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.