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“Building the Next Pillars of Industry through Academic Excellence and Values Formation”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dr. William G. Padolina delivering his speech to MHSS’s graduating class of 2013.

Dr. William G. Padolina, the speaker at Malayan High School of Science’s 4th Commencement Exercises, is the current president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines, and manager of the CHED–Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI) Project Management and Coordination Office. He is also the chair of the board of directors of Euromed Laboratories, Inc., and a member of the board of trustees of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.

One of the progressive and influential Filipino scientists of his time, he implemented a development agenda that included technological advances in agriculture, manufacturing and services, education program, focused on technological systems and industry application and improvement of research management system. A Man of Science, he has been a recipient of the Award of Excellence in Science and Engineering by the Philippine Development Foundation-USA and the ASEAN Meritorious Service Award in Science and Technology and has been recognized as Philippine Professional Regulation Commission Outstanding Professional in Chemistry, UPAA Outstanding Alumnus Professional in Chemistry, one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award in the Field of Science and Technology, and one of the 50 men and women of science awardees of the Department of Science and Technology, Republic of the Philippines.

Below is his full speech.


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I would like to thank Dr. Reynaldo Vea, president of Mapúa Institute of Technology, and your principal Dr. Efren Mateo for this kind invitation to be with you on this momentous occasion. It is indeed a distinct privilege and honor to be able to share with you a few thoughts during the Fourth Commencement Exercises of the Malayan High School of Science. Your theme “Building the Next Pillars of Industry through Academic Excellence and Values Formation” is the most appropriate theme at this time when there are active efforts to revive the manufacturing sector in the Philippines.

Allow me to extend my congratulations and best wishes to the graduating class of 2013. As you are about to close another chapter and open a new one in your life’s journey, I hope that you will not forget those who extended all assistance and support as you navigated through the requirements of your degree programs – your parents, your teachers, your friends.

As you leave the portals of your alma mater, please remember your moral obligation to uphold the ideals of Malayan High School of Science at all times. As alumni, you should constantly remind yourselves to uphold the values and ideals as sons and daughters of your alma mater. You are the fourth group of graduates in this special science high school and you are expected to maintain the standards by which this school is known.

Perhaps the most significant challenge you will meet as you begin your quest for a college degree is the call for you to contribute to development. Confronted by a globalized environment, where opportunities for jobs can be had anywhere, graduates have to make this difficult decision on whether to invest their time and talent for their motherland. I concede this is not an easy decision to make, especially in the light of the present circumstances, where the means to acquire a decent level of living has been limited, especially in a developing country. Furthermore, it is clear that any growth and development effort must be inclusive. It is very tempting to develop toys for the affluent and forget about the needs of the marginalized sectors of our society.

Two very critical concerns in our country’s development that need to be addressed by industry are food and health. We need food to provide good nourishment for our workforce and adequate healthcare to sustain their productivity. We need to add value to our agricultural produce and provide affordable medicines and facilities to ensure food security, health, and well-being of the Filipino people.

I would like to highlight two events that have influenced the efforts of the science community to address concerns in food and health. First, in 2003, the world celebrated the 50th year of the discovery of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecule of heredity. Secondly, the whole world is reeling from the effect of diseases, many of which are food-borne like Bird Flu and also the great neglected parasitic diseases like malaria, schistosomiasis, and others.

The discovery of DNA triggered a seemingly endless chain of scientific discoveries that now provide the basis for modern biology. The discovery of the molecular basis of the genetic code spurred the development of new techniques of studying cells and biological processes leading to the increased understanding of how living systems function and how genes are put together and operate. Now there are new disciplines that have emerged – genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, nutrigenomics, pharmacogenomics, synthetic biology, and many high-capacity, high-throughput chemometric techniques that have enabled the more precise analysis of biological molecules. These new disciplines are clearly a convergence of recent advances in chemistry, biology, and physics.

Bruno Strassner has noted that “Science is about building the future. Discovering new mechanisms that operate in nature, inventing new tools of investigation, and elaborating new concepts are the core of scientific practice.”

With the convergence of modern biology and information technology, these new tools could process hundreds of thousands of samples per day and provide the information almost immediately in real time. With this, researchers began to decipher and decode the total genetic makeup of selected organisms like E. coli, mouse, fruitfly, puffer fish, a nematode, the rice plant, the corn plant, and the human being. The Human Genome Project, which began in the early nineties and was completed in 2003, is an example of this Herculean effort to get the exact coding sequence of all the genes in the human being. This involves properly determining the code embodied in 3 billion base pairs of DNA, which is thought to constitute the entire genetic code of human beings. The human genome is now being refined and many more genomes are being decoded.

These are special tools because they allow the experiment to be finished in record time. For example, it is now possible to complete the DNA sequence of a medium-sized code within a month’s time or even less.

