SHE-ensya basics: Evolution and the DNA

Hello Science Fans!

To conclude our series on evolution, we look at the minute changes happening within our cells that *could* eventually result to evolution. It’s a combination of accidents and environmental change that facilitates “survival of the fittest”.

Here we have an overview of the DNA, the awesome molecule known as the blueprint of life. But beyond that, we also talk about all the different kinds of mutations that can either:

Get corrected by the cell

Cause a cell to die (by apoptosis)

Make us sick

Or be the root of evolution

But please take NOTE!

Mutations happen spontaneously and randomly. There is no rhyme and reason behind them. At least to the extent of how they can cause beneficial or harmful changes to the body. There may be more that we discover about mutations along the way, so this thought is limited by the science I have read and understood to this day.

But evolution only eventually proceeds, when enough mutations are passed on from one generation to the next, and that these mutations actually lend the organisms competitive advantage in the event of an environmental change!

Of course, all that we understand about evolution now has been verified through genetic technology, but the study of evolution is ancient! So how did scientists study evolution prior to our full understanding of the DNA?

Well, they looked at biological structures, of course! 

To learn more about all these, please enjoy the SHE-ensya video below:

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

SHE-ensya special: The central dogma (of life) – A STEM career talk

Hello Science Fans!

Are you at a crossroads in your life?

Trying to decide if STEM is the field for you?

Unsure of the direction you’ll go after SHS or college?

Well, this special video could help.

Here, I talk about my journey as a homegrown scientist of the Philippines…

Including my initial difficulties of finding a job, which is one of the unavoidable pitfalls of graduating during a recession…

My failure to choose the correct graduate program at the start of my journey…

The contractual system that nearly crippled me financially (and is still crippling hundred of thousands of part time faculty all over the Philippines, and the world)…

My burnouts and severe imposter syndrome…

Losing my mother…

But then there were also triumphs.

The decision to shift which freed me to be creative…

Adventures in entrepreneurship…

Being granted a Fulbright scholarship…

Becoming the President of the United States of America (for one night)

Getting to know myself as a scientist… 

It’s a crazy, dizzying journey that finally led me to this awesome point in time.

Please join me in this adventure, and maybe, just maybe, I can convince you to embark (or continue) on a unique STEM journey all your own!

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

Of rare blood diseases, Mars missions, and the pangolin

Hello Science Fans!

Welcome to the lucky (episode 13) episode of SHE-ensya’s corner!

It’s been an eventful week, despite still being in quarantine. 

With large-scale deployment of various Covid-19 vaccines, we have started to hear of possible side effects; and one that caught the attention of the media was the case of Ma’am Luz Legaspi, a Filipina in New York, who appears to have caught a rare blood disease called thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia is a disease characterized by having low platelet counts. This leads to uncontrolled bleeding during injuring, and sometimes even spontaneous bleeding through the eyes, mouth, and bladder. This is because the platelet is responsible for creating temporary barricades for open wounds, and also prevents bleeding by promoting blood clotting.

In this video, we talk about how a vaccine — whether it’s Covid-19 related or not — can spontaneously cause thrombocytopenia.

In outer space, missions from three different countries approached Mars, with NASA’s Perseverance rover braving a nail-biting touchdown onto the Jezero crater.

Difficulties in landing manned missions is brought about by the distance between Earth and Mars, which causes substantial delays in communication. Add to this the trickiness of the landing site for Perseverance.

Curious about why the entry, descent, and landing of Perseverance was a heart-pounding moment? We’ve got the answer in SHE-ensya’s video,

And finally, we also get to celebrate World Pangolin Day today! This amazing scaly mammal is so fascinating, but it is also suffering from being the most trafficked animal on the planet. Let’s hope for better implementation of the law to protect this wonderful creature!

A hefty video for a hefty week, I hope you learn (and enjoy)!

Find out more in our video this week! 

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

SHE-ensya basics: Mass extinction events that drive evolution

Hello Science Fans!

“Survival of the fittest.”

This is probably that most cited misquote of Charles Darwin, the naturalist credited for the theory of biological evolution.

He was also misattributed with the slightly longer, “’It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

And so fitness, in terms of evolution, really means the ability to survive… Change.

So in this back-to-basics video, we revisit five key events in the history of planet Earth that caused significant changes to the environment.

Changes so drastic, that they really forced plant and animal species to either adapt or perish.

These events are known as the five mass extinction events, and they ranged from global cooling to global warming, massive volcanic eruptions to algal blooms, and yes, the occasional asteroid impacts.

The Earth has a very colorful history. And through hundreds of thousands to millions of years, there were instances when almost all animal life on the planet was eradicated. It’s a heart pounding adventure that brings us to the scariest event of the 21st century in just a couple of hundred years… Could we be creating the sixth mass extinction event?

Watch today’s SHE-ensya video to find out!

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

SHE-ensya special: A mosaic for sustainable agri-aqua in the Philippines

Hello Science Fans!

Isn’t it frustrating that the poorest of poor in Philippine society are those responsible for producing the food that we eat?

In today’s SHE-ensya special, I present the importance of combining traditional ecological knowledge with modern biotechnology in the updated version of a talk I gave during the 40th Anniversary Conference of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering.

Through my career as a student and scientist, my research have always evolved around agriculture and aquaculture.

