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STEMpower

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Meet the STEMoms and daughters!

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! Today, we’re doubling up the stories as we caught up with STEMoms and their daughters. (That’s right, mom-and-daughter teams who are BOTH in the field!)

It’s true when people say that parents are the first roles of support that kids need. Even when we haven’t realized it yet as kids, it’s through our moms and dads that we see the best versions of ourselves. 

For all moms’ special day today, we’re doubling up our STEM stories with these inspiring mother-daughter pairs in STEM. They share how they started out in the field, how to raise a daughter in STEM, and of course, their own Mother’s Day dedication cards to celebrate the season! 


MD Duo: Missy & Mia Santiago

Mama Missy is a registered Dermatology consultant and Medical Director, while daughter Mia is a 4th year Med Student at UST.  As two women in the medical field, Missy and Mia love sharing stories with each other and relating in terms of being on the field.  

Through her mom’s love and support, Mia hopes to someday practice her craft in rural areas and make medical care accessible in the country’s far flung areas. 

STEM Sparks 

MISSY: During my time, there was no STEM strand, and no SHS. But my interest in the field of science began very early in life through my role model, my Godparent who was a doctor. As early as 4, I envisioned myself to be a doctor and held on to this vision until it was fulfilled. 

MIA: Both of my parents are medical doctors and they brought me and my siblings with them to work, conventions, and medical missions when we were younger so I had an idea what it was like to be a doctor. During college, I attended a community service project in Samar where I met our fellow kababayans who needed medical services. I felt helpless not knowing how I could help, and that encounter sparked my interest in STEM. I wanted to help out in the future as a medical doctor. 

Supporting STEM daughters 

MISSY: Getting her involved in our activities helped. We brought her and our other children (3 boys) to our conventions so that they get to realize that it’s not all work but a balance of career advancement, lifelong learning, work, and fellowship.  

We allow our daughter to witness the work that goes into preparations, and allow her to help in composing her dad’s online virtual messages and powerpoint presentations. Our children grew up interacting with doctors. We also encouraged them to attend the hospital Christmas parties, important milestone events like anniversaries, and some departmental meetings to make them have a feel of management and administrative issues.  

MIA: Mom was there for me in all of my ups and downs in medical school, but I think allowing me to openly talk about my options and giving me the freedom to decide if I wanted to pursue medicine played a vital role in the pursuit of my STEM dreams. Both of my parents are medical doctors, but I didn’t want that to be the reason for me to enter medical school. By giving me the space and freedom to see if I really wanted to be a doctor, I was able to find my “why” for wanting to pursue medicine which has helped me power through several times. After more than 3 years of saying “Ayoko na” and then remembering my “why” this medical student is now a clerk and is hoping to graduate this 2021 in pursuit of her STEM dream. 

Mother’s Day Card


My mom, my compass: Winnie & Kaia Diola

Sometimes, all we need is a little push—and the Mother-Daughter tandem of Mommy  Winnie and Kaia Diola prove just that. As an Education Technology Coordinator and Science Teacher from De La Salle Santiago Zobel School, Mommy Winnie always knew that Kaia had something STEM-cial in her. 

After pushing her daughter to try out different fields through the years, a keen interest to join the DLSZ  Robotics Club inspired Kaia to opportunities she never thought possible, as the 8th grader has now represented the Philippines in numerous competitions in China, Japan, and more. Kaia was even dubbed as one of 2018’s ‘Wyeth Kid Innovators’. 

Aside from being the loving mother-daughter team they are, their relationship is also like a ‘tour guide and tourist’, as Winnie has always let Kaia freely explore her path and see the possible paths before her. “Just like how a tour guide brings you places and guides you all the way, my mom has brought me in STEM and continues to watch over me as time goes by,” Kaia shares. 

STEM Sparks 

WINNIE: I think that growing up on the farm is what started my interest in STEM. The environment made me discover the joy of experimenting and inventing different things with whatever materials I could find. When I was 9, I learned how to cook “sinigang” by gathering ingredients found in our backyard and using collected twigs to create fire and light up my family’s make-shift stove made up of 3 big stones. 

Testing out stuff and experimenting like that truly filled me with joy. While I may not be making “bahay-kubos” or scarecrows anymore, the fun I had while growing up on a farm is what led me to becoming interested in creation and experimentation or what otherwise is the foundation of STEM. 

