Pinay pioneers in biomedical, marine research recognized

Filipina scientists from the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Science are leading the country and the world in life sciences.

Two of the 11 winners of TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) 2022 are both experts in life sciences from the UPD-CS. TOWNS Awards honors outstanding Filipino women between the ages 21 to 50 years old for their invaluable contribution to the country’s economic, social, and cultural development, as well as to national security and unity.

As director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Dr. Pia D. Bagamasbad has been a key player in the country’s pandemic response, while the Marine Science Institute’s Dr. Aletta T. Yñiguez has continually been helping to improve the lives of fisherfolk and uplift the country’s fisheries sector through her work in marine ecology.

Photograph courtesy of Jean Utzurrum
Marine Science Institute professor Dr. Aletta T. Yñiguez.

Spearheading Philippine Covid-19 response
With her years of extensive experience in using RT-PCR for various biomedical applications and assays, Dr. Bagamasbad quickly rose to prominence during the pandemic. Early on, she was able to train over a hundred medical technologists from dozens of testing laboratories and hospitals across the country in the use of RT-PCR testing. She is also deeply involved in research towards better understanding the molecular basis of hormone action and hormone-dependent cancers. As a researcher, she continually advocates government support for STEM practitioners, especially women scientists.

ARAICoBeH, HABHub help empower fisherfolk
Dr. Yñiguez is an advocate of sustainable fishing practices and a staunch defender of marine ecology and biodiversity. Her marine research is focused on developing technologies and practices that can help oversee and protect coastal ecosystems, including an early-warning system for harmful algal blooms called HABHub. She and her team also developed a coastal monitoring system, officially called “A Rapid Assessment Instrument for Coastal Benthic Habitats” — but affectionately referred to by its tongue-in-cheek acronym, ARAICoBeH — that provides a low-cost way to take underwater photos of endangered areas such as coral reefs. Ultimately, Dr. Yñiguez is working towards forging close partnerships between coastal communities and public and private entities so that the science can be mainstreamed.

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