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STEM Pinay of the Month

It Really Hertz! The Amps and Downs of Electrical Engineering with Elgelyn Bardelosa

It is said that one opportunity can open a lot of other doors, yet sometimes, exploring them can be quite a maze! For our featured Pinay of the Month, her journey began as an aspiring high school student, hoping for a place in the sciences. Coming from a science high school, Elgelyn Bardelosa took the admission test to enter into a Civil Engineering course, yet finances were short and she almost lost hope. “Sadly, even if I begged my mother for money, my family’s resources were very limited to even afford the fare to go to UP Los Banos. That day I cried hard because I lost hope–I would not be able to go to my dream school, or even maybe pursue college,” she recounts. Luckily for her, days later, she had found out that she was given a scholarship from the Department of Science and Technology, Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) after passing their exam. 

Although Elgelyn did not pursue the course she initially wanted due to limited course offerings by the DOST-SEI, she went on to pursue her second choice, Electrical Engineering, and has been committed to the field ever since. Currently, she is an Electrical Design Engineer by profession. “I prepare electrical plans for different establishments–from a simple house to commercial living spaces like apartments, to small offices to towers, recreational spaces to malls, and even for industrial plants.” Throughout her career, she has learned to work in different contexts, sometimes preparing plans for buildings in other countries, and work as a team player.  

Although skilled in her field, her journey did not come without some setbacks. Initially, not a lot of people were accepting of her course, including her parents who thought she would have had a better career had she chosen Accountancy, a course which many girls had considered. On that note, she has faced some other challenges that came with her being a girl in the sciences. While her male peers and classmates were welcoming of her, it was during her commutes home after late-night groupworks when she felt unsafe. “Most of the time, I ask one of my guy classmates to send me home early!” To this day, she still has her fair share of discrimination. During her stint as the youngest in the project team, it was difficult for her teammates to take her seriously, and she was also sometimes bullied on the project site for being a young, skinny woman. Resilient, Elgelyn still persevered. She bravely states, “I did not let these chances define me as a person, and I took them as chances to strengthen my character. I chose to nurture my technical and people skills to be able to handle those kinds of situations.” 

As I involve myself in many projects and different fields of engineering, it makes me proud to encounter other Pinay Engineers, Lead Engineers, Project Managers, and other Pinay Leaders who also continue to dominate the engineering field.

Even though these tough experiences can build character, one doesn’t need to put themselves in these situations to give them strength. Instead. Elgelyn suggests that young Pinays look for opportunities empowering content online. “It is a very interesting time to pursue STEM in general,” she says due to limitations imposed by the community quarantine. While it is hard to spark physical teamwork and collaboration, something ever-present in the field of Electrical Engineering, the internet is still a powerful tool for experts and learners alike, making resources available, even from mentors who are out of the country. In fact, during the quarantine, Elgelyn was able to attend many seminars available online to enhance her engineering knowledge. Aside from educational content, she also mentions looking for motivational words online. “I personally go to TEDx talks of women in STEM on YouTube for a source of inspiration.” 

That being said, Elgelyn also offers her own words of wisdom to young aspiring Pinays. “The reason why the STEM field is dominated by men is because mostly known scientists and innovators known before are men. However, we live now in a world that offers a better opportunity for us young women to shine. Choose what battles to fight and what not to. If you don’t believe in yourself, remember that I believe in you!”


Elgelyn Bardelosa is an Electric Design Engineer based in Imus, Cavite. She graduated from the Technological University of the Philippines-Manila with a degree in BS Electrical Engineering, with a scholarship granted by DOST-SEI. 

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Love the Way You Outlie-r: Beating the Odds with Erika Legara


“My journey in Science started as a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”

Although our Pinay of the Month wanted to be a scientist when she was little, her run of luck began when she was offered a scholarship by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). A recipient of the DOST-merit scholarship, Erika Legara originally wanted to take on a different career growing up. “I had always wanted to be an engineer because both my parents are civil engineers,” she recalls, but due to the limited course offerings covered by the scholarship, Erika chose Physics since it was the closest science to civil engineering. 

Erika at a research meeting where they were building models to simulate how they can better build our urban systems and make them more resilient to natural hazards. 

