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STEMpower

Fascinating and wonderful: STEM jobs you probably didn’t know about

In case you didn’t know: STEM is pretty much everywhere! Anywhere we turn, some facet of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math have made our lives the way it is now. But in fact, there’s more to the field than the usual jobs that come to mind.  

In case being a scientist or a doctor isn’t for you, we’re here to list down some of not-so-common STEM careers that may just be your unsung calling.  


Cosmetics Scientist/Chemist

Ever wonder who gave the green light to your fave makeup? Look no further than Cosmetic Scientists!  These specific types of scientists develop and perform trials on the makeup products, toiletries, perfumes, and beauty products we use on a regular basis. One such example in the country is Unilab’s UL Skin Sciences, Inc. (ULSSI), who’s in charge of everyday hygiene products like pH Care, Myra, and more. 

Though they may not be part of our vocabulary now, the number of cosmetic chemists is expected to grow in the workforce between 2016 and 2026.  

How can I start? 

Cosmetic scientists/chemists are likely working on R&D teams of cosmetic companies. If you’re looking for a specific course, Centro Escolar University in Manila is the first and the only university that offers BS Cosmetic Science in the PH. 

Food Technology

With food security in the country turning into a food insecurity, the art of learning how to grow food in the modern world is a must. Food technologists combine modern tech and food science to the process of selection, preservation, packaging, and distribution of safe food for everyone!

With the Philippines being abundant with natural resources, food technology can be a key process in helping our farmers bring sustainable food to the table.

How can I start? 

Food technologists’ related fields include analytical chemistry, biotechnology, engineering, nutrition, quality control, and food safety management. The University of the Philippines also has a 4-year program in BS Food Technology. 

Forestry & Agriculture

Just like with Food Tech, you don’t have to look far to find STEM’s benefits in agriculture and our natural resources.  

Remember the typhoons Rolly and Ulysses? It’s widely debated that a thriving Sierra Madre mountain range would have prevented the extreme floodings. That’s where the role of STEM comes in,  as the country’s forestry and agriculture need scientific data to shift public attention to what’s really happening. 

How can I start? 

The Department of Environmental Resources has its own Forest Management Bureau (FMB), with positions like Forest Management Specialists, Information Analysts, and more.  There are also numerous universities offering programs with BS in Forestry. 

Clothing Technology 

Did you know that fast fashion is hurting our environment everyday? In exchange for fast and cheap clothes churned out by trendy brands, the Earth is paying the price through the process’ harmful carbon footprint.

That’s where the role of smart clothing technologists/designers comes in, as their job is to introduce innovative advancements in clothing to make the industry sustainable, durable, and of course, still fashionable.

How can I start? 

A number of schools offer BS in Clothing Technology, such as SoFA Design Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, and the Technological University of the Philippines.

Archaeologist

Yes, there are archaeologists in the country! With the Philippines having a rich culture taking back thousands of years, our own archaeologists have been discovering artifacts that have made the country a vital research ground on human evolution! 

Most recently,  researchers found two fossil fragments aging almost 50,000 years and 67,000 years in Cagayan’s Callao Cave! 

How can I start? 

University of the Philippines Diliman offers a complete Archaeological Studies Program, where you can attain your Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in the field.

Forensic Scientist

Forensic science, also known as criminalistics, is the role of science during criminal investigations. It isn’t as simple as watching crime shows though, as forensics is a broad field that can range from Forensic anthropologists, Digital forensic examiners, Forensic engineers, Forensic pathologists, and Forensic document examiners.

How can I start? 

Most forensic science careers can start from any bachelor’s degree, though a program in Criminology could get you a leg up on working in the scene. The Philippine College of Criminology in Manila offers a wide array of courses, while there are some universities that also offer the course alone.

Robotics Engineer

Forensic science, also known as criminalistics, is the role of science during

The future is now! Being a Robotics Engineer is essentially an interdisciplinary research area between computer science and engineering. The goal of the job is to design intelligent machines that can make human lives easier and safe – more on Sophia the Robot, less ‘I, Robot’. 

With the growing need for advanced AI in the future, the field of robotics engineering is also on its way up. 

How can I start? 

Most forensic science careers can start from any bachelor’s degree, though arobotiq.com says that Electrical engineering is one of the best majors to pursue to help a career in robotics, though you can get started through any related course like Mechanical Engineering, Computer science, Mathematics, or Programming. 

Carnivore Ecologist

Carnivore ecologists study, you guessed it, carnivores! The ecologist part of the job description involves exploring how carnivorous animal and plant species affect each other and their environment. They also research how human-modified landscapes can affect carnivores’ behaviour patterns. 

One of the most prominent Carnivore Biologists in the world is Dr.  Rae Wynn-Grant. She’s currently studying the ecological and social drivers of human-carnivore conflict. 

How can I start? 

Since the job is still a rare one in the country, it’s best to start with learning about Ecology as a whole through STEM-related courses and research. 


The world moves at a fast pace – and so does the demand for more nuanced workers in pretty much any field.  

We can’t predict what’s to come in the next 10 or twenty years, but with today’s new callings like gamer, vlogger, and streamer bringing in new talents and opening new doors, it’s high time for the non-traditional and unusual passions to bloom in STEM too! 

