DLSU American Corner holds US Embassy Talks on STEM dev’t

Last September 26, American Spaces Philippines, in collaboration with The Libraries’ American Corner and the United States (US) Embassy in the Philippines, spearheaded the US Embassy Talks, which aimed to promote pivotal topics pursuant to the theme of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). 

The program was geared toward bolstering Philippine-US relations while also introducing US government exchange alumni that have undertaken the Fulbright and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative programs in the University and its partner communities.

The microorganism that changes lives

The first speaker, Engr. Andres Philip Mayol—researcher for the Center for Engineering and Sustainable Development Research, doctorate student taking Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering at the University, and visiting scholar from the Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona—began his dialogue by recalling his undergraduate thesis on microalgae and how his curiosity propelled him to several life-changing events in the realm of multidisciplinary research. 

Upon his return to the Philippines, Mayol reminded himself of his duty as a scientist, “When I got back in the Philippines, I said to myself, ‘I made a promise to help farmers; I made a promise to use Science and Technology to capacitate our fellow farmers’.” 

“My version of STEM is that for ‘S’, you should be willing to provide solutions to address the world’s problems; ‘T’ is for time—time you have to commit; ‘E’ stands for the effort in [emergencies]; and lastly, for ‘M’, you have to have the motivation to tackle things and not give up because [as scientists], the world needs us,” Mayol stated as he emphasized the world’s growing need for scientists that are willing to help carry the current generation of mankind into the future. 

Transportation yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Neil Stephen A. Lopez, RME, Ph.D., who is a Science and Technology Fellow for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foundation and is the current Vice Chair for the Mechanical Engineering Department in DLSU, followed Mayol. 

Lopez started his talk with a story on transportation during the industrial revolution wherein horse carriages were the staple for everyday transport. Because of the reliance on horses, Lopez explained that horse manure would pile up on the roads, which required constant cleaning. This problem was solved through the creation of Henry Ford’s Model T, which is regarded as the first affordable car. Due to it being cheap and easy to produce, more people were able to buy the vehicle, with the majority of the public utilizing the Model T to transport themselves. 

It was through this story that Lopez emphasized how innovation can solve problems. He asserted that transportation must be revolutionized once again in the present day in order to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

According to the vice chair, a new solution to transportation must fulfill four criteria: clean, affordable, timely, and sustainable. Innovation must firstly be “clean”, which means that there is a reliance on renewable or clean energy sources. Otherwise, such as in the case of electric vehicles, supplying the vehicle with electricity coming from fossil fuels  can leave a big carbon footprint as well. 

Further, Lopez pointed out that affordability is an important consideration as it means that more people can use the technology. However, he also mentioned that affordability does not necessarily equate to a cheap solution at the cost of quality. The third category, timeliness, means that the idea, “Mobility as a Service”, or MaaS, must be embodied. MaaS, in simple terms, is the idea of paying for transport instead of owning personal forms of transport such as cars and bikes. Finally, if the solution is not sustainable, it will not last, claimed Lopez.

Transforming university research into innovation

Peter Immanuel Tenido, Project Director of the DLSU Innovation and Technology Office, emphasized in his talk the mounting need for universities such as DLSU to converge with the populace and with enterprises to inspire innovation and accelerate development in communities, all while prioritizing sustainability. 

“STEM research outputs can be translated into products and services that solve problems in [the] industry and in society. It shows us that academic innovations that are developed within universities [move] the public in ways beyond dissemination and publication,” Tenido stated, accentuating the significance of progressively implementing research to break boundaries and foster economic development.

Keep your ears on the ground

The final speaker was Ma. Carmen Ablan Lagman, Ph.D., a full professor in the DLSU Biology Department and a Fulbright Senior Visiting Scholar of the Department of Systematic Biology of Oregon State University. 

Hailing from a family of farmers, she told the audience how her father, grandfather, and his grandfather’s father were all farmers. The day her father decided to move to the city changed her life, as she claimed it enabled her to study and work in the metro. She mentioned that she went back to help farmers and fishermen through studying the DNA and RNA molecules of plants and aquatic creatures. 

She explained that former Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary Dr. Angel Alcala asked her, “Will those molecules of yours help me in determining where to put marine protected areas?” After thorough research, she formulated an algorithm to satisfy Alcala’s request. In addition to that, another algorithm was devised in order to determine which crops can resist anomalies or sharp changes in the growth environment of crops. With this, she disclosed that she hopes farmers would not be as burdened by the effects of climate change and natural disasters. She concluded by adding that through her experiences in these studies, she learned that work can be interdisciplinary and that it can sometimes take one beyond the laboratory. 

After Lagman concluded her talk, a panel discussion was held to address any questions from the audience and for the speakers to share their advocacies regarding the STEM field. Collectively, they highlighted the importance of STEM in solving real world problems and innovating and pushing humanity further.

Ryan Lim

By Ryan Lim

Kent Regalado

By Kent Regalado

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