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UP Diliman’s DNA Analysis Laboratory Head Bags 1st Prize in the 2009 Regional Young Women Scientist Award

The University of the Philippines, home of outstanding researches in the country, once again claimed the limelight in the recently-held 2009 Scopus Regional Young Women Researcher Awarding Ceremony with the theme “Bridging the Science Gender Gap in Developing Countries” held at the National Science Centre and Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dr. Maria Corazon Abogado De Ungria, Head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory, Natural Sciences Research Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman won the first prize awarded under the Life Science Category. She shared the recognition with Dr. Mai Thi Quynh Le from National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Vietnam.

Dr. Corazon De Ungria (2nd from the left) and Dr. Mai Thi Quynh Le (3rd from the left) receive the 2009 Scopus Regional Young Women Scientist Award from Dr. Lilia Margarita Alvarez Diaz (left), Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) Vice President for Latin America (Courtesy of www.bic.org.my)

Dr. De Ungria presented her research work entitled “Development of Forensic DNA Technology in the Philippines” during the awarding ceremony and symposium. The 2009 Scopus Regional Young Women Researcher Award was given to Dr. De Ungria in recognition of her outstanding contributions in forensic applications and molecular anthropological studies in Philippines. Among these studies are the following:

1.    The establishment of Philippine population databases for forensic applications and in a molecular anthropological context
In 2006, Dr. De Ungria joined the PanAsia SNP consortium, which has members from different Asian countries who have contributed to the multi-center study on genetic diversity in Asia. Dr. De Ungria worked in generating over 5000 autosomal SNP data from several groups of Philippine Negritos and other ethnic populations of the Philippines using the microchip technology from Affymetrix.

2.    The promulgation of the Rule on DNA Evidence with the inclusion of the section on post-conviction DNA Testing
Dr. De Ungria became the head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory at the time when the Philippines still had the Death Penalty. For more than six years, she worked actively with the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a group of private lawyers who provided free legal assistance to indigent death row inmates. The objective of this collaboration was to assess the feasibility of post-conviction DNA testing which at that time was not yet an available procedure. She was also in the technical panel that formulated the Rule on DNA Evidence which was submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court for approval.

3.    The adoption of a systematic system for handling sexual assault evidence by the Child Protection Network
Dr. De Ungria is actively involved in helping the Child Protection Network (CPU-Net), a network of different government and private hospitals that have a special section dedicated to helping children who have suffered physical abuse. One major problem in the collection of biological evidence from victims of sexual abuse is the absence of a sexual assault investigation kit (SAIK). Together with medical doctors of CPU, Dr. De Ungria and her team validated and subsequently introduced into the market, a prototype SAIK, which has been adopted by hospitals of the CPU-Net.

Dr. De Ungria finished her Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biology degree at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Microbiology at the University of New South Wales also in Sydney, Australia. She started working at the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the University of the Philippines in 1999. In the same year, Dr. De Ungria joined the Third World Organization of Women in Science (TWOWS) (see http://twows.ictp.it) in order to meet other young women scientists in the region. In 2006, Dr. De Ungria won the Outstanding Young Scientist Award given by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and The Academy of Sciences for Developing Countries (TWAS) (see http://www.twas.org/). In 2007, Dr. De Ungria was amongst the first batch of TWAS Affiliate Fellows after being chosen by the TWAS Regional Office for East Asia and Southeast Asia. This was the first year that TWAS welcomed young scientists to be part of the academy in order to encourage young researchers to actively participate in promoting science in their own respective regions.

In 2009, the Young Women Researcher Award was jointly organized by TWAS, TWOWS, the Malaysian National Science Centre and SCOPUS-Elsevier. The aim of the organizers were to acknowledge and strengthen women representation and their technological leadership, particularly in their efforts and contributions in achieving research excellence. Other categories for the awards were medicine, engineering and technology and agricultural science. (http://asia.elsevier.com/elsevierdnn/EventsConferences/YoungWomenResearcherAward09/tabid/1191/Default.aspx).

Winners received a certificate and cash prize.

By Gracious Romero

Category: Memos, News

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