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STEMpower

Stand With Us, Not For Us: How men can be better allies

It’s not just girls needing each other’s support! Here’s 5 ways men can stand in solidarity with women – because gender equality extends to STEM and beyond.


It’s not just girls that need each other’s support! Men need to have a stand with us in the fight for women empowerment too. While equality and equal representation being the goal, this can’t happen while we live in a patriarchal society that gives men more access than their women counterparts – and men need to realize this too.

With an equal world in mind,  here’s how men can become allies.


Start them young!

As much as we hate to admit it, the undermining of women starts out way too young. Seemingly innocent sayings like ‘boys will be boys’ can inflict harmful gender stereotypes on kids and cause them to carry it out until adulthood.

We can change the pattern by introducing little kids to gender-equal forms of media that don’t inflict gender stereotypes or something as simple as explaining these mediums to them at a young age. After all, toxic masculinity isn’t just taught, but honed at home.

Check your privilege

To heal the roots of patriarchy, men also have to be aware of the privilege they have. Though being privileged differs between context and situation, one can’t argue that men have long been given excuses that just won’t slide for women.

leanin.org says that ‘men will apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the hiring criteria, while women wait until they meet 100 percent.’ This gap alone shows how male entitlement hurts women in the field – whether men realize it or not.

Hold other men accountable

It’s not enough to keep yourself in check, men have to keep their circle well-aware too. Psychology Today says that most men know that there’s something wrong about speaking about women degradingly, but the pressure to succumb to so-called “locker room talk” makes them incapable of challenging their peers in fear of being shunned.

When in doubt, consider this: you don’t defend women just because they’re wives, girlfriend, mothers, or sisters, but because they’re individual human beings who are worthy of respect.

Join feminist causes

Being an ally doesn’t end with being kind to the girl next to you, men ought to call for equality for women of all walks of life! With that, it’s only fair that allies be informed on the kind of issues women are dealing with – like harassment, unfair wages, misogyny, and more.

Men getting engaged and lending their voice to women advocacies doesn’t just make them better well-rounded allies, it’s also a way to know what they’re standing up for.

Give girls the mic

Lo and behold, the final step that some just can’t seem to overcome: actually giving space to women. With patriarchy being the unspoken cultural norm, it can be a challenge to lend your space for others.

Giving girls the mic also extends to little things like ‘mansplaining’, or talking to women in a degrading way about something they’re actually knowledgeable about. It’s also a huge leap to actually give women credit where the credit is due.

After everything, men have to realize that being an ally is not about them.


Achieving a gender-equal world can only work once we all start getting involved for the better. What we mentioned is only the bare minimum in giving fair wages, opportunities, and removing the longstanding systemic sexism against women – but it can be a start. 

Because the truth is: women don’t need anyone to be their saving grace in the fight for equality, men just have to stand back and make it possible for women to shine. It’s about time, anyway.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Biology and Theatre!? The Crossover We Need with Gracetine Magpantay

Crossing over doesn’t only happen in our chromosomes. Lecturer of Genetics Gracetine Magpantay recounts her journey in the sciences–from selecting a course in university because of a Taiwanovela to her teaching career today, with a few detours into the arts along the way!


One thing she was certain of was that she was good at math. The rest, although riddled with uncertainty, led her to her career today. 

Like some commitments in life, people may join for the wrong reasons but stay for the right ones. While there’s nothing exactly wrong with choosing a path because of a television series, it is quite an unusual beginning to a long-term pursuit, much like that of Gracetine Magpantay, a biologist specializing in the field of genetics. She recalls, “Because of a Taiwanovela, I chose Biology when I took the UPCAT. I passed not knowing what the course is really about.” Although a seemingly funny anecdote, this is evidence of a lack of proper career orientations for high school youths in the country, especially those who reside outside of Metro Manila.

Candidly, Gracetine admits to other times she half-heartedly trudged on. “I also did not like Biology in [high school] because it was not taught properly. I was planning to shift to either BS Mathematics or BA Communication Arts when I was in [my second year of university], but I did not want my parents’ money to go to waste, so I pushed through.” Fortunately, she eventually studied Genetics and grew to have an interest in it. Having always been intrigued by life’s mysteries, Gracetine says that studying the building blocks of life made her want to know even more.  

Feeding her curiosity, Gracetine made a career out of the Biology degree she, at first, reluctantly chose. Following her undergraduate degree, she pursued further studies and completed her MS in Genetics, Genetics cognate in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She has also contributed to the International Rice Research Institute’s gene editing team, particularly at their C4 Rice Center. 

An advocate for women’s representation in the sciences, Gracetine also cannot deny the pull arts has on people’s decisions. After all, it was a show that got her into Biology in the first place, but beyond the level of fascination, shows can also be used to empower women. As Gracetine puts it, to encourage women to get into STEM, we must “publicize success stories of women in science and create shows about these stories” She also hopes to participate in the production of these shows.  

No stranger to this, Gracetine also has equally impressive credentials in the field of theater. With years of experience under her belt as an actor and, occasionally as a stage manager, costume designer, and makeup artist, she is what one might consider a Renaissance woman, a clever person skilled at many things. Currently, she is balancing studying Theatre Studies with her job teaching Genetics. 

