Fabian M. Dayrit

By Mark Adam Ferry

Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit has been teaching chemistry in the Ateneo de Manila University since 1983. He established the National Chemistry Instrumentation Center (NCIC) when the first high field Fourier transform-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer and high resolution Mass Spectrometer (MS) in the country were obtained in 1994 under the Engineering and Science Education Program (ESEP). He was the first Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, serving from 2000 to 2011. He was also the founder and first director of the Environmental Science Program, which was established in 1992 and later elevated to a department in 1998.

Dr. Dayrit is a true-blue Atenean, having studied there since grade school up to college. In 1975, he graduated cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in BS Chemistry. He then received his M.A. and PhD degrees in Chemistry from Princeton University in 1978 and 1981, respectively.

Currently, he is the president of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP), a post that that he has held since 1995. The ICP is the accredited professional organization of the Chemistry profession under the Professional Regulation Commission. He has been the chair for the Technical Panel for Nanotechnology of the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research & Development of Department of Science & Technology since 2009, a consultant on Confirmatory Drug Testing using Mass Spectrometry for the Department of Health (DOH) since 2008, chair of the steering committee for the Science Education Graduate Scholarships for the Commission on Higher Education since 2007, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Philippine Institute for Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) for DOH since 2006, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Philippine Journal of Science since 2005. He was the project leader of the DOST Roadmap for Nanotechnology Development in the Philippines, which identified the priority areas for the development of nanotechnology R&D in the country. He is also a member of various scientific and professional societies which include the Philippine-American Association of Science and Engineering (PAASE), Natural Products Society of the Philippines (NPSP), National Research Council of the Philippines and the American Chemical Society. He is the chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) an intergovernmental agency of 18 coconut producing countries which was established by UN ESCAP. Dr. Dayrit was elected as Academician in the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST PHL) in 2009 and is currently its Acting President.

Dr. Dayrit’s research interests include natural products chemistry and environmental chemistry. For natural products, he studies various aspects of the quality of virgin coconut oil. Current research going on is the potential use of virgin coconut oil (VCO) against Alzheimer’s disease. Spirulina algae is also being studied for commercial production of cheap fish feed, as well as the bioengineering of algae to produce more high-value compounds such as phycobili proteins. Various endemic and Southeast Asian plant species used in traditional medicine are also being studied for standardization. His scientific works have resulted in various publications in ISI-listed and non-ISI listed journals and academic awards. In 2010, he received the “Award of Excellence in Science & Engineering” from the Philippine Development Foundation USA during the Philippine Development Forum. He and Dr. Marissa Noel received an “Award for Best Paper” by NAST PHL in 2007 for their publication entitled, “Triterpenes in the Callus Culture of Vitex negundo, L.”.

Outside the laboratory, he is also working on adding more volumes to the compilation of currently standardized traditional medicinal plants in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. The first volume of the Encyclopedia of Common Medicinal Plants of the Philippines, to which he is a co-editor of, was published in 2015.

Dr. Dayrit truly enjoys teaching. He regularly teaches advanced organic chemistry with focus on natural products, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. He loves seeing his past students become successful in the field. For being a long time educator and chemist in the Philippines, he says that chemistry in the Philippines is still a relatively small industry and field. The country has been developing rapidly in various fields of science such as information technology and biology (as a biodiversity hotspot). As a central science, he wants to highlight the importance of chemistry for the Philippines.

He is married to Ma. Corazon Baytion and they have two children, Enzo and Felicia. Outside work, Dr. Dayrit enjoys photography, being outdoors, travel, and playing the flute.

Short Course on Polymeric and Colloidal Materials

The Short Course on Polymeric and Colloidal Materials was held last June 16, 2016 at De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila. This one-day science event was attended by 120+ participants from the industry, government and the academe.

Chemistry professors Thomas AP Seery of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) and David P. Penaloza Jr. of DLSU delivered lectures on the basic principles, preparation and characterization of polymers and colloids, and how these concepts can be utilized in industrial and research settings. Professor Seery is the STRIDE Visiting US Professor at DLSU.

The course consisted of four sessions with Professor Seery giving lectures on polymer science, colloids and surface science and characterization and properties of polymers and colloids. Professor Penaloza, meanwhile, discussed the flow and mechanical behaviors of polymers and colloids.

The event was jointly organized by the DLSU Chemistry Department headed by Dr. Glenn V. Alea and the D&L Industries, Inc. represented by Mr. Henry C. Siy.

My personal memoirs: Life at the Ateneo Chemistry Department, 1965-67

By Dr. Cynthia J. Jameson

This article originally appeared on the Ateneo de Manila University website.

In 1965 Keith was hired by Fr. Schmitt basically on the spot after he presented his credentials. Fr. Schmitt said that he was going to have lunch with the Rector and talk to him about it, but he did not see any problems with Keith’s appointment. At that time the new building was just going through the final cleaning up and Fr. Schmitt going after the contractors for various remaining unfinished work here and there. You know how he was; Keith marveled at his dedication.

In the period 1965-1967 that Keith was on the faculty, there were only Fr. Schmitt, Amando Kapauan, Modesto Chua, Anna Javellana, Edgardo Piccio and Salvador Balalta and Keith. Only Mody Chua is still around as Emeritus. It was the formative years for the department and Keith enjoyed the short time he was there. Keith acquired an MS student, Maria Christina Damasco (now Padolina). She had a BS in Chemical Engineering. Keith gave her the project of finding the optimum conditions for growing iron-oxidizing microorganisms (presumably Thiobacillus ferrooxidans) from Bingham Canyon UT efficiently (in large numbers in a compact system). Later, even sophomore students like Jose Carlos Jr. got involved. Christina’s MS thesis “Microbial Metabolism in an Electrolytic Cell” was accepted in May 1967 by Ateneo. She is currently president of Centro Escolar University.

