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Meet 10 cool women scientists

Posted on June 29, 2017 at 6:50 AM

By: Neni Sta. Romana Cruz - @inquirer.net

Whoever thought science could be this fun, this cool?

A community shudders when extreme weather conditions end in disaster. How do you study the 70 kinds of bats in our midst when they only appear at night? Caves are always exciting destinations to explore, but some must be left strictly for their resident animals. It took considerable time to study the dilang baka, a common weed that heals wounds, but today there is exhilaration with every new plant sent for analysis. A childhood love for the sea has led to the study of seaweeds and sea grasses. Obviously, allies from the government sector as well as international scientists are needed to continue the crusade to preserve mangroves, and true enough, one Australian mangrove expert found a Philippine species so rare that he took 100 photos of it. It’s a long trek in the discovery of science—from biology to chemistry to physics.

Also: There is such a thing as the geometry of mats. Seeds and peels from the mangoes we love are being recycled into pectin and mango flour. And has anyone heard of turrids, a family of snails that have lived on our planet for over 100 million years?

These nuggets comprise the varied and fascinating information one gets from a reading of the Women of Science series, a 10-book collection for children published by Bookmark in full color and written by Didith T. Rodrigo based on the careers of today’s most respected female scientists in the country.

The author’s clear-cut criteria in choosing her subjects are as awe-inspiring as the narratives: The scientist must be an internationally respected scholar and must have published scientific articles; she is making a clear contribution to her field of specialization; and she has played a leadership role in her academic life. The most important point of all, especially because the opportunities for research are more encouraged and supported overseas, is that this scientist works in the Philippines.

The choice of women scientists is deliberate, with the author’s awareness that there are few women who enter STEAM, or the fields of science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics. That makes this segment of the population a wealth of untapped talent and resource. Thus, the Women of Science series aims to inspire and encourage the younger generation to seriously consider careers in research and science. Rodrigo herself is a computer science professor at Ateneo de Manila and has special research interests in artificial intelligence in education, educational data mining, and affective computing.

She is also the author of children’s books, among them the Kid’s Choice winner of the National Children’s Book Awards, “Made Perfect in Weakness,” the extraordinary story of Roselle Ambubuyog, the first visually impaired Filipino woman to earn summa cum laude honors at Ateneo.

The books in the series to be launched at the Ateneo University Library on June 20 are: “Beyond the Storm: A Story about Gemma Narisma,” illustrations by George Vincent Bien; “Capturing Flight: A Story about Nina Ingle,” illustrations by George Vincent Bien; “Cave Dweller: A Story about Ging Nuñeza,” illustrations by Gabi Mara; “Chemical Romance: A Story about Connie Ragasa,” illustrations by Works of Heart (Roxy & Joreen Navarro); “Gardener of the Sea: A Story about Nida Calumpong,” illustrations by Corrine Golez; “Mangrove Warrior: A Story about Jurgenne Primavera,” illustrations by Tris Lintag; “Random Walks: A Story about Jinky Bornales,” illustrations by Jonathan G. Rañola; “Rigid Motion: A Story About Ninette De Las Peñas,” illustrations by Mika Aldaba; “The Stuff of Life: A Story about Giselle Concepcion,” illustrations by Ma. Montessa Realista; and “Treasure from Trash: A Story About Evelyn Taboada,” illustrations by Eveth Nocon.

Bravo to Rodrigo and her magnificent 10 women scientists.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@ gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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