As an undergraduate student from the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, I worked on abaca and its genetic transformation. The outputs of our research had such potential but it (until now) has yet to be fully accepted by society due to our fear of genetic engineering.

From there, I moved forward to working with indigenous peoples on upland rehabilitation. I was immersed in studying traditional ecological knowledge management systems to figure out how natural systems replenish itself, and how much of it we can retain in our agricultural practices. As a student of nature, I learned all about citizen science and the extreme value of science communication.

Eventually, I came back to molecular biology when I started my PhD at the De La Salle University. I was now studying mangrove crabs (Scylla spp), locally known as the alimango. I saw how, sometimes, what we wanted to study as scientists didn’t fit the need of our fishers. So we adjusted and accommodated the needs of the local communities we were working with and created technologies that would help address these issues. Learn more about our projects through our website: https://crabtech.ph.

Through our video this week, I hope that it can trigger something in your minds (and hearts) to create more potential solutions to the difficulties faced by our fishers and farmers!

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

Of STEMinists, lunar calendars, and the addicting nature of love

Hello Science Fans!

Welcome to our 100th video at SHE-ensya!!!

It’s a weekend of celebrations, starting with the International Day for Women and Girls in Science. I’ve been luckier than most to have had many role models to inspire me to be a good scientist, and I can only dream to live up to their standards. 

In this video, we look at the sociocultural reasons that limit the full participation of women and girls in the sciences, while contrasting it with the biological characteristics we have that argue our great fit with any field of STEM. It’s not easy advocating against hundreds of years of bias and prejudice, but we will continue the good fight.

So this is dedicated to these wonderful women, and also to the next generation of steminists in the Philippines!

It’s quite auspicious that we also welcomed the Lunar New Year as we closed our celebration on women and girls in science. This February 12, we welcomed the year of the metal ox.

I’ve always wondered why the years were named after animals, so I decided to do a quick re-telling of the ancient Chinese myth that led to the Chinese zodiac. But as a scientist, and space fanatic, I was more fascinated with the lunar calendar, which we will also discuss here.

And finally, tomorrow is 2021’s Valentine’s Day. And why is Valentine’s such a famous holiday, specially considering its dark history? Why, indeed, is the human psyche so fascinated with the concept of love? Well, let’s look at the biological triggers that keep us addicted.

Find out more in our video this week! 

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

SHE-ensya basics: The history of animals on Earth

Hello Science Fans!

I love kitties! And dinosaurs! And fishies! And so much more…

But how did animal life begin on planet Earth in the first place?

In this back-to-basics video, we walk through the history of the planet Earth to look at the significant events that led to the formation of animal life.

We start with the Earth freshly born as a molten ball of rock during the Hadeon eon. The chaotic nature of the planet, at this point, made it difficult for life as we know it to exist.

From there we move forward to the Archean eon (also a summon in FF XV) where the slight cooling of the planet led to the formation of the first forms of life (aka prokaryotic cells). Some prokaryotic cells ended up being able to create food from sunlight, which led them to farting out oxygen — and this re-shaped the face of the planet.

The so-called Oxygen Revolution ushered in the Proterozoic where we find the first multicellular organisms and the ancestor of all animals, the wriggling, worm like creature called Ikaria wariootia. Eventually, similar types of animals to Ikaria died out, and we enter the current geologic eon: the Phanerozoic.

Oddly enough, the Phanerozoic eon is still ongoing and we share it with dinosaurs, mass extinction events, ice ages, and uh, man-made global warming.

This video seeks to answer the question, “What could have happened in Earth’s history to create the rich biodiversity of life that we have now?”

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

SHE-ensya special: Teaching STEM online

Hello Science Fans!

We do a quick throwback today because what I’m sharing is a slightly updated version of a talk I gave a few months ago to fellow science educators about teaching in the “new normal”.

Here I talk about the struggles of online teaching (and learning), where I attempt to answer the question: “Is online learning from everyone?”

I draw from experiences of taking up my Masters at an Open University, while also contrasting conditions between pre- and post-pandemic.

This video also shares some good practices to consider when planning our online classes. The techniques shown here provide economical approaches to delivering our lessons, and key points to remember when preparing our modules.

And lastly, I am hoping that this video can also give students a #bts view of how “the struggle is real” for your friendly neighborhood science teachers! We are simply doing our best — doing what we can — to provide quality education despite limited means. I hope we can work together to create an environment suited for 21st century education.

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

Of starships, Dolly the Sheep, and a new hope for us in quarantine!

Hello Science Fans!

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to space, we’re one step closer… Sort of!

SpaceX is testing reusable rockets… but it’s crashing!!!

The creation of re-usable rockets will make space travel cheaper and more sustainable. After all, previous instances of manned travel to space means the use of single-use vessels that would need to be re-built from scratch whenever we need to fly back into space. But Elon Musk (and Jeff Bezos) are well on the way of correcting this huge carbon footprint! And possibly, also, allow for space tourism!

This year is also the 25th anniversary of the world premiere of the existence of Dolly The Sheep!

<meep it’s been 25 years?!?>

Dolly was a huge leap in the field of biotechnology as she was proof that mammalian cloning using adult somatic cells is possible. It paved the way for cloning in the field of agriculture!

And finally, we have some amazing news from Oxford Astrazeneca! The data is pretty early but it seems their vaccine against Covid-19 may also prevent transmission of the virus!

Find out more about these awesome updates in today’s episode of SHE-ensya’s corner!

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.

And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!