She has also found a way for her passion in the sciences and the arts to intersect. One work co-written by her is Agra, a musical which tackles issues on Philippine agriculture. Centered on the fictitious Siporia, an enhanced rice species, and with a strong female protagonist named Agra, the ethno-fantasy play makes it clear that agriculture is inseparable from the greater society. 

We must empower each other and believe in each other’s capabilities. We must build each other up.

In general, she has high hopes for interdisciplinary projects such as Agra. “My dream is to remarry science and arts as how polymaths did in the Renaissance period. Times are hard, and this is the time to join forces and empower STEAM,” referring to the integration of Arts into STEM. While not everyone can write a play and, at the same time, teach Genetics, anyone can enter the field of STEM. As Gracetine puts it, “We must empower each other and believe in each other’s capabilities. We must build each other up.”  

Her advice to girls who doubt themselves is simple: “You can!”


Gracetine Magpantay teaches Genetics at Lyceum of the Philippines University in Laguna. She is also the Secretary General for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). Currently, she is pursuing her Masters of Arts in Theatre Arts (Theatre Studies) in University of the Philippines Diliman. 

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STEMpower

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

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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STEM Pinay of the Month

Chemis-trying to Find Your Element with Herdeline Ann Ardoña

As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate! Learn how to make STEM a better place for women from materials chemist and professor, Herdeline Ann Ardoña.


“Developing biomaterials with optical and electronic functionalities that are compatible with excitable cells such as cardiomyocytes”–does this sound like a mouthful? For materials chemist Herdeline Ann Ardoña, there’s more to science than the textbooks and the big, highfalutin words. To her, the sciences are where different worlds collide and collaborate to make things better for others. (Speaking of which, those long words are what her team currently does! More on that later.)

Herdeline’s STEM journey began with her love of Chemistry. She mentions that while it was unusual to imagine a young girl as a scientist, she took a leap of faith despite it not being the popular choice for people like her.  She recalls, “I liked how Chemistry has so many branches—each of them is very different from one another, but all of them are towards understanding the fundamental properties and reactivity of matter. That is remarkably interesting to me.” She mentions that her interest grew while she was doing hands-on research. She learned so much from this—from organic chemistry to its applications in biomaterials engineering, this has trained her to take a more transdisciplinary approach in her lab work, as well as solving questions in science and engineering.

The sciences are so diverse that even within one field of study, there are still so many smaller branches and interests under it. This collaborative energy between and within fields is one of the things Herdeline loves the most about the world of STEM. “In graduate school, I was incredibly happy to be in an environment where interdisciplinary research is fostered.” Up to this day, she still carries the same team spirit in her current work. Remember the first words of this article? To make those a bit more digestible, her team’s task is to control cell/tissue behavior—a crossover between chemistry, engineering, and biology!

Taking a look at Herdeline’s upbringing, it’s no surprise how she ended up studying chemistry. With a mother who studied biology, now a nurse, and a grandmother who is a chemical engineer, Herdeline was raised in an environment that taught her that women have a place in the sciences. She says, “It had so much impact on me to see, from a young age, a woman working in STEM. “ Because of this, she never saw her gender as a hindrance to her work, yet some other factors made it a bit harder for her to get to where she is today. 

“One of the hindering factors for Filipino researchers is the limited availability of funding to support STEM research, as well as the facilities and equipment required to conduct research.” For this reason, Filipino scientists often look elsewhere and seek opportunities abroad to get proper hands-on training. Herdeline also mentions that there are so many skilled and talented scientists and researchers in the Philippines who are not fortunate to have the same resources. She expresses her hopes by saying, “This experience is something that equally talented undergraduates back home do not necessarily get. I wish that this situation will change eventually.”

However, not all hope is lost. She also gives credit to online avenues (and even gives our blog a little shoutout!) in inspiring aspiring Filipino scientists to take on the path to succeeding. “Platforms such as Pinays Can STEM should be continuously supported so that young Pinays can learn about the different trajectories that one can take to be successful in a STEM career.”

Always remember that those successes will not only serve you but can also open the doors for the next generation of girls behind you.


Knowing the stories of others can truly give us a better look at what options we have, but Herdeline also conversely says that our journeys could help others make sense of theirs as well. “There is no single, best path for girls who want to pursue a career in STEM. It is up to you to find and follow the path where you’ll be most excited. This is not an easy career path, but it is your enthusiasm towards small steps that will lift you towards bigger successes. Always remember that those successes will not only serve you but can also open the doors for the next generation of girls behind you.”


Herdeline Ann Ardoña is a materials chemist hailing from Valenzuela City, Philippines. She completed her BS in Chemistry at the University of the Philippines, Diliman and received her PhD in Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, funded by Schlumberger Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. For 3 years, she was an ACS Irving Sigal Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

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STEMpower

I CAN: Bloom Where I Grow

Within every girl is the power to turn the “I cans” to “I haves”.  International Women’s Month may be over but we’re still here to lend some valuable ‘I CAN’ phrases to help us girls to not just bloom where you’re planted, but bloom where you belong.


