Pinay, others shine in SE Asian academe
Rudy Fernandez (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – No less than the Department of Science and Technology has accorded her the prestigious title “DOST Lifetime Scientist.”

One of the country’s top banks has also conferred on Naomi Tangonan the MetroBank Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award while her mother institution, the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato, has given her the distinction as first woman dean of the USM College of Agriculture.

But what Tangonan considers as the primary “fruits of her labors” are the countless students she has mentored through the years. Her wards have become outstanding agriculturists, entrepreneur-farmers, teachers, doctors, engineers, businessmen, businesswomen, and even priests, nuns and pastors.            

In a neighboring country, Mahiran Basri of the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has soared to great heights, having been conferred the accolade “Top Research Scientist of Malaysia” for her significant accomplishments as a “green chemist.”

A holder of a doctorate in Protein Chemistry from UPM, she has developed nanotechnologies that helped consumers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics around the globe to safely enjoy their products.

In research, she has to her name 20 patents registered in Southeast Asian countries and in the United States. She has published more than 300 scientific papers in international journals and book chapters; and has earned various awards, among them the UPM Best Researcher award.

Basri also pioneered the work on palm oil and derivatives and feedstock for synthesis of new components.

Seng Mom is current vice rector (vice president) at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) in her country, Cambodia.

Among other things, she has pushed forward RUA’s internationalization by forging partnerships with European and Asian institutions. She has helped pave the way for her university’s student and faculty exchanges as well as collaborative researches and other initiatives with other academic institutions.

What do Tangonan, Basri and Mom have in common?            

They are products of a graduate scholarship (doctorate or PhD and master’s or MS) program that has evolved into one of the most enduring and successful manpower development programs in Southeast Asia launched in 1968 by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine government, through the Department of Education, in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). It is one of the 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an inter-government treaty body founded in 1965 to promote cooperation in science, education and culture among Southeast Asian countries.

Initially, the SEAMEO-SEARCA-supported scholars pursued their degrees at UPLB.

Subsequently, other prestigious tertiary institutions were chosen as study posts of the scholars. These include UP Diliman, UP Visayas, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Kasetsart University in Thailand, Institut Pertanian Bogor and Universitas Gadjah Mada, both in Indonesia.

Other universities outside the SEAMEO region are now also involved.

For instance, Tangonan earned her PhD in Plant Pathology from UPLB in 1984, while Basri completed her PhD in Protein Chemistry in UPM in 1992. Mom finished her MS in Integrated Tropical Agriculture and Forestry Science at the University of Gottingen in Germany in 2001 under a scholarship supported by SEARCA and the German government.

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