Keith’s first graduating class (1966) at Ateneo consisted of Claro Llaguno, Benjamin Mandanas, Arturo Mateos, Salvador Ondevilla, and Luisito Tan. These 5 students spent many dinner times at our home in UP Village. I used to cook large batches of pancit bihon and grilled pork skewers for them when they came over. Keith made sure we had enough cold San Miguel beer on hand when they showed up. Keith thought these students were very good, and in the following year all except Ondevilla would go into PhD programs in the U.S. with his encouragement.

After some time, we decided that it was not possible for us to continue to do the kind of research that we wanted to do in the Philippines. As soon as we realized we were going to have to leave, Keith started to plan for the future of those students we were leaving behind. He recruited the best students in the chemistry curriculum at Ateneo, one freshman, some sophomores, juniors, and seniors, to attend a crash course that he taught at Ateneo (on his own time) in advanced physical chemistry. I asked him to let the star in my general chemistry class (Leni Lontok) take the crash course too. Outside of classroom time, including weekends, he taught them quantum mechanics, group theory and a bit of molecular spectroscopy. To be able to do this required careful planning, because the mathematics they needed also had to be taught for a rigorous approach to these topics. Among those in the crash course were Lawrence Que, Jose Carlos, Jr., Danilo de la Cruz, Eugene Varona, all of whom went to the US and completed their PhD degrees in Chemistry (University of Minnesota, Cornell, Iowa State University, Penn State University, respectively).  Leni decided to not continue (she later did her PhD at Ateneo with Fr. Schmitt), and the very promising Ateneo freshman (I forget his name) eloped with his girl friend just at the beginning of the class and dropped out. Otherwise, the rest stayed through the whole period, which lasted until we were about to leave for the US by the end of May 1967. He gave them as much as they could handle if they worked hard at keeping up. And they did.

The graduates of 1966 Claro Llaguno, Benjamin Mandanas, Luisito Tan all left within a few days of the time Keith and I did, going to University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Iowa State University, and Indiana University PhD programs, respectively.  Arturo Mateos followed later, going for his PhD in Chemistry at Loyola University – Chicago when Keith was already there. Keith’s MS student Maria Christina Damasco also left at about the same time. She tried to find a PhD program in the US in Chemical Engineering, but they weren’t taking any female students at that time, so she went to get her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Texas – Austin. (She later married William Padolina who became DOST secretary.)  The sophomores and juniors in the crash course followed later. Lawrence Que is Regents Professor of Chemistry at University of Minnesota.

There was incredible amount of excitement during our last year in the Philippines. Both Keith’s and my students were applying to PhD programs at the same time. It seemed like we spent a lot of time attending despedida parties, going to the airport and seeing off one student after another. In fact, I have photos of us seeing off Claro Llaguno, Luisito Tan, and Ben Mandanas, one at a time, before we ourselves left.

Since we would occasionally invite them to dinner in restaurants, UP and Ateneo students got to know each other. My students who we encouraged to do PhDs in the US were Elma Caballes, Rudyard Enanoza, Luisita de la Rosa, Melinda de Guzman, Virginia Ramos, Anna Tan, and Linda Vergara. They went to U of Illinois, University of Notre Dame, Iowa State University, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and eventually Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University, and Pennsylvania State University, respectively. Claro Llaguno from Ateneo and Elma Caballes from UP went to the same PhD program and later married each other. Claro Llaguno later became Chancellor of University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The two-plus years we taught at UP and Ateneo constituted only a small sliver of our academic careers, but those years and those undergraduate students had a very special place in our hearts. We kept track of them for many years, as they went on their own paths.

Because of my having to go back to the Philippines owing to my J visa, Keith left his industrial research job at Esso and his MBA thesis unfinished. The time at Ateneo convinced him that he wanted a different career path. His colleagues on the faculty and the students made all the difference. And so he ended up at another Jesuit university, ha ha. But there are no other Fr. Schmitts in the universe.

In those days there was such a camaraderie among faculty and students. This is a photo taken on May 1st 1966 when we all went to the airport to see Mody Chua off to Bonn where he would be doing his postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Rudolph Tschesche sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In this picture are Rolf Kleindienst of the Ateneo Economics department, myself, Keith, Fr. Schmitt, Benjamin Mandanas, Mody Chua, Claro  Llaguno, Luisito Tan and Jose Carlos Jr.

After seeing Mody off at the airport, we all headed directly to Malabon where Arturo Mateos was preparing a feast for us (a seafood spread on banana leaves) which we cooked right there. In the photos, you see Fr. Schmitt, Art Mateos, Ben Mandanas; on the other side, Keith and myself; Fr. Schmitt enjoying fish right off the grill. We also had oysters, crabs, and shrimp. Those were the days!

About the author: Dr. Cynthia Juan Jameson is Professor Emerita of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at University of Illinois-Chicago, with research interests in Physical Chemistry, in particular fundamental studies in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy. She obtained her B.S. Chemistry from UP Diliman in 1958 and Ph.D. Chemistry from University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1963. She married Keith Jameson and the couple spent two exciting years at the Ateneo Chemistry Department from 1965-67.