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Youth in STEM

Bridging the gap between STEM and Filipinos with Recca Lujan


Even at a young age, Recca was already given the opportunity to explore the field of science through class experiments, and by enrolling in a Science High School and volunteering for the “Tulong Dunong” program, where she is greatly remembered and recognized by young students.

Let’s hear more about what sparked her interest in STEM as well as her advocacies in the field!

My STEM Journey

I can say I owe most of my STEM journey to Pisay as I was surrounded with opportunities in an environment where the people had aligned interests. In my first two years I was part of our school’s science club and was able to attend events of the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs (PSYSC), the organization I would be serving later in my college years. One highlight of my high school life that directed me to pursue a laboratory oriented career was our Summer Internship Program when I interned for a month at the Institute of Food Science and Technology in UP Los Banos. During our specialization years in senior high I chose to focus on Biology and Chemistry. This eventually brought me to where I am today, an incoming senior in the Biochemistry program of UP Manila. As much as I love my time in the lab (back when F2F was possible), I equally love working with my organizations, the UP Biochemistry Society and PSYSC. Currently I am interning at the Philippine Genome Center’s Core Facility for Bioinformatics. Upon graduation I plan on taking up research assistant positions as well as taking the Chemistry Licensure Examination. I hope to eventually do my Masters abroad and come back to the Philippines to finish my Return Service Agreement with DOST.

Sparking my interest in STEM

It was really in my specialization years that had brought me close to the fields of Biology and Chemistry. To be honest, most of my high school life I had my mind set on applying for the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology program in UP Diliman. During senior high however, I had found myself being drawn closer to Chemistry as we would always do experiments in the lab. It was always during lab work that I had felt the most comfortable because I loved hands on interactive learning. It was only when I was filling up my UPCAT application form that I found out the UP System also offered Biochemistry. I applied to the degree thinking it would be 50% Biology, 50% Chemistry. This belief was also held by a lot of my blockmates, to which we quickly learned in our first college days that it would be about 90% Chemistry and only 10% Biology. I don’t have any regrets with my degree though as I learned more about what it was and what our graduates were doing, I had felt more and more at home and that this is what I want to be pursuing. 

Taken last 2019 in Batangas during the National Youth Science, Technology, and Environment Summer Camp.

Bringing STEM closer to Filipinos

After evaluating what I had been doing for the past years, I found a pattern that led me to realize all along I was actually unconsciously advocating for making science accessible and for the masses. Our organization’s thrust is PUS TE (Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and the Environment) and likewise I think we should always push for information, education, and communication of STEM, especially to those who aren’t as exposed to it. I think this particularly relevant given the pandemic as talks of RT-PCR, mRNA vaccines, and the like may seem like common topics to those in the scientific community but may seem foreign to others. It is especially critical to keep everyone knowledgeable as we rely on making informed decisions in taking collective action against a public health threat. As fun as it may be to be involved with the high technology aspect of science, we should keep in mind that science is for the masses and that it can still be understood and appreciated without needing an extensive scientific background. Being lucky enough to be surrounded by individuals inclined in STEM, sometimes it makes you forget that a good chunk of the population is not the same, likely due to the lack of opportunities and resources. As I’ve mentioned, Pisay had a large contribution on my STEM journey but actually a large selling point I had entering Pisay was the free tuition and allowance since at the time of my admission my family wasn’t as well off financially as we are now. 

Taken last 2019 in Zamboanga City during the National Science Club Month Region 9 Summit.

I think in terms of awareness and action, surely there has been progress but not as much progress as one would hope to have. A major change I’d like to see is making primary and secondary education more accessible as these are the crucial years in one’s development. I also think on ground action should be emphasized as social media campaigns could only do so much and could only reach those with devices and internet connection. 


To my fellow youth

Be steadfast in what you’re pursuing. Remember why you want to do what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. Lastly, be kind to yourself and remember that you’re human and not just a machine. 