The excitement and anticipation of discovering who you are and the kind of woman you want to be is one of the best parts of being a teen girl.  After all, this is the moment where anything and everything can happen (No pressure, though!)

Though everyone’s journey is different, we’re here to lend some valuable ‘I CAN’ phrases to help girls not just bloom where you’re planted, but bloom where you belong.


I can curate my social media POV

Social media may seem like a sprawling scary space, but the truth is we can have the power to curate what we actually want to see in our feeds. A timeline can become a safe space if you follow the interests you deem worthy and filter the negativities out. Who knows, you might slowly build your own advocacies and start your own initiatives!

So don’t be afraid to explore, there’s tons of communities out there that can connect girls to girls – like hey, Pinays Can STEM!

I can invest in myself

Now more than ever is the best time to hone your skills! Whether it be in STEM or not, as a teenager, you have loads of time to try out new hobbies, find your tribe, and get to know what you really want.

Growing up is a series of trial and error anyway, so don’t be afraid to give your interests a shot! You’ll never know what can turn into a true calling.

I can be financially aware

We get it, money’s not a particularly fun topic. People either treat it lightly or shy away from the conversation altogether. But for young girls, something as simple as learning about saving and budgeting can give you confidence for the future. 

With as many as 51.2M Filipinos not having a savings account, it’s high time we start being smart with $$$, even if it’s just through being aware of where it goes right now.

P.S. Just a tip, maybe it’s time to show interest in your math subjects too! *wink*

I can trust the process

Following your dreams will be a bumpy road, but you have to understand that nothing good ever comes easy. When in doubt, remember that there’s no need to compare your growth with others—we all have different paths at the end of the day.

As Nobel Prize-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock puts it, “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off.”

I can accomplish my dreams

As cliche as it may sound, we all know there’s a purpose inside of us just waiting to be discovered. Yet it’s not as simple as following your dreams, you have to consistently hustle and put in the work as you grow up. 

Luckily, within each girl lies the dedication and determination to achieve anything they set their minds to—we just need to trust ourselves along the way.


There’s no blueprint on how to become your own person, but believing in your capabilities is the first step in finding who you are and what you’re meant to achieve. Though there may be odds stacked against women in the field now, the world is still depending on the new generation of teen girls to turn all the ‘I cans’ to ‘I haves’!


Here in Pinays Can STEM,  we build every Pinay’s confidence in STEM while providing a platform for them to be the best version of themselves.

Have a story to share? Let’s celebrate together, because YOU CAN.

Submit to our A Life Well-Lived series, which is a monthly celebration of every Pinay’s journey in STEM. Grounded on UL Skin Science’s messaging “A Life Well-Lived”, we encourage women to live their best life by pursuing their dreams, no matter how big or small.

Stay updated through our newsletter! If you’re interested in partnering with us, you may reach us at pinayscanstem@gmail.com or through our Facebook and Instagram pages.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Arti-facts Only! Digging Deep into Archaeology with Dawn Satumbaga

Listen to Dawn Satumbaga as she unearths her stories as an archaeologist, wiping the dust off of myths about women in STEM!

Dawn holding her shovel during her fieldwork in Catanauan (2018).

Doctors, scientists, environmentalists. It seems that everyone in the sciences has it all figured out. For our featured Pinay of the Month, however, her career has admittedly had somewhat of a late start. “Some people already know what they want early in life and plan it out carefully until they specialize—that’s not me,” says Dawn Satumbaga, a Pinay in the field of archaeology. “I went through a math course in college, pursued archaeology for my Masters, and am currently taking Environmental Science for my Ph.D., so it’s okay to start a bit late! But what has always been constant in all this is the drive to learn new things.”

During her undergraduate years, while Dawn majored in math, she also took a minor in English literature. Her curiosity has also led her to other places both local and international. During her masters, she had been invited to join the prehSEA project in Palawan, Philippines, which eventually gave her the chance to do similar work abroad. With funding from the French Embassy, she underwent training and attended lectures and seminars at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris, France. Throughout her stint as an archaeologist, her favorite field activity is surveying for sites because it takes her to new places, yet her favorite site is back home in the Philippines, specifically in Callao Cave. “It’s because of the beautiful river we get to swim in every day, and it’s also where I did my thesis!”

Aside from being motivated by curiosity, Dawn also gives credit to her supportive upbringing. Growing up, she had an encyclopedia set which spurred her hunger for learning. While living in the province proved to have its downsides, she also mentions that living in an environment close to nature made her more keen to the phenomena around her. Her family has also been nothing but supportive throughout shifts in her career, while the Archaeological Studies Program community in the University of the Philippines Diliman was also greatly accommodating.

Taking soil samples in Tabon Cave back in 2013.

Dawn reflects on the journey she has had with STEM so far. “When I think about it, I might not have made these leaps and planned out my education early on if I had better exposure to different STEM fields and career options.” Although she is lucky to have explored various fields and gone where her curiosity has led her, she also mentions some factors which may make it a bit harder for people like her to find a steady path in the sciences.

Dawn backfilling in Aklan back in 2014.

