STEM Pinay of the Month

You Had Me at ‘Molecular Biology’: How Ea Fell In Love with Science

As we celebrate every girl’s skills, capabilities, and dreams, we continue to bridge the STEM gender gap and provide platforms that could inform, inspire, and motivate young girls to pursue STEM. The lack of female role models, prevailing gender stereotypes, and the underrepresentation of women professionals in STEM discourage young Pinays to pursue the STEM track.

With only ¼ of our national scientists as females, and a declining number of female STEM graduates in the country, we put to spotlight notable Pinays and their breakthroughs in the field of STEM. 

For our first Pinay of the Month, we feature Ea Tulin, a first year PhD student in Applied Biological Chemistry at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Her research is focused on investigating glycan formation in the central nervous system. She is also a faculty of the Department of Biotechnology in the Visayas State University.

Ea in the laboratory of Applied Biological Chemistry.

Growing up in Leyte province, Ea did not have many opportunities to be exposed to other Filipino scientists and programs. At a young age, she understood the reality that the media and private companies would invest more and prioritize Manila-based programs. It was only with her parents’ influence and support from high school and elementary teachers that she grew to love science. This also cultivated her fascination with medical research, biology, diseases, and the brain. 

From falling in love with the word “molecular biology” to eventually pursuing biological chemistry in her doctoral degree, Ea shares with us her journey in STEM.

What made you decide to pursue science in particular?

Both my parents are scientists. My dad is a biochemist while my mom is a soil scientist. My first experiment was making antibacterial soap with my dad using flowers near my school for an elementary science fair. We won first place. It was definitely a way for me and my dad to bond and my mom was also very supportive, so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with the field. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved working in the lab and doing research. This, along with growing up with the influence of my parents within the (Visayas State) University are the reasons why I decided to pursue STEM.

Her first conference in Japan at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Japanese society of carbohydrate research.

Why do you think that confidence in STEM is important for our Pinays?

Confidence is important to give us a head start and visibility. I believe a lot of Filipino women are confident, yet they still seem to burn out. I think confidence combined with focus, grit, and kindness, are important and will help us move forward as Pinays in STEM. Collaboration is key, and in a field where everyone is smart, we stand-out by having a good attitude.

“Confidence combined with focus, grit, and kindness, are important and will help us move forward as Pinays in STEM

How can we get Pinay students interested in STEM while at home?

Social media is a good way to attract Pinay students! There are many pages that feature women from all over the world doing STEM: Pinoy Scientists (for Filipinos in STEM), Women Doing Science, Women Transforming Science, 1MWIS (1 million women in STEM), and similarly pages of women scientists talking about their lab lives online. Instagram was a great avenue for me to meet all these women (virtually) while at home!

How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines?

There is a lot of untapped potential in the Philippines and this can be harnessed with proper support from the government, collaboration between universities, and a joint effort between private companies and universities. This is the goal. With movements that push women to be empowered in STEM and Philippines being one of the highest in Asia when it comes to gender equality, I believe women in STEM will continue to rise in number, assume higher institutional positions, and be a key contributor to the realization of this goal.

“If you feel like STEM is something you would like to pursue, go for it! Find a role model or be your own.”

– Ea Tulin

Diversity broadens the pool of knowledge and expertise in STEM and other related fields. Past generations have worked towards creating platforms and increasing visibility for more women in STEM, and even until today, we strive to break barriers to encourage more young Pinays to pursue STEM tracks and careers. 

Tune in as we continue to build a community of STEM Pinays. Next month, we feature STEM Pinays in the fields of mathematics, technology, astrophysics, and marine sciences.

Follow Ea on Instagram!


Empowering Pinay Students at Home

With the major shift to online classes, teachers and students alike have been finding ways to adapt to distance learning. This setup offers a wide range of teaching modalities, but online education in the Philippines is not without its limitations. From unreliable internet connectivity to the lack of digital resources, the task of teachers and educators has become more challenging as they strive to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students amidst the pandemic. 

While online education could be overwhelming, teaching in a virtual classroom allows educational institutions to re-examine and innovate ways to transform the Philippine educational system. In more ways than one, teachers address educational challenges through creative solutions and systems innovation which, at its core, is the very nature of STEM education. From incorporating  synchronous and asynchronous modules into online activities to designing digital-based laboratory or experiential learning, STEM educators are continuously exploring new teaching methods. 

