Dr. William G. Padolina, professor and academician, is the current president of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). His professional career is truly a rich convergence of his roles as scientist, teacher, researcher, administrator, and policy maker. His career began when he entered the BS Agricultural Chemistry program from which he graduated, magna cum laude, from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), became a licensed chemist immediately after. He earned his Ph.D. in Botany/Phytochemistry from University of Texas in a straight Ph.D. program as a Fulbright-Hays scholar and pursued postdoctoral studies at the world famous carotenoid chemistry laboratories of Prof. Synnove Liaaen-Jensen, Norwegian Institute of Technology (now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Trondheim, Norway.
He rose from Instructor to full Professor of Chemistry at the UPLB, where he mentored numerous students, headed research groups, and held various administrative positions, including being Director of the Institute of Chemistry, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Director of the National Institutes of Microbiology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), and Assistant to the President of the University. He was appointed Secretary of Science and Technology by President Fidel V. Ramos from 1994 to 1998 and was retained by President Joseph Estrada until 31 January 1999. He was former President of the 40th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Di-rector for External Relations of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and later the Deputy Director General for Operations until his retirement. He continues to serve as consultant and senior advisor of IRRI. He served as Chair of the Technical Panel for Food and Agriculture of the Joint Philippine Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering from 2008 to 2010. He became a member of the Executive Board of the National Academy of Science and Technology and currently the President of the National Academy of Science and Technology. He was member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (2001-2012) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (2002-2011). He is currently also Senior Fellow at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), member and at present, manager of the CHED Technical Working Group for PCARI, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Euromed Laboratories, Inc.
The leadership and wisdom that Dr. Padolina brought into his various roles earned him numerous awards, including the Tree of Life Award for Research in Coconut by the Philippine Coconut Authority, the Award of Excellence in Science and Engineering by the Philippine Development Foundation USA, the Merit Medal “For the cause of agriculture and rural development in Vietnam” , awarded by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the ASEAN Meritorious Service Award in Science and Technology, Philippine Legion of Honor (Rank of Officer) by both President Fidel V. Ramos and President Joseph Estrada, Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Outstanding Professional in Chemistry, Outstanding Alumnus Professional in Chemistry by UPAA in 1995, UP System Out-standing Administrator in 1988, Pantas Award in Research Management by PCARRD, Ten Outstanding Young Men Award in the field of Science and Technology in 1985, and Outstanding Young Scientist in Phytochemistry in 1982. In 2010, he was named one of UPLB Centennial Fellows, and was also given a special award of recognition as an Outstanding Citizen of Los Baños.
His research interests include the chemistry of the coconut — production of novel derivatives of coconut fatty ac-ids; medicinal plants chemistry – isolation, identification and biological testing of novel active constituents of Philippine medicinal plants, particularly those with anti-allergy and anti-diabetic properties; acetone-butanol production from molasses using Clostridium acetobutylicum, and biogas production from cellulosic wastes like coconut coir dust and fiber and rice straw. Due to the various positions he has held, his research has widened to those needed in policy making, hence his interest in Science Policy and Food Security.
As Director of BIOTECH and Secretary of DOST, he had exhorted the need to continuously improve products of research, and often chided research personnel on the attitude of “puwede na”. At DOST, he promoted a development agenda that made use of technological advances in agriculture, manufacturing and services, education pro-gram for improvement of technological and research management system. He pushed STAND (Science & Technology Agenda for National Development), identifying specific commodities, products and services as export winners. He aimed for the development of S&T human resources through the Engineering and Science Education Project (ESEP), which provided support for scholars in science, engineering, science education, and technology management. The Science and Technology Scholarship Act was implemented alongside parallel programs of the Science Education Institute and other DOST councils. He also implemented the PhNet project, which linked the country to the Internet. The Magna Carta for S&T Personnel became RA 8439 in 1997 through the efforts of Dr. Padolina. It was during his time that IRRI acted as the coordinating institution for the golden rice network, for the development of rice varieties containing significant amount of beta-carotene, as a response to findings of increasing Vitamin A deficiency in the world population.
Today, in many of his speaking engagements as president of NAST, Dr. Padolina continues to emphasize that importance of the role of science and technology in nation building. Science and technology, he stresses, could significantly “contribute to national development by providing the country the tools and means to meet the challenges of globalization and empowerment while responding to the needs of the economically disadvantaged”.