She brings up the lack of career counseling for scientifically inclined youths, particularly in the provinces. “I’m not sure what the situation is like in Metro Manila, but in the province where I grew up, there were hardly any career talks or fairs for high school students to explore and make more informed decisions.” Because the sciences are so diverse and there are a lot of things under the sun one may study, not having proper career counseling makes it difficult for people to know their options.

STEM is for everyone with a curious or innovative mind, regardless of gender.

The second factor she mentions is the systemic changes that have yet to come, particularly for women in the field. Archaeology is often associated with treasure hunting or wild adventures to exotic and cursed spaces, but it is a discipline that involves rigorous cultural studies and the hard sciences to make sense of our human past. While archaeology is popularized through thrill-seeking males, real archaeology has a diversity of women both in the field and in the laboratories. While it is easy to envision a future where women are celebrated in STEM, Dawn says that “there are still many things that we need to work on, like normalizing breastfeeding, work-from-home arrangements to allow mothers to spend time with their children, creating child-friendly workplaces, and understanding and creating safe spaces to talk about women’s health issues that could affect work like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and dysmenorrhea.” Indistinct yet common to women in the field, there is much to work on in both discussing and addressing gender-based harassment. If systems were more enabling and understanding, then, Dawn bravely claims, women can rise to their fullest potential.

Dawn analyzing soil samples in the lab. Taken back in 2015.

Curiosity is the core of science, and this is what makes it exciting, but seeing it work and help others is what makes it worthwhile.

Dawn also calls on Pinays who want to follow in her footsteps. “In asking for equality, fairness, and respect, don’t forget to give the same to others. Good science is a team effort so it’s important to help others and ask for help when you need it. You have an important role, but so do others, so have faith in yourself, but don’t lose faith in other people, because Pinays can STEM just as much as anyone can!”


Dawn Satumbaga spent four years teaching World Archaeology and Heritage in the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she is currently taking her PhD in the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology. She is  also a faculty member of the Environmental Science Department in Ateneo de Manila where she hopes to integrate the natural sciences with archaeological research.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

A Deep Dive into Marine Biology with Jean Utzurrum

Writing, doing field work, and sometimes teaching people how to swim—marine biologists do it all. Hear from Jean, one of our most passionate Filipina marine biologists.


Jean at the Visayas SEA camp talking about sharks and showing their published field guide.

Although already well-accomplished in the field of marine biology, Jean would describe her journey in STEM as never-ending. Having completed her bachelor’s and currently undergoing graduate studies, she initially never considered becoming a scientist. For various reasons, Jean felt limited to a life in academia or working for an environmental NGO after completing her bachelor’s degree. In graduate school, she saw a world beyond science where research leads to policies and action. It was then she realized that the sciences are far from fruitless.

While passionate in her pursuit of science, Jean admits to occasionally having to meet halfway between career and practicality. “There have been many times when I’ve had to re-prioritize research goals to favor jobs that pay more. Sometimes when I’m in between jobs I’ll even do some freelance as a swim instructor and writer. It’s during these between days that I’ll find myself reevaluating a career in STEM.” Although surrounded by supportive friends and family who are nothing but encouraging, the reality of having to make a living is something she also considers.

However, Jean has definitely made some notable strides in her field. She found her niche in the study of elasmobranchs, or sharks and rays as known by many. This eventually gave her the opportunity to work with the Silliman University’s Marine Laboratory Museum and their extensive collection of chondrichthyan, or cartilaginous fish, specimens, and become the co-author of the field guide. Recently this year, she was also invited to virtually participate in regional IUCN Red List Assessment Workshops for 126 species of sharks and rays in Southeast Asia.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with and be mentored by fellow women in STEM throughout my career, and to have lived in a university town like Dumaguete City with world-renowned Filipino women scientists as role models (Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, Dr. Louella Dolar, and my aunt, Dr. Ruth Utzurrum among others).

Jean considers herself lucky because opportunities like these are hard to come by in the sciences. Beyond gender, there are other factors such as lack of opportunities, as mentioned by Jean. “Gender has not been a hindering factor, to say the least. In my case, the lack of long-term employment opportunities in the field of marine biology has been the main factor.” On a more serious note, she does acknowledge the gender gap in STEM. While it might not be as extreme a case here in the Philippines, it is still the reality of today’s time. “Sexism and harassment have not hindered my pursuit of STEM. But it exists. It happens. It can be very tiring, stressful, and traumatizing to deal with.” Nevertheless, she finds hope in initiatives to make safer spaces for women to blossom in the field.

Because of this, she is optimistic about the future of women in the sciences. “Visible, loud, and accepted.” This is how she envisions women in STEM. “You can be anything you work to achieve. It’s okay to have days when you doubt yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions —keep being inquisitive and curious!”

Jean Utzurrum is a marine biologist who is finishing her master’s degree in Siliman University where she also completed her undergraduate studies. While she currently works freelance, her previous field research experiences include coral reef restoration, coral reef and mesophotic fishes, and fisheries. She has volunteered with Reef Check Philippines and the World Wildlife Fund and also served as an elasmobranch specialist for the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

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STEMpower

STEM on Site: What it takes to be a woman on the field

STEM doesn’t just happen in the confines of your room or inside a lab! We peek through the Field Notes of these STEM women on the field —and find out what happens right where the action is!


