Lea Macaraig obtained both her bachelors degree in Chemistry and Computer Engineering, and masters degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University. She pursued a doctorate degree in Energy Science in Kyoto University, and is presently a post-doctorate researcher in the research group of Dr. Erwin Enriquez. Her research interest is in the makeup, design, and architecture of materials used in energy sources, specifically photovoltaic cells under the PICARI Project (Philippines-California Advanced Research Institute) funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). They are working on the development of sensitized perovskite-based solar cells. Dr. Macaraig stressed the significant difference in budget allocation for science education and research. “But it’s in the good ideas. From good ideas you can do research even if you have a lower budget compared to your peers in other countries.”
The chemistry educator in Dr. Macaraig, safeguards her students become better equipped in the laboratory skills expected of them. “Secondary schools in the Philippines do not have good teaching laboratory practices.” She mentioned that focusing on skills training than concepts and will in turn make the students eager to learn, especially in her advanced chemistry classes. On the other side of the spectrum, there are students who might be anxious of learning chemistry. “You just need to guide them,” she added. Dr Macaraig hopes that the Philippine education would allot more time in a student’s formal education to research. “We do three or four years of lecture-lab concepts for chemistry majors, then do a one-year project at the end. That one year is short. In Japan, that one year is not enough.”
The present scenario in chemical industries requires refinement in the research experience qualification for employment. In other countries, she states that to be accepted in a certain industry position, the applicant must have earned at least a masters degree, and have considerable experience in research: in the Philippines, it is still at the bachelor’s degree level. Many bachelor’s degree theses have not yet delved deep enough.
“When I was younger, recalled my dad mentioned he is a chemist, I said I wanted to do his job.” I always accompanied my dad in the fields and in the forests. How do these play in Lea’s life explains why she is chemist today. In her spare time, Lea fiddles in aquaculture and agriculture. She also enjoys watching sports such as basketball and Formula One.