The Scientific Career Council, the highest governing body of the Scientific Career System (SCS), conferred Scientist I rank on Dr. Marilla G. Lucero, the very first researcher from the Department of Health to be admitted to SCS, and upgraded three highly productive member scientists, namely, Dr. Dionisio G. Alvindia, Dr. Claro N. Mingala, and Dr. Mudjekeewis D. Santos to higher scientist rank on November 03, 2014. Dr. Alvindia was promoted from Scientist I to Scientist III, and both Drs Mingala and Santos to Scientist II.
Dr. Lucero is a Chief Science Research Specialist at the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and specializes in Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. From 1996 to 2000, Dr. Lucero conducted immunogenicity and safety trials of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) to prevent pneumonia in children, which was later proved safe and effective. From 2000 to 2009, she embarked on Phase 3 trial of PCV involving 12,000 children in the Philippines that provided proof of concept evidence that PCV prevented pneumonia in Filipino children. This significant work helped in the decision to include PCV in the Philippine national immunization program. In her most recent study, Dr. Lucero found out that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza are also very important causes of pneumonia in children, which highlights the importance of preventing not only bacterial but also viral pneumonia through vaccination using influenza vaccines and/or RSV vaccines.
Dr. Alvindia, on the other hand, is Supervising Science Research Specialist at the DA-Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) and specializes in postharvest diseases of economically important fruits such as banana and mango using non-chemical control methods. He was first conferred Scientist I in SCS on 23 June 2010. Dr. Alvindia pioneered the use of alternatives to fungicides such as hot water dip, biological control agents, organic salts and organic salts with surfactant. One of his most notable research works is the control of crown rot of bananas used for export. Dr. Alvindia’s research established that the combination of certain non-chemical treatments proved effective for controlling the pathogenic fungi that cause crown rot in bananas. Dr. Alvindia has published numerous research papers in international journals and scientific books.
Dr. Mingala is Farm Superintendent II at the DA-Philippine Carabao Center who specializes in pathology and infectious diseases of ruminants. He was first conferred Scientist I rank on 12 December 2011. Dr. Mingala is steadily gaining recognition as an animal health expert because of his significant studies on immunology of water buffaloes, results of which are currently being used in the production of vaccines, diagnostic tools and therapeutic agents. Dr. Mingala’s pioneering researches earned him the NAST’s Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) Award in 2011 and the Most Outstanding Veterinarian in Government Service award by the Philippine Veterinary Medical Association in 2010.
Dr. Santos, Supervising Aquaculturist at the BFAR-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, specializes in Aquatic Biosciences. He was first conferred Scientist I rank in SCS on 04 May 2011. Dr. Santos’ most recent studies include the identification of mislabeled fishery products in the markets using DNA barcoding. Mislabeling of products is considered a violation of consumer rights and safety. This work was adjudged as one of the best AFMA papers during the 2011 National Research Symposium of the Bureau of Agricultural Research. Dr. Santos also established a DNA sequence and liver morphology as accurate markers for identifying juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tunas which provided important reference point to correct tuna catch statistics of the country.
The Scientific Career System since its creation through Executive Order 901 in 1984 has been an important tool by the government to encourage researchers in the government service to go deeper into scientific research through a reward and recognition system without leaving their original position in their parent agency while receiving higher salaries corresponding to their rank and numerous entitlements and benefits. Productive scientists in terms of scientific publications, discoveries and inventions produced within the span of four years are evaluated for promotion or upgrading. For year 2014, SCS upgraded a total of four scientists in the System, including Dr. Arvin C. Diesmos from the National Museum of the Philippines who was promoted from Scientist II to Scientist III.
Every hero has his own story and so is postharvest technology expert Dr. Dionisio Alvindia whose fulfillment is to contribute to enhance agricultural productivity and livelihood of the farmer and consumers .
Born and raised in the province of Nueva Ecija, the famed Rice Granary of the Philippines, Dr. Alvindia was exposed early to the struggles of farmers in producing and maintaining high-quality rice. Due tothe widespread outbreak of the rice tungro virus, one of the most destructive diseases of rice, young Boyet, as he is known to his friends and colleagues, witnessed food shortage and lack of livelihood for his family and locality. The incident sparked his aspiration to contribute to the agricultural industry through science.
He took up Agriculture majoring in Crop Protection at the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija. During his stay in the university, he encountered an interesting study on plant pathology authored by his professor which also influenced him to pursue the sciences further. From 1998–2003 he took up his master’s degree on International Agricultural Development and his doctorate degree on Agricultural Science at Tokyo University of Agriculture, Setagaya-ku, Japan.
Equipped with advanced knowledge on agriculture and competency in research and having shown outstanding scientific productivity, Dr. Alvindia was admitted to the Scientific Career System on June 23, 2010 as Scientist I, making him the first scientist of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) of the Department of Agriculture. His scientist rank was upgraded to Scientist III on November 3, 2014.
One of his most significant works is on the control of banana crown rot, the most important postharvest disease of banana caused by several fungi. Searching for alternatives to agro-chemicals with acceptable level of efficacy is tough,” said Dr. Alvindia. “Technologies in controlling crown rot that are non-chemical approaches need careful experimentation to reach the level of control comparable with agricultural fungicides. The technology should be sustainable, environmental and consumer friendly and these parameters have to be addressed.”
With continuous research, he discovered that the disease can be controlled by a bacterium inherent to bananas. Through the combination of hot water treatment (HWT) and salt application, the growth of pathogens in bananas and the incidence of fruit decay are reduced. It is advantageous that there are no complex equipment or additional investments and manpower needed in doing the application. This technology improves the quality and shelf life of bananas and has helped the farming sector by providing an alternative to chemical pesticide against the banana crown rot disease. Asked about what he learned best from being a scientist, it was “waiting with patience until the good results come,” answered Dr. Alvindia. Through his work, he continuously learns the meaning of patience and perseverance.
He envisions reaching the highest ladder in the scientist rank through significant continuous research works, and is determined to contribute significantly to the agricultural sector. As for aspiring scientists, Dr. Alvindia believes that all they have to do is to be focused, believe in themselves and work very hard.
Currently, Dr. Alvindia publishes research papers, articles, and books in highly recognized international journals and publishing companies. He also serves as technical resource person in local and overseas forums and scientific consultations.