Through these past few months, we’ve gathered notable Pinays, (friendly) girl gangs, and SHS ates that can help us pave the way for our STEM journey. This time around, we’re sharing the spotlight with the women working right where the action is. 

These longtime scientists, researchers, and everything-ists have been living the dream—and now, they’re sharing vital ‘field notes’ to us. Who knows? They could well be your mentors someday.

Gracile Roxas

Science Researcher, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)

Monuments of Juan Luna (artist) and Antonio Luna (chemist).

Gracile has been a longtime researcher at the NCHP, involved in the conservation of tangible heritage in the country. Through her multidisciplinary work, the NCHP is able to recognize material and come up with conservation efforts on important artifacts like documents, books, clothes, artworks and furniture in 27 museums.

She pursued STEM not because of the love for Science or Math, but actually because of Jose Rizal! Gracile was inspired by the national hero’s selfless deeds in introducing new medicinal techniques to farmers, tutoring young kids, and studying animals. Since then, cultural heritage conservation has been her calling.

Church volunteers turned conservation assistants during one of NHCP’s projects in response to the October 2013 earthquake. Bantayan Parish Museum, Cebu, November 19, 2015

Gracile’s Field Notes on becoming a multidisciplinary scientist

‘Conservation of tangible cultural heritage is multidisciplinary in nature—it cannot be classified as a purely artistic endeavor nor purely scientific because it considers the integrity of the material components a heritage object as well as its historic, artistic and cultural value. I get to work with people coming from different educational backgrounds and experiences, not only within NHCP but also in the communities we are serving.’

Doing paper chromatography of inks with participants in a public program by NHCP. Museo ni Jose Rizal Fort Santiago, Manila December 29, 2017.

Gracile’s Field Notes on her early years

‘I realized that I should go beyond that if I really want to become a good conservation science researcher. For example, if you want to study a painting, it helps if you know how to paint and are familiar with materials used by painters. If you want to document and assess the condition of a vintage terno, you would less likely miss the most important details if you are familiar with garment construction. Until now, I have been taking every opportunity to improve my artistic skills and learn new crafting techniques that might help me in research and conservation work.’

Chemical treatment of stains on a watercolor painting. National Historical Commission of the Philippines, March 21, 2014.

Aiko del Rosario

Marine Scientist,  UP MSI Physical Oceanography Laboratory

Aiko is a champ in the field of physical oceanography, as she analyzes the ever-changing physical attributes of the ocean (‘swirls and blobs’ she describes) using satellite data, oceanographic equipment, and high-frequency radars. 

She frequently visits the Cagayan coasts for field work, maintaining two radars in monitoring the ocean currents of the Luzon Strait located between Taiwan and the Philippine islands.

Aiko’s Field Notes on being confident on the job

‘I did my first fieldwork [in] February 2018. [We] had to scour the coasts of Cagayan to find a good spot for our ocean monitoring site. Rain or shine, we walked along the coasts of different barangays. I used to fear talking to people I do not know.’

‘These days, I now have a go-bag with a week’s worth of fieldwork clothes in case we need to go to the field to troubleshoot our sites. I am also already used to the locals now and I love every chance I get to talk to them about the science behind the work we do. I also now have a mental map of the place, most of it are places where we get to taste local delicacies!’

Aiko’s Field Notes on the best part of being on the field

‘Doing fieldwork means you have to think on your toes and be present most of the time. We had to make decisions and think of solutions on the spot. One time, we had to lay 500 meters of heavy electrical cable under muddy soil. We did not have a vehicle to pull all of that, so we made a “Pajero”. Basically, we used a carabao with a cart at the back to lay the cables. We also have to be weatherproof. Rain or shine. Day or night.

Sarah Oliva

Geophysicist/Seismologist

Taken last in Edmonton, Canada last September 2020 when Sarah started her postdoc remotely at University of British Columbia. She also wore this barong-style dress when she defended her doctoral dissertation back in June 2020.

Sarah is a Geophysicist who achieved her PhD at Tulane University in Louisiana. She pursued the field because it was a ‘marriage’ of her two favorite fields: Physics and the Earth.

Before she heads on site, Sarah first does most of her work in front of the computer, detecting and extracting earthquake waves using waveform analysis. When she is needed on the field, she’s in charge of installing and maintaining seismometers so they can accurately record incoming earthquakes. She’s since done fieldwork in Tanzania, Kenya, Ecuador, and Galápagos.

Sarah’s Field Notes on doing field work in a different country

‘I was a first year PhD student and new to the US. It all happened so fast and I had to learn most things on the spot in the field. I remember I did not even have the proper gear and they had to drive me over to Walmart to buy some gloves and an extra pair of non-jeans pants. We stayed in a small town and every morning we had to drive a few hours to the middle-of-nowhere where there was nothing but farmland for miles and miles.’

‘Within those few days, I met a lot of interesting people, including many chatty folks. Overall, those few days of fieldwork made quite an impact to me, in terms of learning actual hands-on fieldwork but also in getting to know a bit more of the country I was in. If it hadn’t been for that experience, succeeding fieldwork travels might have turned out different.’

