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On the Radar

Filipino scientists make it to Brittanica's Shapers of the Future 2022 list

Marane A. Plaza - Philstar.com
Filipino scientists make it to Brittanica's Shapers of the Future 2022 list
From left: Maria Isabel Layson; Rodney Perez
Gokongwei Brothers Foundation; UPLB

MANILA, Philippines —  Two Filipinos have been included in the Shapers of the Future 2022 list by Brittanica, the longest running in-print encyclopedia in English.

The list includes young people who work in many fields, such as scholars, builders, designers, architects, artists, teachers, writers, musicians, social and political leaders, and much more.

The Filipino entries included 18-year-old Maria Isabel Layson, who returned to her native Iloilo City in the Philippines after attending an elementary school for gifted children and and the Singapore American School. She enrolled in an advanced science curriculum at the National High School in her hometown.

While studying an abundant berry locally called aratiles or sarisa in a Food and Nutrition Research Institute laboratory in Manila, Layson discovered that the fruit contains antioxidant compounds that combat diabetes.

In 2019, when she was 16, she presented her findings at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona, as one of a dozen Filipino delegates. That year, she won Best Individual Research in Life Science at the National Science and Technology Fair hosted by the Philippines Department of Education. Layson is now a student at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City, where she also operates a bakery that makes keto-friendly pastries.

Layson is joined by Rodney Perez, 32 years old, who studied food science at Visayas State University, on the island of Leyte. He then won a scholarship to Kyushu University, in Japan, where he earned an M.S. in Bioscience and Biotechnology and a Ph.D. in Microbial Technology.

"It never ceases to amaze me how microorganisms, despite their size, can affect every aspect of our lives, both in good and bad ways,” said Dr. Perez as posted in University of the Philippines Los Banos website.

His specialty as a researcher at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños is the study of bacteriocins, naturally occurring toxins that can kill related strains of bacteria implicated in food poisoning and spoilage. Perez is now working on technologies to introduce these bacteriocins as part of food packaging processes — for instance, replacing artificial and potentially harmful steroids in dairy products with helpful bacteria from lactic acid that combat mastitis in cattle. Perez has received several honors for his work, including the Young Asian Biotechnologist award from Japan’s Society for Biotechnology. He is the first Filipino to have earned that vaunted international prize. Perez has expressed his intent to bring microorganisms to bear on other health-related problems in his country.

“With microbial technologies we are able to make these tiny microorganisms work for us," he said.

In a statement, the National Library of the Philippines said, “The Britannica All-New Kids' Encyclopedia will pique Filipino children’s interest and instil a love of reading at a young age. Thank you for supplying us with this beautiful 1-volume encyclopedia that will encourage our children to become keen readers and consumers of information.”

“Britannica is thrilled to support the Philippines National Library to promote the reading habits of our younger learners and establish the foundation for lifelong learning,” said Theodore Pappas, executive editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Our children’s encyclopedia is a wonderful book for early learners - for sparking their curiosity about the wonders of the world, both big and small--and for readers in areas without easy access to the Internet or to new educational resources.” 

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