Even then, choosing a science course is totally different from staying in it. Erika reveals what keeps her committed to the field of Physics. “What made me really want to continue pursuing the field were my research mentors,” referring to her instructors at the National Institute of Physics and her days at the Instrumentation Physics Laboratory. It was then she found joy in research and collaboration. 

Erika training the next generation of data science leaders. 

Currently a data scientist, Erika’s days as a Physics student led her to her pursuit of knowledge, specifically writing simulations and algorithms to explore some what-ifs of day-to-day living. In particular, she has quite a number of interesting research projects under her belt. Not a fan of traffic? Data can solve that! Erika has done research on cities and transportation systems to find ways to make them smarter, more efficient, and more reliable. Bothered by the trolls that plague the internet? Data can offer some perspective on that, too! She has also done some work in Computational Social Science, describing how bots and trolls behave online. “With the right information, the right lens, and the right tools, I, together with our research team, get to help enterprises make better decisions that improve both their business processes and products.” 

Erika at the Asian Forum on Enterprise with women leaders in Science and Technology (AI and Robotics). Along with the rest of the panel, they explored the central question: “If we can re-imagine, shape, and inspire the Future together, what will it look like?” 

While a successful, self-made Pinay in science, Erika would not be where she is today without a little help from some people. “The four biggest contributing factors in my pursuit of STEM are my parents, the DOST, my research mentors, and the field of Science itself.” It was the first which exposed her to career options related to civil engineering, the second which opened doors for her, and the third which kept her committed to Physics. But at the end of the day, it’s science itself that makes her stay. “Even if we have the most inspiring parents and mentors, if the field of Science were not as interesting and as mind-blowing as it is, I really wouldn’t have stayed in STEM and continued this pursuit. There’s this deep sense of fulfillment in discovering and creating things, and this is what keeps me in the field and in my profession as a scientist and a professor.” 

Erika engaging business leaders and policymakers. Here, she discussed how Science and Technology can help enterprises survive, thrive, and be competitive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

As for young Pinays who would want to explore the same path, Erika mentions that the road doesn’t come without any challenges. In particular, she mentions that the country doesn’t have a deep appreciation for the sciences, which is reflected in how little scientists and researchers get paid here, relative to the years of studying and investment. That being said, while outside factors may be to blame, Pinays themselves have the guts to pursue their dreams. With a little exposure, aspiring scientists can go a long way! Erika hopefully says. “I am not that worried about building the confidence of our young Pinays. We just really need to expose them to the wonders of STEM.” Nowadays, in the midst of a health crisis, there are still opportunities to be found indoors, such as online internships and webinars which Erika recommends. Some examples include gathering scientists to volunteer or take part in mentoring activities and project-based programs where they can guide young girls in building AI models to perform classification tasks or teach them how to write cellular-automata models in order for them to learn more about segregation and/or land-use design, or to figure out how to best represent social interactions through complex networks. With all this excitement and enthusiasm, she hopes to bring STEM closer to the public, especially the Filipino youth.  

I am not that worried about building the confidence of our young Pinays. We just really need to expose them to the wonders of STEM.

Her final motivational words for us are about STEM Pinays as more than just inspirational figures. “We are aware that as women in science, we have the responsibility to inspire more women to get into science. But more than information disseminators, we are also very much capable of becoming discoverers and generators of ideas and knowledge—something that I would really love to see more of. Just keep on pushing and persevering. STEM is gender-neutral. Keep on learning, exploring, and creating!” 


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.”


Erika Legara is a data scientist who completed her bachelor’s, master’s, and postgraduate degrees in Physics under the University of the Philippines. Currently, she is the Associate Professor, Aboitiz Chair in Data Science, and the Program Director of MSc Data Science in the Asian Institute of Management.

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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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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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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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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.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Defying Deviations: Exceeding the Norm with Angelina Aquino

A Pinay in the field of electronics engineering, Angelina talks about her ups and downs as a woman in STEM.