Sarah’s Field Notes on her biggest inspiration

‘The largest contributing factors to my pursuit of STEM are my supportive parents and teachers throughout the years. Thanks to them, my environment growing up was conducive to curiosity-driven pursuits and science. I had volumes of illustrated science books and encyclopedias at home. For some time, my dad grilled me regularly with tedious, repetitive, math exercises until I could quickly do calculations in my head (I did not enjoy those, but I benefited greatly from them).’

‘This might sound trivial to some, but in the simplest sense, one important contributing factor to my pursuit of STEM is that nobody told me I couldn’t.’

She adds, ‘Surround yourself with supportive like-minded people. Reach out to local STEM people that inspire you, they might become your mentor and guide you through your own career. Approach us. We were once novices like you and most of us would jump at an opportunity to help you make an informed decision on whether or not to pursue our field as a career. Ask. Ask questions. Ask for help. Communicate.’

Dr. Aimee Dupo

Entomologist & professor at the Institute of Biological Science, UPLB

Dr. Aimee is an entomologist who graduated in Agriculture, majoring in Entomology, from UPLB back in 1999. She now serves as professor at UPLB, as her work in the classification of insect life earned her the 2015 NAST Outstanding Young Scientist award and the 2017 Bato Balani Many Faces of a Teacher Award.

She started her fieldwork when she served as the  University Extension Associate of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, curating samples of spiders and moths for the gallery. With fieldwork being her position’s norm,  she shares that there were quite a few days when I was not out on the field.’

Dr. Aimee’s Field Notes on the freedom of field work

‘Going on field always feels like an adventure. You would never know what you are going to discover next. All of your senses are exposed to so many stimuli but at the same time you are also worried about what would happen in case of an accident. Fieldwork tends to bring you to places where hospitals are far away.’

Entering the caves in Pangasinan. Photo courtesy of Balincaguin Conservancy.

Dr. Aimee’s Field Notes on the power of mentors

‘I had a lot of mentors and colleagues who helped create and enable [the] environment for me to pursue STEM. They pushed and encouraged me to do more because they were that supportive. There were no words like, “You can’t do that,” only, “Try and see what you can learn from it.” More importantly, there was no mention of the concept, “You’re just a girl.”

Documenting arthropods visiting Rafflesia in Mt. Makiling, Los Banos Laguna

Noreen “Kubi” Follosco

 Coastal Systems researcher, Marine Environment & Resources Foundation, UP Diliman

Orientation on climate change adaptation in Coron, Palawan last July 2019. Photo courtesy of MERF USAID Fish Right Project.

Noreen is a researcher working on the resilience of local coastal adaptation, marine protected areas, and ecosystem services in the Philippines. She mostly works as a trainer, developing resources and building capacity on climate change adaptation for coastal communities.

She studied Biology at the University of the Philippines Baguio for her undergraduate degree, and Environmental Science at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines Diliman for her master’s.

Noreen’s Field Notes on changing roles on site

‘When I began doing fieldwork, it was mostly for biophysical surveys. For example, I’ve joined surveys for both upland, as well as mangrove, forests. The surveys in mangroves were to better understand how they stabilize the coast, and protect coastal communities.

‘Over the years, my work transformed into communicating, and finding ways to apply science meaningfully in conservation & management. So, I found myself interacting more with local governments and communities, rather than being in the water (or the mud, as is often the case in mangroves).’

‘I always look forward to what I can learn in the field. Spending time in coastal and fisher communities is an instructive and humbling experience—I’m reminded that I actually know so little. We have much to learn from indigenous and local knowledge.’

Interviews about resilience with residents of Calawit Island, Busuanga last September 2019. Photo courtesy of Mags Quibilan.

Noreen’s Field Notes on the goal of the job

‘In my work, one of the challenges is effectively translating technical information for practical use. A key aim of our work is to transfer knowledge generated through scientific research to settings where people are directly interacting with their environment. My ultimate goal is to build capacity so effectively that the coastal communities (we’ve worked with) can self-sustain, and are empowered to continue sharing the knowledge forward themselves.’

Irene Crisologo

Climatologist/Geologist

Irene is a jill of all trades in the STEM world, as she’s hailed from the different fields of Physics, Geology, then Geoecology. While attending a workshop on weather radars, she said to herself: “This is it! This is what I want to do.” 

Since then, Irene has been in the US focusing on studying the rainfall-measuring instruments called weather radars. She researches the data that weather radars collect, and develops possibilities to reduce errors in measurement and interpretation. Her postdoctoral project involves looking at strong winter storms in the West Coast.

Irene’s Field Notes on the rush of being on site

‘Doing a masters in Geology introduced me to doing fieldworks. It was incredibly exciting, going to different places and being able to physically touch the things I’m studying in their natural location. As a young student then, the added bonus of traveling to obscure locations that I would not have otherwise reached gave a big sense of adventure.

‘On top of that, I had good company with my labmates. Doing fieldwork with other people forms bonds with them, as you see each other in various modes of being human—from the work mode in planning and coordinating, to seeing each other exhausted from walking all day and carrying rocks or water samples, to knowing what they are like when you’re all hungry and stinky after a long day of work.’

