Excerpt from the CNN Philippines article Published on April 2, 2018 by Kit Singson ( Read the full article at http://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2018/04/02/filipino-female-scientists.html )

Illustrated by MIKA BACANI

Cynthia Saloma, molecular biology and biotechnology professor

Dr. Cynthia Saloma is currently a professor of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Principal Investigator at the Laboratory of Molecular and Cell Biology (LMCB) in the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in UP Diliman. She pursues research towards embryonic organ formation. She, together with three other women, established what is known today as the Philippine Genome Center.

Her proudest moment as a scientist is starting the DNA Sequence Core Facility where she, along with collaborators and students, successfully sequenced and analyzed hundreds of genomes of bacteria affecting shrimp health, soil quality of rice, and parasites affecting the Philippine carabao, among others. Having knowledge of these genome sequences can advance our understanding of animal diseases and plant development to help our fisheries and agriculture sectors using biomarkers and diagnostic tools.

The molecular biologist didn’t set out to become one when she was younger. “I first wanted to become a CPA-lawyer or … an economist,” she says. She sidetracked when she was granted a scholarship in BS Fisheries, and finished her degree in three and a half years before going to Japan on a Monbusho scholarship to focus on either fish genetics or nutrition for her Master’s. However, she was advised to take a second degree due to her youth. She finished her MS degree in Medical Science and then her PhD in Physiology.

At present, Saloma and her team is hoping to create neuroactive drugs (anti-pain, antispasmodic) by sequencing the genes found in the venom ducts of poisonous marine snails.

“I think the Philippines is a good place for women to be employed in, particularly in the academic field,” she says. “In my experience, we do not have the male-dominated situation in academia that we find in Europe, Japan, or in the US. In that sense, the Philippines is a much easier place for a woman to be engaged in academic life while also nurturing a family.”

Saloma believes that engagement in the field of science is a privilege, and if one’s passion is in finding meaning in pursuing answers to scientific phenomena, she adds: “By all means, be a scientist.”