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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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STEMpower

The boss, not bossy: 9 STEM Women taking the lead

As a continuation of our Girl Gang blog back in October for International Day of the Girl,  we’re rounding up another group of special STEM boss babes for your summer club consideration. 

Further proving that STEM doesn’t just exist within the labs, these women are also making their way up the ladder with their own brand of leadership, driven by purpose and passion. Hard sciences not for you? Check out the different branches where fellow great women are in charge! 


I.T.-SPO

Beng is the CEO and President Of Pointwest Technologies, an Information Technology (IT) firm dedicated to utilizing digital technology at its best. She graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering in the University of Santo Tomas back in 1974, and she’s been dedicated to introducing world-class tech software to the country ever since.  

Envisioning a gender-equal future for all, Beng is now also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Integrated STEM Education, or CISTEM.

MICROSOFT GURU

Clarissa is the current Education Program Lead for a small tech company called, well, Microsoft. Jokes aside, Clarissa has been with Microsoft for a whopping ten years, where she started out as a Partner Development Manager in 2011. 

Through her role as Education Program Lead, she focuses on providing an impact for the PH academic sector through specific education technology programs. 

COMMAND-HER IN CHIEF 

Julia is the current Executive Director of FEU Public Policy Center (FPPC), a private research foundation making a change in policy-making through thorough research and community discussions. She’s been working for the cause almost all her life, as she was even the Head of the Presidential Management Staff from 2010 to 2016, among other government jobs. 

Julia achieved her Masters in Public Policy  with a concentration in Political and Economic Development at Harvard University. 

PROJECT HEAD

Linartes is the country’s National Project Coordinator for the Women in STEM Workforce Readiness and Development Program by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Through data-driven research like skills upgrading, job placement, skills gap identification, and more, the program aims to give women a leg up in finding (and thriving) the STEM career field. 

In a 2019 interview with ABS-CBN, she stressed that there’s more work to be done in convincing women to join STEM careers “especially now, when we’re moving to the future of work when we’re requiring more STEM-related skills that will be needed to compete in the workplace,” she explained. 

Through her work, Linartes ensures that the projects implemented by the ILO are inclusive for all Filipina women to reach their STEM goals. 

HOMEGROWN IBM BOSS

Serving as the current President and Country General Manager of IBM Philippines, Aileen is the first Filipina leader of the popular BPO company. As a woman in power, Aileen is dedicated to introducing Filipino talents to not just the international scale, but also to make them stay and serve our home country.  

Through IBM’s growing projects in the field, Aileen hopes for a  reverse brain drain in the country, or “Brain Gain”. Speaking to ANC’s ‘The Boss’, she explains. “Really, my dream is that [skilled Filipinos] come back. It’s kind of like a reverse brain drain.” 

WOMEN FTW

Cara is the co-founder and Executive Director for the For the Women (FTW) Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to change women’s lives by offering free data science and AI training for future leaders, like herself. She graduated as a cum laude in History at Harvard College, and went on to first work in advertising in New York . 

Cara’s dream for FTW started during a trip to Milan, where she realized that “there was a lack of promising job opportunities in the Philippines and [women] had to work abroad in order to send money home and support families.” With FTW now helping numerous women all over the country, her dreams have undoubtedly come into fruition.

ACCENTURE’S LEADING WOMAN

Ambe has been a thought leader in Accenture for 30 astounding years, working her way from Senior Managing Director to leading the Accenture Advanced Technology Centers in the Philippines (ATCP). She’s worked on many large-scale systems integration programs and outsourcing engagements, as she also played a key role in driving the company’s delivery innovations. 

In an inspiring video titled Career advice for my 25-year old self”, Ambe shares sage advice for young workers such as creating your own destiny, trying not to please everybody, and more. 

