Sunday, November 9, 2014

#NIGQC 2014 Live Updates: UP Diliman tops NIGQC 2014

The 2014 National Intercollegiate Quiz Contest organized by The UPLB Genetics Society (@GeneSoc1983) was held at Umali Auditorium, SEARCA, UP Los Banos. With this year being the first time that the event will be done for two consecutive years the competition is tougher than ever. With 14 universities nation-wide participated, UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES DILIMAN snatched the title, wherein DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY MANILA came in second and ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY garnering third place. Ms. Gisel Isabela Mirandila of Bicol University was named the top scorer for the Individual Examination round. 

The UPLB Genetics Society sponsored the First Luzon Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest in 1998 and this was participated by twelve universities. This was followed by two more editions in 2000 and 2002. The competition was not offered in succeeding years after the organization shifted its attention on promoting the science of genetics among secondary school students and teachers. It was only revived in 2013, in time for the organizations 30th anniversary and the 60th year of the elucidation of the DNA double helix.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Seeing beyond the Scene: Metagenomics Demystified

Our world is diversely inhabited by micro-organisms, they practically thrive everywhere. From the high-altitude mountains, to the subterranean layers, deep oceans, and even extreme environments that were once thought to be free of living organisms – acidic and highly saline waters, and even harsh temperatures of hot springs and subzero regions of the Antarctic. With this massive and highly distributed population, they hold the secrets in transforming the world around them. They are the boss, and if we want to gain more knowledge about biological processes, it is logical to get to know more about them in molecular level.

Since the advent of microbiological cultivation techniques, which started in mid-1800s, we have studied microbes as individual organisms isolated in pure cultures without or with very little inclusion of ecological factors such as presence of other microorganisms, tremendously high temperatures and other biotic and abiotic factors because of laboratory limitations, making our knowledge of them narrow and inadequate.

Metagenomics, one of the emerging neo-sciences, can be a tool for discovering novel genes and enzymes from environmental samples, especially in extreme environments. Extreme environments are interesting source of enzymes or biocatalysts that are active during extreme conditions and that can have biotechnologically valuable properties. An example is the hot and thermal environments like hot springs and mudsprings. One benefit of metagenomic analysis from hot environments is that it can better understand the microbial diversity and composition in hot springs and their relationship with geo-chemical conditions. The features of the microbial community gathered from hot  environments can be documented and analyzed for fu-ture studies. Also, the study of this can lead to the discovery of novel genes and enzymes, species and other features. Examples of novel enzymes harnessed in hot environments through metagenomics are lipases/esterase, Fe-superoxide dismutase and Taq DNA polymerase.

Far from the concept of genomics, metagenomics, traverses the lab-cultured dependent methods of sequencing and analyzing ge-nomes. Only 0.1 to 1.0% of the living bacteria that can be collected in soils can be grown in the laboratory in standard conditions, while most resist being cultured. According to a book published by the National Research Council (US) Committee on Metagenomics, entitled “The Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet”, most microorganisms interact with one another as communities, and separating the specimen from the group will alter its normal response to factors that will be induced. If ordinary methods of microbiology apply, organisms that require extreme conditions or community interaction will be difficult or cannot be cultivated, thus sequencing of isolates is not possible, hence no genome analysis and studies about that certain microorganism can be conducted.

On the other hand, metagenomics smites the problem of “unculturability” - the ball and chains of microbiological studies. General methods in metagenomics involves nucleic acid (e.g. DNA) extraction from the microbial community directly obtained from the environment, cloning into a surrogate host, and then analysis by sequencing or screening for expression of activities of interest, bypassing the need for artificial cultivation, therefore more efficient analysis of data. In example, metabolic processes, microbial diversity and relationship with geo-chemical conditions of microorganisms inhabiting aquatic environment near hydrothermal vents, can be better understood their relationship through metagenomics than in the laboratory because of restrictions.#

