UP Scientists Respond to a Calling

Its always inspiring to learn of young achievers. Such is the case when I met three UP scientists and PhD's -- Homer and Genevive Pantua and Michael Velarde. Protégés of UP VP for Academic Affairs Giselle Concepcion Ph.D. they have several things in common -- they're exceptionally gifted, highly trained and extremely motivated to come home and serve the Philippines.

However, going back can be a daunting challenge. With irreversible consequences and the clock ticking, they need to assess their options -- soon. With highly marketable skills and promising careers, leaving America at the prime of their life is not an easy choice. There are no definite assurances. Hopefully, they got some when they met UP President Alfredo Pascual last January 7, 2012 in San Francisco. In spite of the uncertainties, these 3 exceptional scientists are determined. Let's meet them.

The first two are the loving couple of Homer & Maria "Gen" Genevive Hernandez-Pantua. Homer graduated in 1999 with a degree in Veterinary Medicine at UP Los Banos while Genevive completed her bachelors degree in molecular biology and biotechnology in 1997 at UP Diliman.

After UP, the two went on to get their Ph.D's in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Homer specializes in Molecular Virology while Genevive in Immunology, Molecular Biology and Oncology. Both work for bay area biotech giant Genentech as research scientists.

Their expertise is on infectious disease and immunology, respectively -- two relevant and complementary fields that are essential in vaccine and drug development. Their career and research interest is to develop vaccines that can address unmet medical needs especially in the Philippines. They hope to join the UP academia and train the next generation of Filipino scientists.

Homer and Gen got married in 2001. They have two daughters, Tala (5) and Laya (1). It is not all work for them. In their spare time, they like to explore the outdoors and appreciate the arts and culture specially the museums. Dad, mom and Tala love to cook and eat!

The third scientist is Michael Velarde. Mike took up BS Biochemistry and graduated from UP in 2001. His undergraduate thesis focused on the effect of pesticides on brain enzyme activity isolated from the tilapia fish. In 2007 he completed his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from University of Arkansas where he manipulated and analyzed several genes and proteins in mouse tissues and human cancer cell lines to study the effect of sex steroid hormones on physiological and patho physiological contexts.

From 2007-09 Mike did his post doctoral studies at UC San Francisco in OB/GYN and reproductive sciences. At UCSF he gained experience in gene expression and protein analysis to include patient samples (human uterine tissues and isolated primary endometrial cells) to study infertility and endometriosis in women.

Presently, Mike is connected with the Buck Institute for Age Research of Novato CA, where he acquired expertise in the analysis of skin phenotypes in genetically engineered mouse models. His proficiency lies in analyzing cellular senescent phenotypes in mouse and human cell cultures, as well as in mouse skin and other tissues.

When not in the lab, Mike enjoys building websites , playing computer games, networking, volunteering, participating in church and community events, and attending church service. Like Homer and Gen, Mike is set on pursuing a career in biomedical research and/or teaching.

They're responding to a calling. Let's hope plans do not misfire.

UP, it's your move.