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Cebu students take on science news writing, social media content creation

Sunday, March 05, 2023 11:28 PM    Views : 532by:Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII


A Department of Science and Technology – Balik Scientist makes headway in drug discovery and development in the country by isolating antimicrobial compounds to be used in formulating new antibiotics. 

Dr. Julius Adam V. Lopez is a DOST Balik Scientist hosted by the University of San Agustin (USA) in Iloilo City.  His work focused on capacity-building initiatives in handling the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technology among Filipino researchers in the Visayas and Mindanao region.  Through this initiative, he was able to isolate and elucidate the structure of novel and/or bioactive compounds from cultured marine actinomycetes in the biobank of USA using the NMR.

Specifically, Dr. Lopez used the NMR to purify the marine samples and identify ?-lactamase inhibitors which prevent antimicrobial resistance and improve efficacy of antimicrobial treatment. This study has been done under the Philippine marine (PHILMARINE) - beta-lactamase inhibitor (BLI) project also in USA.

DOST Secretary Renato U. Solidum Jr. expressed his excitement about the potential impact of Filipinos gaining knowledge on using the NMR, stating that “Advancing our efforts in drug discovery and development and building the NMR competency within the Visayas and Mindanao regions shall help us address perplexing health issues and opens avenues for locally available, accessible, and practical solutions. The NMR is a powerful tool to study molecular structures and dynamics of complex systems and widen our understanding of the world we live in which includes discoveries of anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics.”

DOST Undersecretary for R&D Leah J. Buendia added “We need to strengthen and optimize our country’s R&D portfolio in drug discovery and development.  Through expertise engagement like the DOST Balik Scientist Program, we can be part of R&D milestones such as creating the first team of Filipino NMR spectroscopy experts who all have the capacity to discover and formulate new drugs.  This engagement will also create a big difference in the earning potential of local pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.”

DOST Balik Scientist Dr. Julius Adam V. Lopez has extensive experience in natural products chemistry and NMR Spectroscopy. He took his doctor’s degree in Hokkaido University, Japan. By using advanced NMR techniques, Dr. Lopez then led the discovery of new cytotoxic cyanobacteria termed as wewakazole B and new fatty acids amides, columbamides which are the fundamental blueprint or structures for several medicinal drugs.

In this engagement with the USA, Dr. Lopez developed an NMR training module with both theoretical and practical aspects of the NMR spectroscopy. He served as trainer on theory and practical skills for researchers from the academe and industries such as University of San Agustin, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, Central Mindanao University, University of Southern Mindanao, and DOST Regional Office VI.

Widening the skillset among Filipino researchers especially for researchers outside Greater Manila in using the NMR creates significant implications for the development of new antibiotics and other drugs. The presence of an NMR in the Visayas will fasttrack isolation and identification of novel compounds as these address logistics requirements of spending cost to ship samples to Manila.

The Balik Scientist program is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and is part of the Philippine government’s efforts to build a strong science and technology ecosystem in the country.

The enactment of the Balik Scientist Act in June 2018 paved the way for DOST to grant returning Filipino scientists with competitive benefits such as daily subsistence allowance, health insurance, and roundtrip airfare.  For those interested to become a Balik Scientist, you may contact the DOST Balik Scientist Program Management Office thru email at [email protected] . (30)

College students from Cebu, who are taking up Biology course, learned the rudiments of popular science writing and tips on creating compelling content about science using social media in a webinar organized by the Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII).

The learning sessions were conducted in partnership with the Cebu Association of Biology Students Inc. (CABSI) that was held on February 22-23 via Zoom.

Around 65 students from 10 member schools of CABSI attended and participated in various workshop activities of the two-day webinar. These member schools are Cebu Doctor’s University, Cebu Institute of Technology-University, Cebu Normal University, MHAM College Inc., Southwestern University PHINMA, University of the Philippines-Cebu, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of the Visayas, and Velez College.

Before the webinar proper started, DOST-STII Director Richard P. Burgos gave his message by saying that Biology has, indeed, many useful and practical applications in our lives and he is delighted to know that CABSI, composed of future medical practitioners and researchers, has been proactively conducting various activities to promote this field of science, especially to the younger generation.

“This e-learning session comes at the perfect time, to equip you with more knowledge and skills in crafting content that would further promote the benefits of biology to every Filipino,” said Dir. Burgos.

Lastly, Dir. Burgos compared the heartthrob phenomenon in creating content for science and biology.