Metagenomics is also the theme of the 2014 Genetics Week (Harnessing Novel genes in thermal environments through Metagenomics). Started in 1986, the Genetics Week, which is a week-long event that presents recent advancements in the field of Genetics, is an annual event conducted every December of each year. Aside from presenting Genetic concepts, the event also showcases the history, membership and achievements of the organization in celebration of its founding anniversary. The events included in the Genetics week are the opening of the exhibit at the Institute of Biological Sciences Lobby (Wing C), a symposium, the IQlympics, orientation for interested applicants, Open Tambayan and Alumni Homecoming. Following the academic calendar shift which was implemented in AY 2014-2015, the annual Genetics Week was moved to October from its traditional schedule. 

BuCASan 2014: Commencing a new battle for domination

GENEWS October 2014 Issue

Perky chants that linger in the ears, drumrolls that thrill the crowd, dazzling lights that groove into the hype of music: everything was nothing but a spectacular gala.

BuCASan marks the beginning of a new PalaCASan season. Among the activities in the event
were Mr. & Ms. PalaCASan, Cheerdance and OrgGimik competition.

PalaCASan has become one of the most popular, most-awaited, and most talked about semester-long festivities of sports and action of the entire UPLB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) athletic scene. Fifteen CAS-based academic organizations flock to the Baker Hall on September 13 for the annual BuCASan – the mark of the beginning of PalaCASan’s new season. With the theme “Champions of the Future”, space-age aura set the vibe as the hall was totally transformed into a futuristic wasteland where the contestants were its inhabitants fighting for domination.

Dynamic flips and torrential lifts jump-started the morning slice of the occasion as the cheerleading competition pushed through. Heart-pounding tosses and passion-poured routines of SAM-UP (Society of Applied Mathematics of UPLB) maneuvered their way to victory past UP Cells (UP Cell Biological Society) and COSS (UPLB Computer Science Society) who landed on the 2nd and 3rd spots, respectively.

Mr. & Ms. GeneSoc 2014. Bea Arrelano
and Paul Jhon Diezon.

Overflowing splendor outbreak preceded the afternoon rites of the program as each organization’s most delicate faces were showcased in Mr. and Ms. PalaCASan 2014. Spirit-boosting showdown between the candidates has been relayed to the nerves of their brods and sisses as the whole Baker Hall started to growl blended chants and cheers. Loudest efforts have been exerted but it was the chanters of “Gipodagan UP Cells…” and “Go red! Go White! Go chemsoc fight!” who won their lungs out. Mr. UPLB Chemical Society and Ms. UP Cell Biological Society were crowned Mr. & Ms. PalaCASan 2014 by the panel of judges headed by Mr. Mike Tan Lopez of the Department of Social Sciences.

Talking about the blue-blooded genomes, it was also a feasting celebration for The UPLB Genetics Society. Metallic blue pom-poms and GeneSoc letters sway side by side the victory of Beatriz Arellano (Riboprobeswho notched a Ms. PalaCASan 2014 3rd runner-up finish. Genes’ hearts pound to the beat of the drum as Batch Riboswitch’s stellar iridescent hand mime performance paid off bagging the title “Best Org Gimmick”.

Congtratulations Batch Riboswitch for winning 'Best Org Gimmick' in the recent BuCASan 2014!
Posted by The UPLB Genetics Society on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The night was nothing but a blast. There were vibrant flashes and strobes of light everywhere, cheers echoing and spirits overflowing. The hype of every beat got the best of all spectators that it turned not into a usual competition but rather a colorful display of each organization’s finest. The aura, the environment, the rhythm was an epitome of an ultramodern inception.#

For more photos, visit the Official Facebook page of The UPLB Genetics Society (Link).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 GeneSoc Youth Step up Drive for Reforestation in UP Laguna-Quezon

Reports compiled by Ranquid R and Lado JP
Originally published in

In collaboration with the Philippine based NGO Fostering Environment & Education Development (FEED), the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) and the Land Grant Management Office (LGMO) of UPLB, the UPLB Genetics Society (GeneSoc), and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP, First Infantry Battalion, Second Infantry Division), 1030 seedlings were planted in a hectare portion of the Laguna-Quezon Land Grant (LQLG) at Siniloan, Laguna last September 27.

