back to the conditions that made them sick in the first place?” 

Wanting to learn and do more, I left clinical work and moved to Malacañang as a policy officer of the Presidential Management Staff, while earning a master’s degree in health and social sciences at the De La Salle University through a Ford Foundation Scholarship. I then thought of becoming a social entrepreneur, so I started some small-scale initiatives while studying business at the University of Asia and the Pacific through funding from the Goldman Sachs. 

Afterwards, I was fortunate to be offered a PhD scholarship from the University of Queensland in Australia that opened doors for consulting with the WHO, Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and other international organizations. I was then sent to other universities to study and gain more quantitative skills. I enjoyed the research experience especially working with numbers so I moved to Yale for my postdoc in infectious disease modeling and now at Harvard for public health research.

Sharing my academic path so far:

  • Elem/HS -> Holy Spirit Academy of Malolos, Philippines
  • BS -> University of Santo Tomas, Philippines
  • MS -> De La Salle University, Philippines
  • PhD -> University of Queensland, Australia
  • DCOMM -> University of the Philippines (ongoing)
  • Postdoc -> Yale University, US
  • Postdoc -> Harvard University, US (ongoing)

I’ve also spent time in Ateneo de Manila University, University of Asia and the Pacific, Harvard Extension School, Graduate Institute Geneva, and University of Washington.

5) Anything else you’d like to share?

I think anyone can be a scientist if they want to. We can all be who we want to be someday as long as we strive for it so I hope no one will be easily disheartened to take the “scientist” path if they face some setbacks in life. Nothing should hinder a person from being able to do what he or she wants to pursue. If you’re keen to learn more about health research, please feel free to contact me anytime at . I’ll be happy to chat!

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