By Armando M. Guidote Jr. and Carlos P. Garcia
Drs. Aaron Joseph L. Villaraza, Manuel Joseph C. Loquias and Allan Patrick G. Macabeo are the recipients of the 2013 National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Talent Search for Young Scientists. These National Award winners were honored last 11 July 2013, during the Awarding and Closing Ceremonies of the NAST 35th Annual Scientific Meeting held at the Manila Hotel.
Dr. Villaraza was awarded for outstanding scientific and technological contribution entitled “Macro-molecules, dendrimers, and nanomaterials in magnetic resonance imaging: The interplay between size, function, and pharmacokinetics”. He is currently an Associate Professor of the Institute of Chemistry of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He completed his PhD in Chemistry in 2008 at the School of Chemistry of Manchester University, working on the synthesis of heteropolymetallic lanthanide complexes for in vivo biological imaging. He was awarded a Cancer Research Training Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. In 2010 he received his current faculty appointment at the University of the Philippines Diliman and teaches courses in Introductory and Advanced Inorganic Chemistry. Since 2010, in addition to teaching, he has also spent several months abroad in the Departments of Biology and Pharmacy of the University of Utah working on fluorescent marine snail toxins, and more recently, as a Visiting Academic at Oxford University’s Chemistry Research Laboratory, working on the synthesis of neuroactive bacterial secondary metabolites and their lanthanide conjugates. Dr. Villaraza helps out with the management of the new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility of UP Diliman, and serves as coordinator for a General Chemistry course. He also co-manages the PMS-ICBG research program, a drug discovery program from marine sources funded by the US NIH-FIRCA.
Dr. Macabeo was awarded Third prize for his work “Stereoselective routes to aryl substituted -butyrolactones and their application towards the synthesis of highly oxidized furanocembranoids”. He initiated his research career back at the University of San Tomas after receiving a doctorate degree from the Institut für Organische Chemie, Universität Regensburg in 2011 under Prof. Dr. Oliver Reiser’s tutelage. His doctoral research focussed on the total synthesis of furanolactone cembranoids. An alumnus of Santo Tomas (BS Chemistry 1999; MS Chemistry 2003), he was awarded various fellowships including the DFG Research Fellowship (March-May 2011), Universität Regensburg and recently, the National Research Foundation (NRF)-Funded Visiting Research Fellowship (Prof. Zhao Yu Research Group), National University of Singapore, last April-June 2012. Those who know Allan describe him as a researcher, foremost, whose interest in naturally derived biologically active compounds brings the discipline of chemistry to answer problems traditionally dealt with by synthetic chemists.
Dr. Manuel Joseph C. Loquias (Mathematics) of the Institute of Mathematics, University of the Philippines-Diliman cited for his work entitled “Coincidence isometries of a shifted square lattice” bagged the Second prize, to round up this year’s winners. The NAST Talent Search for Young Scientists principal aim is to encourage young people to pursue a career in science. This year’s winners were selected from a total of nine competitors from across different academic institutions.