We live in a complex age, propelled by fascinating developments in technology. Progress in transportation and communication has linked nations and people in ways never before imagined. The advances in genetics have provided a better understanding of the genes of important agricultural crops, livestock, and fish. The new tools in science have also improved the way diseases are being diagnosed and treated. New ways of providing energy to fulfil the growing needs of humankind are being discovered and used.

But it is also an age of contrasts. Development has been uneven with some living in unprecedented opulence and others in extreme deprivation, hunger, and poverty. Sadly, many new devices are really toys of the affluent and the technology to conquer hunger and deprivation has been neglected.

The scientists desire to increase mankind’s understanding of nature has led to numerous important discoveries, which became the basis of inventions many of which we now use in our daily routine – motor vehicles, eyeglasses, the computer, the telephone, the cell phone, laser technology, satellite imagery, better crops, livestock, and fish, and less invasive medical procedures and many more.

The solutions to many problems have been arrived at through the practice of rigor and frankness in confronting problems, born out of the disciplined inquiry of science.

Asia and the Pacific, which constitute the world’s largest and most diverse regions, have undergone dramatic economic transformation in the last 50 years. Considered the first ever application of science to improve Asia’s agriculture, the Green Revolution is credited for increased agricultural productivity and increased incomes in rural Asia. But urban migration has increased, and agriculture does not contribute as much to the Asian GDP as it did in the 1960s. While the rural population of Asia and the Pacific declined from 75% in 1980 to 67% in 1996, the region still accounts for more than half of the world’s poor (ADB, 2002).

Arable land and water are becoming more and more scarce as agriculture has taken a toll on the natural resources of Asia and the Pacific. Thirty-nine percent of the region’s population lives in areas prone to drought and desertification. Unfortunately, the number of students enrolled in agriculture has been on the decline. The ranks of researchers in agriculture are becoming thinner, and there are fewer agricultural scientists in the country who are actively engaged in research. Likewise, there are not many medical doctors who choose to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. to enable them to pursue in-depth research especially to address diseases prevalent in the tropics.

Science and Technology for Poverty Alleviation

Poverty continues to lurk in many parts of the world.

We need sustainable safety nets and provide responsive governance in order to reassure the poor and the economically disadvantaged that they will no longer be marginalized. We need highly trained scientists to engage in agricultural and medical research.

Products with high technology content are becoming more affordable, although still beyond the reach of the poor. Increased levels of understanding, prevention, and treatment of disease, and assuring the population of adequate, safe, and nutritious food supply have contributed to better health of the population. Technological innovation generates job opportunities by creating new industries, new products, and civil infrastructure improvements. Technology can enhance environmental responsibility by providing ways to detect and correct environmental problems and to manage natural resources sustainably.

We need a workforce that is talented, ingenious, and adaptive. The powerful tools that I have just described above have been considered as very vital in our quest to provide food and health care especially to the poor. But as new situations arise, new hopes emerge and new fears are implanted into people’s minds. What is so evident until now is the technological divide between rich and poor nations and how this divide affects access to these new technologies. Closing the gap between hope and reality is the call of the hour.

In an age that is becoming increasingly technological, ideas and products of science are so interwoven into our daily lives. The future is definitely going to be shaped by scientific discovery, and nations whose people are technology-literate will definitely have one foot firmly planted into that future.

The time has come to do this together. We need to learn to work in teams. Alliances broaden the distribution of benefits and allow the acquisition of new knowledge much more quickly that if it were done on our own. It is necessary to couple resource-based advantages with the knowledge base that will allow people to craft a response to change.

We are often reminded that technology should serve man. Therefore, we should not lose sight of the ultimate beneficiary of all of these efforts – the members of the household, the parents and the children. Technology must empower, not exploit. As scientists, we must always be sensitive to the application of the knowledge we worked so hard to generate. More than ever, we need scientists and engineers who are adept at systems approach and systems thinking.

Conclusion

Modern science has been applied to improve agricultural productivity and conquer many diseases, but at the same time, it has also improved the weaponry used in war and violence. With such powerful tools in our hands, we must move towards harnessing the good and desist from using these new tools to exploit or maim or kill people. The special skills which society has enabled scientists to acquire must now be used to promote common good. Scientists have a special ability to sense the danger signs that threaten society. It is the scientist’s obligation to help disseminate the early warning signals so that further damage may be avoided.

It is my fervent hope that most, if not all, of the members of Class 2013 of the Malayan High School of Science will be part of the science community and commit to use their time and talent to help in the development of our beloved country.

Again, my congratulations and best wishes to the class of 2013!

Mabuhay ang mga mag-aaral at guro ng Malayan High School of Science!

Salamat po.

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