“For sure you know the phenomenon of heartthrobs, when the heartthrob passes you, what do you do? Your gaze follows or you take a second look. Sino iyon? That’s exactly what kind of effects we want to produce when you create compelling stories,” said Dir. Burgos.

On other hand, Joy M. Lazcano, associate editor of the S&T Post magazine, shared the DOST-STII’s Science Journo Ako (SJA) advocacy program which aims to establish a robust ecosystem of grassroots science journalists and communicators advocating and promoting science communication in the country. In addition to that, he said that SJA offers capacity building activities to its partner institutions to build a pool of potential science communicators who will help promote S&T at the grassroots.

The heart of the webinar

After the inspiring talks of DOST-STII officials, the science communication practitioners from DOST-STII started to share their knowledge as the heart of the webinar began to beat.

Jasmin Joyce P. Sevilla, a seasoned in-house writer from the DOST-STII and managing editor of S&T Post, discussed in her lectures why we should communicate science to the public. The S&T Post is a quarterly popular science magazine published by DOST-STII.

Sevilla explained that crafting stories that tackle science-related topics could help everyone to understand the benefits and significance of the efforts and commitment of our local scientists, researchers, and engineers to provide timely and appropriate solutions to some of our pressing concerns. She further said that, by featuring Filipino experts, they become inspirations to the youth to pursue courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM.

Sevilla also shared some tips with the student-participants on how they can find a better story angle by identifying the target readers of their stories. She then highlighted the importance of considering several elements in one’s articles such as prominence, oddity, and human interest.

In one of her slides, Sevilla emphasized to the students the difference between news and feature stories, thus enabling better appreciation for the craft of science writing.

She explained that when it comes to writing a feature story, it differs from straight news in one respect — it's intent. A news story provides information about an event, idea, or situation. The feature does a bit more. It also may interpret or add depth and color to the news, instruct, or entertain.

She added that, in writing effective science stories, we should keep them simple to help our readers visualize what we are writing or sharing in our science articles.

For the second day of the webinar, Carmela Aguisanda-De Gracia, the resident social media specialist of DOSTv, presented with the participants some tips and tricks in creating engaging content for social media, particularly related to topics on science and biology. Incidentally, DOSTv is the broadcast platform of DOST that is operated and managed by DOST-STII.

De Gracia shared in her presentation the process of creating social media posts about one’s organization or activities that one would like to promote, like the need to identify your audience, build your brand, and plan regular and engaging content.

She also reminded the student participants about not overcrowding their posts or graphics with too much text and always alloting time to proofread one’s work. De Gracia stressed the importance of accuracy in social media posts because too much errors could affect the credibility of the organization to their target audiences.

Lastly, De Gracia gave student participants a piece of advice for creating engaging content for social media.

“Managing your social media does not need to be a chore. You know your business and your brand better than anyone – be confident with the content you share, and have some fun whilst you’re at it,” said De Gracia.


Real talk about science communication

At the end of the webinar, some of the participants shared their key takeaways and appreciation for all the lessons that they have learned from the two-day webinar where the value of science communication was greatly recognized.

“This two-day virtual event provided us great opportunities to have a deep understanding of the impact and benefits of crafting easy-to-understand science content,” said Mary Jean Lozano, president of CABSI.

“Being a science communicator entails a big responsibility and an honor at the same time, we were given a great opportunity to be of big help to society and it needs the effort to achieve the goal we have which is to help everyone be aware of science and how it should be properly conveyed,” said Vincent V. Albiso, a 3rd-year Biology major from Cebu Normal University.

“The most valuable insights I have learned from the workshop was the essence of re-learning and having self-awareness about the power of social media. Moreover, learning the proper way of bridging the gap through science to ordinary people using science news and feature articles,” said Cyril Mae A. Embalsado, another 3rd-year student and Biology major from Cebu Normal University. (By Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII)


The DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute, in partnership with the Cebu Association of Biology Students Inc. conducted a two-day webinar on crafting compelling content on science and biology with topics on news and feature writing and social media.

S & T Trivia

" In Spring 1999, the water-based insect buster called Household Insecticide (HI) won Gonzalo Catan Jr. the Silver Medal at the 27th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland. This Filipino innovation makes use of 21 useful microorganisms, among other materials, to kill flies, mosquitoes, termites, ants, roaches, as well as dog ticks, fleas and lice. "

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