The Philippine Science High School-Eastern Visayas Campus (PSHS-EVC) has received the chance of a lifetime to produce scientific researches, courtesy of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge (BJC) DNA Molecular Biology laboratory.
Dr. Dave Micklos of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and who set up the laboratory, told the BusinessMirror he is in PSHS-EVC to train its students and teachers on experiments in DNA and in basic methods to study and understand genetics and the possible breakthrough solutions for genetic diseases.
Micklos said the Philippines has a growing population and needs to feed its people by producing good rice breeds that could be developed through researches in the laboratory.
The state-of-the-art laboratory worth $100,000 was won by PSHS-EVC student Hillary Diane Andales for her school when she was adjudged the 2016 BJC Special Prize Top 6 finalist and the winner of Most Popular Vote Challenge. Her winning video explained Feynman’s Path Integrals.
The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is an affiliate of Breakthrough Prize Foundation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
The BJC—founded by Breakthrough Prize Foundation Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki; and physicist and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and Julia Milner—aims at recognizing the best scientific work in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics.
Andales told the BusinessMirror that the DNA laboratory is now open to Eastern Visayas students, teachers, researchers and scientists. It is expected to benefit students for their molecular-biology research and for training of teachers.
Andales said: “The biggest benefit of the [BJC] DNA molecular-biology laboratory is for students of [PSHS-EVC] to initiate researches to help public and private sectors, and to conduct research in DNA biotechnology, research on genetics and to analyze DNA samples.”
Director Reynaldo Garnace of PSHS-EVC told the BusinessMirror, the laboratory will be useful for DNA tests and experiments. He said it is the thrust of the school to connect with the community to conduct studies and researches, and accept tertiary students and secondary students to conduct experiments.
“Through the DNA molecular-biology laboratory, researches on environment, genome, bacteria and cures for diseases in the locality will provide students possible simple and breakthrough solutions,” Garnace said.
“It would also invite industries to find concrete solutions on research problems,” he added.
“With the PSHS-EVC school outreach activity, the research laboratory is open to schools in the region in molecular-biology research,” he said.
“We are capable of developing new technologies and new inventions. Filipinos are embarking on that stage to cure cancer and infectious diseases, and doing studies to cure HIV patients,” Garnace said.
Andales said she is interested in finding answers to some problems in science with the use of the DNA laboratory. She and her classmates are planning to do a research to identify the DNA of the tawa-tawa plant to treat dengue.
Possible cure for genetic diseases and cancer
Andales said Diana See from Singapore showed in her winning video in the BJC 2017, the bacteria resistant to antibiotics, which is a threat to world health today.
She said genetic diseases and cancer are caused by damage in DNA. Thus, researches using the DNA molecula-biology laboratory can help cure cancer, developmental disorders and could prevent genes of mental disorders from expressing.
She told the BusinessMirror that, in genetics, the bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can get inside the plasmid. Recent researches discovered new ways to potentially kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria by destroying the DNA of the bacteria, she said.
She added that there is a need to do further researches on the target genetic material of bacteria in order to replicate the result of recent researches.
Andales excels in math and physics
Garnace said Andales’s video on Feynman’s path integrals that earned her a finalist prize in BJC 2016 is a difficult subject in physics. Simply explained, it says that the world is in harmony, and everything is in harmony.
He said Andales achieved the BJC award through her sheer interest in science and mathematics. She excels in math, wrote a book on math and represented her school in mathematics competitions and brought home awards and medals. Physics, one of the subjects in the curriculum, is her core in math.
“I moved heaven and earth to promote her video, spread, like and share, giving it the highest votes [in BJC],” Garnace said.
“We are grateful she made it, her winning brought home the $100,000 DNA laboratory, equipment and training of our teachers,” he added.
Nurturing a gifted child
Imelda Andales, the mother of Hilary Andales, told the BusinessMirror of how Hilary began her interest in science. As enthusiasts in science and math, she and her husband, Roy, pasted on their bedroom wall some text and colored pictures of planets, nursery rhymes and shapes.
When Hillary was 1 year old, she received a gift of an astronomy book about solar system, which began her love in science.
From a telescope in their place in Abuyog, Leyte, they saw planets like Saturn and binary stars, also inspired Hilary to pursue science and physics.
Imelda Andales said, “The culture in our family, including her brother, is that we talk about science. My husband Roy and his siblings are teachers who are into chemistry. I am a certified public accountant and an information-technology expert, and my siblings are into science.”
Andales intends to study physics in the University of the Philippines Diliman, in Harvard University for Physics or in Massachusetts Institute of Technology.