Angelina Aquino has had an admiration for math and the sciences since her childhood. As a young girl, Angelina would join math competitions, and it helped that her parents were both engineering graduates who were supportive of this passion of hers. “[My parents] fostered my curiosity about the world, explained new concepts well, and encouraged me to read books and watch documentaries,” says Angelina. Later on, she found herself in a community of like-minded people, particularly during the math competitions at which she would occasionally place and during her years at a science high school. It was then that she found her love for programming.


Angelina back in high school during a frog dissection during her Biology class. According to her, she was very much excited to dissect but obviously, the frog was not.

Although she initially thought she would pursue medicine, through her interactions with her teachers, she later realized that another field was more suited for someone as logical and critical-minded as herself. “I soon realized that I couldn’t imagine myself working in a field without problem-solving, where you encounter questions and are able to break them down into logical, step-by-step solutions.” Eventually, this led her to pursue studies, both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, in engineering.

Day 1 of the LT4All conference, with former DepEd USec. Dina Ocampo (center) and Prof. Rhandley Cajote (right).

Her current focus is called natural language processing, or NLP for short. Although people may not realize it, this is something they use daily. To put it simply, NLP makes use of language data, whether it be written or spoken, and this is often used to develop apps such as Siri or Alexa, Google Translate, search engines, spam filters, chatbots, speech recognizers–you name it! An interdisciplinary field, NLP pools together the fields of electrical engineering, computer science, linguistics, and many others.

Angelina in ISMAC 2019 with her father, who to her is “arguably the single greatest influence in my pursuit of STEM to date.”

Angelina hopes for this spirit of collaboration for the local science community since she believes this is how new knowledge is formed. “When you come across a question that hasn’t been answered before and you start finding new answers–now that’s science!” Because of this, there should be more opportunities for women in STEM. While she mentions that the gender gap in the Philippines is relatively smaller compared to other countries, nonetheless, it is a reality that must be overturned for the better. Throughout her years in engineering, she has often heard that this is a man’s field, yet she still persevered and succeeded despite society’s archaic views on the matter.

In the future, I envision women to be and feel as welcome in STEM as in any other discipline.

She has nothing but hope for Pinays in the sciences. “In the future, I envision women to be and feel as welcome in STEM as in any other discipline.” Her advice to young girls is to live curiously and keep asking questions. “Don’t let anyone ever think that you don’t have a place in this field. Like this year’s Nobel Prize laureates in Chemistry, Emanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, you can be trailblazers in your own way.”

Angelina Aquino is currently a Teaching Associate under the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute at University of the Philippines. In her spare time, she enjoys singing and listening to choral music, as well as playing video games.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Overcoming Uncertainties: Quantum Physics with Dr. Jacqui Romero

Making waves in quantum physics, Dr. Jacqui Romero shares her journey, from her youth to her vision of the future of women in STEM.


Ever since her childhood, Dr. Jacqui Romero’s interest in STEM was nurtured by an ever-supporting family. “They have nurtured my interest in mathematics and science from a very young age. I remember my father driving me to weekend MTAP lessons!” Eventually, she took a particular interest in physics. Her passion for the discipline started during her high school years in Philippine Science High School. Physics was her favorite subject, and she would even read beyond what the curriculum would require. In particular, quantum computing was her gateway into the more daunting field of quantum physics.


This feat did not come without difficulty. Dr. Romero mentions two most challenging parts to her journey: getting into the field and landing a job. “I found it hard to get into a research program abroad for a PhD [because] there [was] just a lack of awareness of [programs] then.” Because of this, she became more vocal about the programs in the field of Physics. She then landed a scholarship to do her PhD, which she accomplished all while pregnant with her first child. While earning her doctorate, she also contributed to 11 publications, 5 of which were led by her. 

Eventually, after completing her post-graduate degree, Dr. Romero encountered her second challenge: the job hunt. She came to realize that entering the field is one thing, but landing a position is another. Due to the scarcity of jobs in the academe, it is quite difficult for each expert in the field to be afforded a position. She mentions, “it is really sad that we have a lot of talented people and not a lot of jobs in the universities.” Her way around it was to put herself out there, gaining media attention from her work on slowing down the speed of light in free space and winning fellowships and awards that put the spotlight on her. To name a few of her accomplishments, Dr. Romero has once been selected as one out of fifteen L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science (FWIS) International Rising Talents. In 2016, she was also awarded a fellowship by the Australian Research Council, then received a fellowship from the Westpac Foundation afterwards. As Dr. Romero proudly exclaims, “I made sure that I cannot be ignored!”