Headed by FEED Board of Trustees member Dr. Asuncion K. Raymundo, and LGMO Manager, Mr. Benjamin Arizala, the activity was conducted in line with FEED’s ongoing “Living Legacy: Plant a Tree, FEED Our Future” program, aiming to contribute to the sustainable restoration of the country’s forests and natural woodlands, specifically indigenous woods, livelihood and cash crops.

Planted during the event are the seedlings of Syzgium subcaudatum (Malaruhat), Pterocarpus indicus (Narra), Diplodiscus sp. (Balobo) and Syzygium curranii (Lipote), which according to Mr. Arizala are very adaptive species in Philippine mountain environments, and are efficient in reforesting the site. Rehabilitation of denuded areas is one current focus of the LGMO team and the chosen student organization, GeneSoc. The organization has already been conducting activities outside UPLB, aiming to aid communities through different outreach programs and medical missions.

FEED, GeneSoc and LGMO participants flashing their smiles after successfully planting 1030 plant seedlings in a hectare of land at UP Laguna-Quezon Land Grant. Dr. Raymundo of FEED (front left) and Dr. Mendioro of GeneSoc (front right) lead the tree planting activity in partnership with LGMO-UPLB and AFP at UP Laguna-Quezon Land Grant, Siniloan, Laguna.

Youth Power & Partnerships

As handpicked by Dr. Raymundo, Professor Emeritus and former College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), UPLB Dean, GeneSoc aligned the tree planting activity to one of its objectives of plant genetic resources management advocacy. Led by Dr. Merlyn Mendioro, senior adviser, and Maria Quita Guevarra, president, a total of 25 resident and alumni members of the organization participated the event.

FEED has conducted several tree planting activities in the area and it is the second time they partnered with a student organization in UPLB. “We [GeneSoc] are very happy and honored to be chosen by FEED to be one of its partners. Sana po ito na ang umpisa nang mas madami at matagal pa pong mga partnerships with them,” Ms. Guevarra said. GeneSoc is currently the CAS Best Student Organization.

About Fostering Education and Environment for Development (FEED)

FEED operates as a social enterprise, is registered with the Philippine Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC #: CN201119068) as a non-profit, non-governmental organization. The organization aim to harness market forces from the public, private, NGO sectors in a participatory manner in order to establish efficient and effective partnerships towards achieving our social mission. Partnering with the University of the Philippines (UP), we offer scholarships to underprivileged students pursuing degrees in Agriculture, Environmental Sciences, Food Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, encouraging leadership in the sustainable development of our natural resources and protection of the environment. Our projects include national reforestation of indigenous woods to sustain the agricultural livelihood of impoverished communities.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

GeneSoc Alumna recognized as one of "Yolanda" First Responders

Written by Ryan Pascual (Regulon)

GeneSoc alumna Dr. Sylvia Briones-de Guzman (F1)
receiving the award from Health Secretary Ona
(Photo: Department of Health)

PASAY CITY - The Department of Health (DOH) through its Health Emergency Management Office recognized the efforts exerted by local government units, local health teams and volunteers who have assisted in the relief and recovery of the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). 

Yolanda, the strongest typhoon in recent Philippine history, made landfall on November 2013. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), a total of 6,201 casualties, 27,665 injured and 1,785 missing persons were reported. It is estimated that about 11 million people have been affected and left homeless after the typhoon. 