CHIEF MERMAID 

Anna is a marine conservationist and the self-proclaimed Chief Mermaid/Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Philippine marine life.  At 23 years old, she was recognized as one of the seven modern Filipino heroes by Yahoo! Southeast Asia. She’s also the first and youngest awardee of the Netherland’s Future for Nature Award. 

A steady advocate for oceanic protection, Anna has also co-authored a workbook to teach young Filipinos about the  grave impacts of climate change.

MANILA OBSERVATORY EXEC

Gemma is the Executive Director of the Ateneo de Manila University’s (ADMU) Manila Observatory, which aims to expand scientific research in environmental and pre-disaster science through sustainable development. Before heading the Manila Observatory, she was an Associate Director for Research and the Head of the Regional Climate Systems Program of the Observatory at ADMU. 

Equipped with her lifelong expertise in climate change research, Gemma aids communities to prepare for natural disasters.


These women prove that the Philippines isn’t in short supply of STEM women ready to take charge!  Aside from taking the lead in their own fields, it’s vital to note that their advocacies don’t stop there, as they’ve taken it upon themselves to give fellow women the opportunity to thrive just like them. 

After all, empowered women empower other women

Categories
STEMpower

Building your blocks: What does it take to be an engineer?

According to the Youth in STEM report, 59% of females are inclined to taking STEM in university, with engineering being the top course uptake (16%). There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but showcasing role models in engineering is a great start, especially for our young girls. We must continue to celebrate those making great strides towards creating a more diverse and gender equal industry. ​

This International Day of Women in Engineering, it is important for girls to be given the opportunity to explore the field as well as expose them to role models that inspire them to pursue STEM. Let’s hear it for our Pinays in Engineering!


Maria Kathrine Co, Supply Chain Commercial Lead

Maria is currently the Supply Chain Commercial Lead in Shell Business Operations, Manila where she supports the Manufacturing site in Singapore. She is responsible for overseeing the operational and tactical contracts for the Engineering, Maintenance, Services, and Disposal Categories. Prior to this, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and eventually passed the certification exam last 2013 commissioned by the Philippine Institute of Industrial Engineers (PIIE).   

My STEM spark

Maria: I was fortunate enough to study in a Chinese school, Hope Christian High School, when I was growing up – I am half Chinese, by the way. As you know, Chinese schools are very well known in terms of their focus in Mathematics since we have more learning time – one in English, the other in Chinese, compared to regular schools. The concept is the same; it’s just that we are also taught to calculate it using the Chinese method and language.

Having this educational background, I looked for a course where math will be more dominant and will represent a good balance in the supply chain. That led me to take up Industrial Engineering. Truth be told, the phrase “be careful what you wish for” was really true! I remember we had one semester where we need to take up four (4) different math subjects. That was one of the most challenging moments of my college life because I had to memorize all the formulas and methods all at the same time. Going through this course was not an easy journey for me, but definitely one will achieve its goal if you have the will and positive outlook. Every course has its challenges and difficulties; you just have to choose what path you want to pursue… mine was Engineering.

“Apart from the continuous learnings, what keeps me going with this line of work are the people I interact with. Not once in my career that I have felt that I was incapable because of my gender. I work with different fields of engineers- mostly men, and I never felt intimated. What is important is the value that I bring to the company. I’ve been with Shell for seven (7) years, and I must say that I am blessed to be part of an organization where diversity and inclusion are highly encouraged.”

It starts with you

Maria: I am not the first engineer in the family, but I am the first female. Many doubted my choice when I was starting to create my path in Engineering – even myself. I wasn’t one of those top students nor a studious one. My General Weighted Average (GWA) was just good enough to get me my college diploma. Yes, your academic grades will increase your probability of getting accepted into a prestigious company. Nonetheless, the concepts that you learn in class will need to reflect in your performance. What I want to say is that your grades will not define your future. Engineering is not an easy path. There will be stumbling blocks along the way but as long as you pick up the pieces and learn from it, you should be in a very good space.  