Here are some the ways you can effectively teach STEM even during the pandemic and some inspiring words for our Pinays: 

Reinvent the way you teach STEM

Doc Sher Monterola of Center for Integrated STEM Education (CISTEM) shared how STEM teaches us to stay curious, to understand patterns, and to recover from failed experiments. Beyond just the knowledge, the multidimensionality of STEM molds learners’ skills, literacies, and socio-emotional intelligence towards lifelong holistic education. In the UP College of Education, teachers have been offered webinars or capacity-building sessions and innovation workshops to become better equipped to teach STEM online. As part of the college’s Education Resilience and Learning Continuity plan, educators gain various insights and perspectives on remote distance learning. 

Introduce your students to STEM Role Models

Filipina role models and supportive educators pave the way for young girls to gain confidence and conviction in their chosen study and career paths. Teacher Winnie Diola talked about the importance of transforming lessons into relevant and meaningful content that allows for students to relate their lessons to their current contexts. By sharing stories of success and allowing students to experience hands-on activities that involve the work of successful Pinays in STEM,  young girls feel a sense of belonging and gain more interest in STEM.

Provide your students with STEM opportunities

Teacher Milet Estidola believes that exposing young girls to STEM contributes greatly to their aspirations. As a Physics teacher, she ensures that online class activities are designed to encourage student-to-student and teacher-to-student interaction, but more so, to develop young girls’ problem solving skills that put to light the significance of STEM in addressing society’s problems in the areas of Medicine, Research, Engineering, and even in Economics.

Build and nurture STEM learning spaces

At Culiat Elementary School, Teacher Sabs Ongkiko shared that the free Facebook messenger feature has become a viable option to converse with students and maintain close relationships with their students’ families.  Strengthening faculty and student support with the help of local government agencies and organizations has proven to be effective in aiding educators as they provide a holistic learning experience for their students, but also in fostering students’ learning support systems. Young girls appreciate STEM best when it is meaningful to them, and starting this experience at home is vital to their STEM journey.

In the new normal, the role of STEM educators and fellow STEM Pinays is ever-amplified as they inspire young girls not only to pursue STEM but also to be more confident in their chosen study and career paths. Teachers have a crucial role in building a community of learners and this entails cultivating curiosity and an innovation mindset and encouraging students to inquire and brainstorm ideas as they eventually learn to contribute in addressing problems of today.

Dr. Sher Monterola is the Executive Director of the Center for Integrated STEM Education (CISTEM, Inc.) and is currently a professor in the UP Diliman College of Education. Ms. Sabs Ongkiko is a Science teacher in the Culiat Elementary School. Ms. Winnie Diola and Ms. Milet Estidola are both Science teachers at the De La Salle Santiago Zobel school.


Pinays Can, Pinays Will

To celebrate every Pinay’s skills, capabilities, and dreams.

STEM+PH, a flagship program of Unilab Foundation Inc., partnered with UL Skin Sciences Inc. to launch Pinays Can STEM, an online community that aims to empower and encourage young Filipinas in STEM. UL Skin Sciences encourages women to live a life well-lived by influencing them to pursue their dreams while providing them with opportunities to lead the future and inspiring others to do the same.

The lack of female role models, prevailing gender stereotypes, and the underrepresentation of women professionals in STEM discourage young Pinays to pursue the STEM track. In fact, only about 1/3 of STEM graduates in the country are females, and studies show that even less work in the STEM field.

Data from SunStar and Esquire

Founded on the belief that all Pinays are able to create life-changing breakthroughs while reimagining a better life for the nation, it is the campaign’s vision to build a community of STEM Pinays believing in their own capabilities by featuring Filipinas in the fields of medicine, technology, engineering, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and marine sciences to name a few. 

We need more women in the sciences, and we need to celebrate those who are in it right now.

Within just a month of its launch, Pinays Can STEM has reached over 50,000 audiences on their site and envisions to engage more students to pursue the STEM track. Breaking barriers and defying gender perceptions, the campaign provides insightful infographics, interactive quizzes, local and international inventions and achievements, and opportunities for all young Pinays.

Find out more on Facebook and Instagram