In a ceremony dubbed as the "Awarding of the Unsung Heroes", one of the recognized first responders was GeneSoc alumna Dr. Sylvia Briones-de Guzman (F1). Dr. Sylvia de Guzman is the City Health Officer (CHO) of Calbayog, Samar. She received the award together with Mayor Ronald Aquino and  former City Chief of Police PSupt. Elmer Cinco. The three represented the City Government of Calbayog which was recognized for being the first to bring complete response and relief to Tacloban.

According to the report by the Leyte-Samar Daily Express, Dr. de Guzman's team provided emergency and basic medical and surgical services when they manned Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC). After Tacloban, the team proceeded to other Yolanda-hit areas like Marabut, Basey, Albuera, Capoocan and Tanauan. 

(2) Catalan, A.(18 July 2014) DOH to recognize Calbayognons' heroism as "Yolanda" first responders. Leyte-Samar Daily Express
(3) Photo: WarayBayaay Facebook Page

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gamalinda bags Carnegie Mellon Research Award

2014 MCS Education and Research Awardees
Michael Gamalinda, Kelsey Hallinen and Emily Weiss
(Photo: Carnegie Mellon College of Science)
by Ryan Pascual (Regulon)

PENNSYLVANIA, USA - The Mellon College of Science (MCS) recently presented its awards for education and research during its 2014 Annual Faculty Meeting. Winners included Michael Gamalinda, Kelsey Hallinen, Emily Daniels Weiss, Anindita Das and Qin Gao.

One of the awards given was the Guy C. Berry Graduate Research Award, which encourages and recognizes excellence in research by MCS graduate students. The 2014 recipient of the said award was Mr. Michael Gamalinda.

Michael completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, USA. The UP Los Baños alumnus (BS Biology major in Genetics) graduated summa cum laude and class valedictorian in 2007. He is also a proud alumnus of The UPLB Genetics Society (Batch Polygenes) where he served as the organization's  Education Committee Head during his last year in college.

With collaborators in Spain, China and Germany, Gamalinda completed his research work at the laboratory of Professor John Woolford. According to the Mellon College of Science (MCS) website, Gamalinda's research focused on gaining a clear picture of how ribosomes assemble. Made of 79 proteins and four RNA molecules, ribosomes translate the information encoded in RNA into proteins.

"Ribosomal proteins interact with ribosomal RNA (rRNA) in a step-by-step process to build a ribosome. Gamalinda used genetic tools to deplete a specific r protein and then watches to see what steps in assembly fail to occur properly. While a typical graduate student’s thesis might involve studying in-depth the function of one or two proteins, Gamalina has investigated the functions of more than 30 different r proteins. He discovered how the different r proteins bind to rRNA as assembly proceeds and how those associations affect binding of other r proteins and assembly factors as well as the overall structural organization of the assembling ribosome. ”Michael’s thesis project has significantly advanced our understanding of the framework of ribosome assembly,” Woolford wrote in a letter nominating Gamalinda for the award." Excerpt from the MCS website.

Read the Full Paper: Gamalinda, M., Ohmayer U, Jakovljevic J, Kumcuoglu B, Woolford J, Mbom B, Lin L, and Woolford JL Jr. 2014. A hierarchical model for assembly of eukaryotic 60S ribosomal subunit domains. Genes & Development 28:198-210.
Carnegie Mellon College of Science. 2014. MCS students earn education and research awards.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

National Scientist Dolores A. Ramirez: From Beating the Odds to Empowering Philippine Agriculture

Philippine Science Letters 

Photo: Philippine Science Letters
She could have been an excellent physician, an expert in the medical sciences, and become a major asset to some big-shot pharmaceutical corporation because of her fascination with science. Or she could have been a remarkable literary artist because of her fondness for aesthetic words. Instead, Dr. Dolores Ramirez chose to be a specialist in plant breeding and genetics, as well as an academic and author.

Inside Cover of Lectures
 in Genetics (2005)
TRIVIA: Did you know that Dr. Dolores Ramirez is one of the authors of the first edition of the UP Los Banos Lecture Syllabus in Genetics which was first released in 1967?

