The road to success is not easy and at times difficult. Yet, the most important thing to remember is to keep the passion burning and remain focused on one’s goal.
These were two of the simple messages shared by former scholars of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) during the “Career Path in Science and Technology Forum” sponsored by DOST’s Science Education Institute (SEI).
The event was part of the Department’s Science Nation Tour for the National Capital Region and was held last December 10, 2015 at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the National Academy of Science and Technology Heritage Building at the DOST Complex in Taguig City.
The forum aimed to encourage more high school students who are interested and have the aptitude in science and technology (S&T) to take such courses, including mathematics and engineering as preparation for a career in S&T, and thus bridge the gap between supply and demand for science career practitioners. These students are envisioned to form the new breed of scientists who will help our country become a “science nation,” because DOST believes that true economic development is only possible with a strong S&T backbone.
“The DOST has many different scholarship grants available to undergraduates and post graduate students like the Science and Technology Scholarship Act of 1994 under R.A. 7687; the Merit Scholarship; the Junior Level Scholarship for BS Meteorology; and the Fast-Track Science and Technology Scholarship Act of 2013, among others,” said Dr. Josette T. Biyo, director of SEI.
As special guests, two former DOST scholars who have made significant marks in their chosen careers shared their stories. During their inspirational talks, both, Alexander John Cruz and Dr. Rafael A. Guerrero, narrated their individual struggles when they were studying as well as the triumphs they reaped as a result of their dedication to their chosen career, hard work and perseverance.
Cruz graduated summa cum laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2013 with a degree in Chemical Engineering and is now employed by Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation as Carbon and Energy Process Manager assigned at the company’s Tabangao Refinery in Batangas.
The hardships and struggles that Alex underwent were not new to him when he entered the Diliman campus since he was raised in a simple lifestyle back in his native town of Talavera, Nueva Ecija. But, the challenges that confronted Cruz made him strive harder and focus on his goals; a young man forged in fire.
“Actually one of my aunts who was a teacher in high school persuaded me to take the exam given by the DOST and I passed so I got the scholarship back in 2009 for a science course in UP Diliman without knowing what it is,” he narrated. “My first year was very challenging because most of my classmates came from science high schools in NCR and Pisay at alam na nila yun mga basic (they already knew the basic) math and chemistry so it was very challenging for me but it never became a problem. although I was studying in a much slower pace than them, I was also at par with them.”
When asked about what advice he can give to the young students, Alex said, “If the youth of this country has a dream of becoming a scientist or an engineer, they should pursue it; in fact it is not that hard because we have support systems like the local government, the SEI, and institutions like CHED who will finance their education, stipend, book allowance, so it is not that hard if you really want it…never ever give up on your dream.”
On the other hand, another equally distinguished guest in the person of Dr. Rafael A. Guerrero, shared his thoughts and passion for S&T. He is currently an Associate Professor of Physics at the Ateneo de Manila University and earned his doctoral degree in Physics from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He now sits as member of the Technical Panel on Photonics of the DOST.
Dr. Guerrero started his talk by giving a brief backgrounder of his field of expertise, Physics, where the students were given a concise crash course on the subject that elicited interest among them and to a great extent, were convinced to be DOST scholars themselves.
“For our students, I would like to tell them that they must always have a dream and they must enjoy and have interest in what they want to pursue, then it will be easier for them. Although, in my case I have to suffer for five years studying Physics and it is not easy, you have to go through a lot of math,” said Dr. Guerrero.
Indeed, hard work was what it takes to achieve one’s dream. Today, Dr. Guerrero has the privileged stature of a well-respected academician and scientist recognized abroad as he sees to it that he presents his papers to his colleagues once a year. A scientist through and through, Dr. Guerrero said, “We need more people focused on getting results, we need scientists, by starting with an idea and then to practical use and as scientists we generate new knowledge that we need to share to others.”
Dr. Guerrero has really come a long way and with determination and passion to achieve, he was able to reap success as evidenced by his many travels in different countries that he said were just a few of the fringe benefits of becoming a scientist.
“There are even scholarships from DOST-SEI that you can get for your masters or PhD for free. That is one thing, there are people and institutions willing to help and pay for you to get a degree,” he concluded.
After the inspiring talks by Cruz and Dr. Guerrero, the conference hall practically glowed with enthusiasm from the high school students present with seemingly unending applause. When asked by the forum moderator who among them now wants to be a DOST scholar, more hands than one can count were raised, accompanied by a resounding cheer, “Yes, I want to be a DOST scholar!”
Engr. Alexander John Cruz who hails from Talavera, Nueva Ecija, tells his struggles as a student with modest means and his journey as a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) scholar during the “Career Path in Science and Technology Forum.” Cruz finished a degree in Chemical Engineering Summa Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman and is presently one of the youngest carbon and energy process managers of the Shell Tabangao Refinery of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation. (Photos by Ceajay N. Valerio, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)