Be good! Whatever it is you choose to do, be very good at it to the point that you cannot be dismissed. Also, always remember to have fun!

When asked about the future of women in STEM, Dr. Romero hopes that the Philippine government would invest more on research and development. While it is great to have scholarships for science, what follows after a science degree is still unclear without opportunities for research. “It often happens that one finishes a PhD and then pursues a career in administration[.] That is good, but that is really not what a PhD is for. As abstract as it sounds, we need to generate new knowledge so we can solve more problems. Some of these problems will be unique to the Philippines, and we would need Filipinos who have the expertise and passion to solve them.” Hopeful, she mentions that the Philippines has a wider pool of talented young women based on the number of female students who, as she would observe, would attend Physics conferences each year. It is then a matter of making the most out of this culture through policies and systemic changes.

Dr. Romero’s advice to young Pinays looking to venture into STEM is “Be good! Whatever it is you choose to do, be very good at it to the point that you cannot be dismissed. Also, always remember to have fun!”

Dr. Jacquiline Romero is a quantum physicist currently working for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems at the University of Queensland, Australia. She is also a loving wife and a mother to three children.

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STEM Pinay of the Month

Let Me Count the Ways: Math in Action with Dr. Ninette De Las Peñas

Math is the language of the universe. From education to mat weaving, it is also how Dr. De Las Peñas came to understand the world.

Most people see math as daunting and complex, a universe of its own irrelevant to the everyday and familiar. However, for Dr. Ninette De Las Peñas, numbers are sometimes the best portals to other worlds, especially from our own selves to the greater world around us.

Growing up, Dr. De Las Peñas has always been fond of math. “I [have] loved math since I was a kid and was always intrigued by what I could discover through numbers.” From deciding to be a mathematician as early as her high school days until today, she has had a thriving career in her chosen field. Over the years, she has won several research awards, written over 60 journal articles in mathematics and mathematics education, and mentored over 40 thesis students.


Photo taken during a lecture in Ateneo de Manila University back in 2017.

Currently the Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work of the Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University, her most recent project is leading a research team that developed mobile apps for math education. Known as Mathplus, the project aims to instill critical thinking skills in children grades 1 to 11 while also aiding in transitioning to online and blended learning amid the current health crisis.

Aside from being an educator, Dr. De Las Peñas has also used the language of mathematics to communicate other topics of interest as she is best known for her work on woven mat patterns. Alongside two co-authors, she talks about the symmetry of mats from Philippine indigenous groups using the language of mathematics in their work called “Weaving Mat(h)s”. The paper was also presented in 2014 in collaboration with mat weaver Janeth Hanapi, showcasing a live demonstration of the weaving process. For their work, the authors received a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Dr. De Las Peñas trying the tinalak weaving during a research trip.

This is a huge leap from the state of the academe during Dr. De Las Peñas’ early professional days. She recalls, “I realized that there were only a few mathematicians from the mathematical community in the Philippines that were published in prestigious and indexed math and science journals,” thus her will to develop a culture of publishing as an educator. She also mentions a lack of opportunities to do further research and participate in conferences abroad, among other

In spite of the larger forces that can hinder a STEM Pinay’s career, Dr. De Las Peñas still thinks that encouragement and role models for young girls can go a long way, particularly from family and media. She cites Nancy Drew as an example, describing the titular character as “very scientific in the way she found clues to solve her mysteries,” as well as assertive and headstrong.

Do not give up on your dreams. Do not be afraid to assert yourself. If men can do it, we can too!

Dr. De Las Peñas being awarded the 2018 National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST Phl) Outstanding Scientific Paper Award for her paper entitled “Mathematical and Anthropological Analysis of Northern Luzon Funerary Textile.”

She believes that things will only go upwards for women in STEM. “They think differently and have more confidence. There are more opportunities now for women to succeed.” As words of wisdom for young girls aspiring to do the same, Dr. De Las Peñas says, “Do not give up on your dreams. Do not be afraid to assert yourself. If men can do it, we can too!”