Irene’s Field Notes on fieldwork’s little learnings

No two fieldworks are the same. Even if you’re going to the same location twice, to collect the same data (whether it’s rocks, soil, water, temperature), the environment is always changing because nature is unpredictable. But all these challenges also teach you how to adapt to different situations. It teaches you how to be flexible, and to think fast and make quick decisions, and knowing the priority of the group (for example, safety).’

Dr. Deborah N. Tangunan

Paleoclimatologist/biogeochemist/marine micropaleontologist


Dr. Tangunan was one of the science slammers during the Science Slam (Seas and Oceans) Regional Competition in Northern Germany back in 2017. Photo courtesy of Florian Koch.

Dr. Deborah is an experienced Geologist with expertise in micropaleontology, biogeochemistry, and paleoclimatology. Her work literally goes way back, as she studies the tiniest of Earth’s fossils to get history’s answers on today’s climate crisis. 

Under the University of the Philippine’s National Institute of Geological Sciences, most of her fieldwork happened on land. Later on, she focused on studying marine sediment cores in places like Bohol, Sulu, the Sibuyan sea, and even the Pacific Ocean. With a geologist’s laboratory essentially being “the Earth”, Deborah has literally done her work across the border.

Deborah’s Field Notes on the country’s STEM challenges

‘Of course, there’s always the problem of limited funding allotted for research, or science in general—in the Philippines. When I went abroad for my Ph.D. and eventually for Post Docs, there were a lot of funding grants and opportunities but competition is too high. It’s difficult when you are just beginning to establish a “home” in one place and then realize that you have to move out again. Well, with a lot of opportunities for scientists here, I was never afraid to try anything.’

Deborah’s Field Notes on the thrill of exploring

‘There are a number of exciting parts to being a geologist, especially with my field of specialization: I get to travel to places I never imagine I could ever go to. I have travelled to many Philippine provinces, a number of countries, and oceans. A memorable one was the equator crossing when we were sailing in the Pacific Ocean. Research expeditions at sea for several weeks or months have allowed me to meet and work with fantastic people and scientists onboard, some of them became my mentors and collaborators in my future research endeavors.’

She adds, ‘One example is how I got my Ph.D. position in Germany. I was half-way down my MS degree program when I met this scientist whose papers I’ve been reading for a while.  Several months past and I was set that I wanted him to be my Ph.D. supervisor so I wrote an email asking him if by any chance, there will be an open Ph.D. position in his university. He gave me advice and reminded me that even if he already “wanted” me for the position, I still need to convince the other members of the panel that I deserve the position. I got the position.

You cannot work alone. Collaboration and networking are key components of doing science.


It’s not everyday that we can take a peek into the field notes of our idols, but if their notes could talk, they’d likely say that though every field of work will be difficult, following your passion requires love and passion that just comes easy.

Good luck, future STEM Women on Site!

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Healing Together: Erika Modina’s Journey with Public Health

A young public health professional, Erika Modina offers insight into her one-of-a-kind STEM journey!


 National Health Research Forum for Action last 2018.

“I want to shatter the notion that you have to fit a certain criterion to pursue a career here, that you can wear head-to-toe pink and still be taken seriously.

These are the words of Erika Modina, a public health professional from the Philippines.

Growing up, she initially wanted to become a doctor because of her proficiency in science, but more so because she did not realize she had other options as well. While she once considered either working for the government or managing a children’s hospital, she was enlightened to pursue public health research after she graduated from college with a degree in BS Health Sciences. Eventually, she saw to it to enhance her skills and knowledge needed in the field, particularly through further studies. She has since studied in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the University of London and is completing her Masters of Science in Public Health in the said university.

Despite being well-accomplished, Erika has still had her fair share of difficulties. Having completed her bachelor’s degree in 2016, she is a relatively fresh face in the industry, which sometimes leads people to believe that she is too young or lacks experience. The fields of public health and medicine are still quite traditional in the Philippines, which gives her quite the amount of naysayers who doubt her skills. However, like the headstrong woman that she is, she chose to prevail and simply let her work speak for herself.

Erika participated as a panelist in Startup PH’s Women’s Initiative last 2019.

Erika finds motivation in knowing the stories of others. Instead of self-help books, she looks to memoirs to appreciate what others have been through which, in turn, makes her excited for her own story to unfold. She encourages women to never hide their accomplishments. Given the current health crisis, her advice is to also use this time to make conversation with other people. “This is the perfect time to reach out to other women you look up to or people you want to work with. Take this time to find your tribe and surround yourself with people who make you kinder and better, not just in your career but in all aspects of your life.”

Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok, Thailand last 2020.

If one person belittles you, look around—ten more people will be cheering you on.

Her advice to young Pinays? “If one person belittles you, look around–ten more people will be cheering you on.” Each person’s STEM journey is unique. For Erika, it is a journey “towards health equity, lined with peonies, [with] ‘What Dreams Are Made Of’ by Hilary Duff blasting in the background.”

Erika Modina is currently the president of EpiMetrics, Inc., a health research institution geared towards the achievement of health equity through rigorous and creative conception, execution, translation, and communication of health systems and policy research.  She is also the Chief Health Officer of Day3 Innovations and a part-time lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University.