Engineering is a male-dominated field, but this should not stop you from pursuing this line of career. The moment you think that you can’t do it, you are starting to limit yourself from your great potential.   

Cleo Credo, Software Engineer 

Cleo is currently the Chief Technology Officer of Startechup, a software development company. She explores different technologies to leverage the company’s technical prowess, conducts technical assessments on software systems, comes up with project development timeline estimates and perform code reviews with the engineering team. She acts as the head of engineering where she leads teams to project execution. 
 
She is also a Senior Software Engineer where she spent most of her years in the tech industry. She builds applications and designs software systems and their architecture to deliver clients’ technical and business goals. Her work focuses mainly on full stack web engineering using Python and JavaScript but also gets to work on cloud servers and Internet of Things (IoT) boards like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, ESP8266.  

Besides her day job, she is also a speaker at tech conferences, workshops, and meetups in Cebu City, and leads/co-leads developer communities such as Facebook Developer Circles Cebu City, React Cebu, PizzaPy Python Users Group and JavaScript Cebu. It is her passion to help create an avenue for developers/non-developers to discover and learn more about technology. 

My STEM spark

Cleo: My journey to tech is very unconventional. I took Computer Science in college out of scholarship reasons and had no idea what programming is. As years passed, I still can’t seem to love it, not until my third year where I joined Startup Weekend. That’s the time I saw the meaning of my craft. 

Over the weekend, our team came up with an idea and turned it into a minimum viable product (MVP), in our case, a web application. We also provided the business model canvas, market validation and marketing strategies. This experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of tech in improving people’s lives and ultimately, solving some of the world’s biggest problems. It gave me a purpose.  

Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now. 

“Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now.”

A role model for yourself and for future generations 

Cleo: Even though the Philippines ranked first overall in gender diversity in the workforce among 10 Asian countries  based on the 2019 Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia, the gender gap is still obvious between male and female workers especially in STEM related industries. Few women are getting into engineering careers because they don’t see many women in it. The lack of visible female role models in engineering and STEM causes the disparities. 

Being well represented in an industry means breaking stereotypes. It promotes equal opportunities and career growth for everyone, safer working environments, well-thought products and services as it takes the perspective, ideas, points of view of everyone, all types of users/consumers are considered and ultimately make the world a better place. 

Women should be represented in all industries even more in the technology field. Because technology is something that will shape our future and women should be a part of it. There’s a place for us in the engineering field. It’s important to tell our story and that’s how we would inspire younger generations to be involved in technology building. 

Claire Pascua, Structural and Earthquake Engineering 

Claire is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), where she specializes in structural and earthquake engineering. Her PhD thesis is focused on the seismic performance of buildings with combined concrete walls and steel frames. Her research involves numerical modelling of such buildings and experimental tests on connection details to understand how they will perform during earthquakes. 

My STEM spark

Claire: I have always liked math and science as a kid. When I was choosing what to do for my Bachelors, I thought I wanted to do something tangible—something that would have more direct impacts to society. Hence, I chose engineering. Toward the end of my Bachelor studies, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake occurred. Watching the impacts of those earthquakes on society made me want to focus on earthquake engineering and earthquake resilience.

“I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering.”

Reimagining the way we look at engineering

Claire: I noticed that some young people are discouraged from studying engineering because they think it is too difficult. To be fair, engineering is not easy. There are many concepts we need to learn before we can practice engineering. Moreover, engineering mistakes can cost people’s lives (and they have in the past). However, I think it is precisely the challenge that makes it interesting and fulfilling. That said, I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering. 


Even with this increasing interest among women when it comes to engineering, there are still challenges that contribute to gender inequality. From the lack of female role models in the field to better opportunities, it can be difficult for new generations of female engineers to find mentors they can relate and look up to. Through initiatives that empower women while being proactive in breaking the stigma that engineering is a masculine profession, and offering female-friendly policies in the workplace, employers can cultivate a culture for women to reach their full potential.  

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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.

Categories
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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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.