KAIA: When I enrolled into DLS-Zobel at the age of 5, my mom was teaching Grade 5 Science classes and Beginner Robotics classes. Over the years, I got used to being surrounded by science, math, and robotics. However, my first true exposure to really learning robotics was when my mom held a summer workshop for programming and building NX3 kits. My mom making me sit in the class is what gave me the opportunity to learn robotics for the first time. I came to love programming over the course of the week-long workshop. The rush of joy I would get when I was able to finish all the tasks without the help of anyone else felt amazing. From then on, I continued to follow robotics so I could feel the same happiness.

Supporting STEM daughters 

WINNIE: I always wanted my daughter to find her passion. I wanted to be able to support her so that she could enjoy herself to the fullest. Even when she seemed uninterested in anything in particular, I pushed her to try out new things. When I saw she started taking interest in STEM and robotics, I did everything I could to teach her and show her more about it. I invited her to join robotics clubs and convinced her to try out for the robotics team.  

KAIA: My mother motivated and pushed me to do things outside of my comfort zone. She would always try and make me experiment with new things from a young age so that I would find something I would be able to pour my passion into. At first, I didn’t even like STEM or programming or anything of the sort. I just wanted to play with Legos and video games. But she gave me that push I needed that let me try something I never thought I could do.

Mother’s Day Card


The doctor & the marine biologist: Dr. Regina & Mia Berba

UP General Alumni Homecoming, 2018.

Regina and Mia aren’t just similar because of their rhyming names, as this mother-daughter duo are on the same boat when it comes to their STEM aspirations.  

Dr. Regina is an Infectious Disease specialist and head of Philippine General Hospital’s Infection Control Unit. Meanwhile, Mia is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she’s planning to become a marine biologist. 

STEM Sparks 

DR. REGINA: I finished high school at the Philippine Science High School so it felt like there was no other choice in life but to be in a Science track. As a student, I was always awed when I stumble onto understanding some concepts within the mysteries of life sciences- they seem to put everything else into perspective of life and just how beautifully they intertwine into the mysteries of God’s creations. So even when there was a choice- like when I was applying for UPCAT, there was no other course that interested me other than the science courses. 

MIA: We had a lot of encyclopedias and Science books growing up. One literary series I remember fondly was “A Child’s First Library of Learning” by Time-Life Books. The series had books focusing on many topics in science but I would always go for the ones about the natural environment, especially animals. As I learned how to read better, I started to go through these books more thoroughly to understand exactly what those pictures and drawings represent. I believe I was naturally curious at a very young age, but it was through reading these kinds of books as a child that first sparked my interest in STEM, particularly in Life Sciences. 

Supporting STEM daughters 

DR. REGINA: When the kids were growing up, we parents naturally tried to expose them to as many things to see what would interest them—so things like musical instruments (piano), dancing (ballet), sports (football). I am glad she took into liking and loving the ocean when we signed them up to be junior divers and all the way to advanced divers. We try to support things she would like to try out for- like when she thought studying abroad would be something she wanted to do—then yes my dear child- you have my blessing!  

MIA: While my mom has always done her best to support me, I think the most significant role she has played in my pursuit to becoming a scientist has been setting herself as an example on how to break the stereotype on women in STEM. To be honest, growing up with my mom as a physician, I never thought of my gender as a hindrance to achieving my STEM dreams, even when I was a child. STEM has always been a part of my life and in my family, I was never told to choose a career that was “more suitable” for women. Instead of gender, I grew up learning that the more important things to consider in choosing and pursuing a career in STEM is what I am passionate about, what my goals and plans are, and how much effort I’m willing to put to achieve my dreams. In fact, with passion and determination, women can not only pursue STEM but thrive in it as well

Mother’s Day Card


The student and the master: Dra. Paulette & Sophia Villegas

Another entry in our inspiring mother-daughter MD tandem is Dra. Paulette Villegas, an obstetrician & gynecologist and her daughter, Sophia, a third year medical student in the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.  

Despite their professions being a pretty serious one, the duo both describe their own relationship as fun as they’re more of shopping buddies (sharing the same size clothes too) rather than study buddies! Nevertheless, Sophia took inspiration from her mom likewise following her passion and not pressuring her daughter to do the same, as it simply coincidentally led her to the same path.  

Right now, Sophia aims to finish her studies and succeed in every doctor’s goal: “to help people and to save lives”—with her best friend/mom right by her side

STEM Sparks 

DRA. PAULETTE: I grew up with my father as a surgeon, and I saw how he was curing sick people and helping the poor. He inspired me to do likewise. 

SOPHIA: My mom said so. Kidding! Science was always my favorite subject growing up, and it was something I was good at. Add that to the fact that my mom is a doctor too, so I saw a way to put my love for science to good use. 

Supporting STEM daughters 

DRA. PAULETTE: When [Sophia] was in high school, because she was always doing well in her science subjects, and she seemed to be enjoying it! If truth be told, I may have sparked the interest in her, but unlike other children of doctors, she did not need any convincing. She just did things by herself. It came naturally. 

SOPHIA : I think for the most part, it was just watching her go about her job as a doctor. I would go to work with her as a kid and she would explain different cases and procedures to me, but aside from that, she just let me pursue this path on my own. She never really tutored me or helped me academically, she kinda just let me figure out what I was interested in–and it just so happened to be science, and ultimately, medicine.

Mother’s Day Card


Sister goals: Mama Madel & Joanna and Jella Carillo

Mama Madel is a member of the Research & Development team at the UL Skin Sciences, Inc. (ULSSI)  group, as she’s been continuously expanding her role to a bigger Technical Team in the company. 

Like their mother,  Joanna and Jella Carillo (nope, they’re not twins!) are the cream of the crop in their own right. Joanna is studying to be a doctor as she’s currently a 6th year INTARMED student at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM). The 7-year course is a special program exclusive for the top 20 UPCAT passers in the country. After finishing medicine proper, Joanna has her eyes on specializing in Surgery and Otorhinolaryngology (study of the ear, nose, and throat). 

Jella is a Category Manager for food delivery app Foodpanda. She finished her Masters in Data Science and Business Analytics at ESSEC Business School in France. Equipped with her STEM skills, she hopes to be a leader in the Data Analytics field one day

STEM Sparks 

MADEL: A big influence to my inclination in STEM was my grandma. She hung her children’s grad photos in our old family library and repeatedly told stories about how they were able to establish successful technical careers overseas from their humble beginnings. So as a kid, I said to myself that maybe someday, I can be like them, too. 

JOANNA: I think we breathe math and science in the family. My parents taught me at an early age. Even before entering grade school, my older siblings were great role models for me, too. As the youngest, I witnessed them ace Math and Science contests, so I also studied hard in those subjects. When I got invited to join competitions as well, I felt so happy. My love for science was cultivated even more when I entered Philippine Science High School. During my stay there, I initially wanted to take up the same course as my mom’s, which is Chemical Engineering, but I later realized that my real love is the field of medicine. 

JELLA: My interest in STEM started when I was in grade school. My parents were really hands-on with helping us study. That gave me and my siblings the boost we needed to excel in science and math and be further interested in these subjects. Encouragement from my family and from my teachers I believe, played a key part in sparking my interest in STEM. It also helped that my talents were nurtured from a very young age. Eventually, when I started working, my work involved more and more numbers, which I grew to be very comfortable handling.

Supporting STEM daughters 

MADEL: Learning stimulates greater hunger for learning. What my husband and I did with our kids was to start the learning early. We started tickling their imagination when each of them turned 1 year old. As toddlers, we surrounded them with books and posters that stimulated their imagination on how things work. We had math games at home.

This eventually allowed them to join competitions that further increased their interest in Math and Science. Win or lose, we congratulated them for doing their best. In the case of my children, they were fortunate to get into Pisay. Aside from the scholarship, Pisay really nurtured their inclination in Science and Math. One thing we were careful about was not to compare our kids with each other. Although they are all good in Math and Science, every person is unique and we value that uniqueness. Now that they are mature enough (both in their early 20s), it is the other way around. I learn a lot from them more than they learn from me. It’s normal to hear medical jargons and show medical ebook photos over dinner. 

JOANNA: My mom has been supportive of my dreams since day 1. I remember that she would tutor me almost everyday when I was in grade school—she was very hands-on during my formative years, and I believe that made a huge impact on me.

JELLA: [Mom] played a driving role. Without her, I would not have taken an interest in STEM in grade school. If not for her, I would not have gone to Philippine Science High School, which is also a pivotal point in my life that helped me pursue a STEM career path. She also sets a great example in her career, as my siblings and I have seen that the path that Mom has taken is a viable one and can lead to success with the right attitude and mindset.

Mother’s Day Card


Parents just aren’t our first teachers, they’re also our lifelong support systems when it comes to learning the ropes in the world—and there’s just something refreshing about seeing not one, but two women of STEM in a single family. Role models also have a huge impact in a girl’s STEM dreams—and it pays to have a mom who’s always one call away!  

Whether or not you choose to carve out your own path or take inspiration from her, let’s all give our moms a big hug today for molding us into the women we are now! 

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