Dr. Dolores Ramirez holds a Bachelors degree in Agriculture (magna cum laude) from the UP College of Agriculture (present day UP Los Banos), a Masters degree in Cytogenetics from the University of Minnesota (USA) and a Doctorate in Biochemical Genetics from Purdue University (USA). Both of her post-graduate degrees were sponsored under a Rockefeller Grant. Dr. Ramirez is a Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Plant Breeding at the UP College of Agriculture.

Dr. Ramirez has earned a number of awards and distinctions, the most notable of which is being named National Scientist in 1998. The distinction is the highest award conferred on a Filipino Scientist by the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Among the other accolades bestowed upon her were the University of the Philippines Centennial Award as National Scientist by the UP System (2008), UP Professional Achievement Award in Agriculture (1985), and the Presidential Rizal Pro Patria Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science - Biochemical Genetics (1981). She is also an academician of the prestigious National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). 

National Scientist and Academician
Dr. Dolores Ramirez

Photo: National Academy of
Science and Technology
According to the article, “Mother Cell” or Ma’am DR was strict, but simple and up-right in handling Biology and Agronomy subjects, in addition to being adviser to students undertaking their thesis research. During her time, she utilized the essay method during examinations to give her students the chance to understand, analyze, synthesize, and articulate well the lessons they learned. Through her instruction and training, she fostered critical thinking, innovation and intellectual dexterity among her students, aside from inculcating in them the value of discipline, resourcefulness, honesty and dedication"

Dr. Ramirez sought to make genetics more fascinating and simpler to grasp by producing the first lecture syllabus and a genetics laboratory manual back in 1967. "Her commitment to improving the curriculum, instruction, extension and student development in the university did not cease when she served as Dean of the UPLB Graduate School. She was research adviser to B.S., M.S. and PhD students. Being the epitome of a good scientist and teacher, Dr. Ramirez served as a pioneer in the instruction of genetics and contributed to making UPLB one of the finest institutes for agriculture in the Philippines and the world"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

12 schools gather in UPLB for 9th Nat’l GeneSoc Genetics Camp

Written by Rachel N. Nuñez with reports from Arneth D. Abad
Originally Published LB Times

A hundred and twelve (112) high school students and 20 teachers representing 12 schools from different parts of the country took part in the two-day 9th Genetic Camp held on January 18-19 at the UP Los Baños (UPLB) Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) in Los Baños, Laguna.

Officially endorsed by the Department of Education (DepEd), this year’s camp is themed “GENEnovation: Paving the way for Medical Improvement through Pharmacogenomics”, which highlighted pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics is a new field in genetics that produces tailor-made drugs suited to each person’s genetic make-up, which targets to create cheaper and personalized therapies.

The UPLB Genetics Society (GeneSoc) 9th Genetic Camp aims to promote appreciation of Genetics and its developments. According to Kate Samaniego, this year’s Genetic Camp head, the growing interest in the medical field was their inspiration for this year’s camp.

Participating schools include Aurora National Science High School, Caritas Don Bosco School, Joroan National High School, Laguna College,  Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus, Quezon National High School,  Ramon Magsaysay High School, Rosario Quezada Memorial High School, San Juan National High School, St. Anne College, St. Jude Catholic School, and Tabaco National High School.

Professors from the UPLB Genetics and Molecular Biology Division were the resource persons for the camp including Dr. Rita Laude, Dr. Ma. Genaleen Diaz, and Dr. Merlyn Mendioro.

The UPLB Genetics experts were accompanied by Dr. Geraldo Balaccua of Pascual Laboratories, Inc. and Dr. Francisco Heralde who are both specialists in pharmacogenomics. Drs. Balaccua and Heralde discussed the process and application of pharmacogenomics.

Dr. Heralde, associate professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of the Philippines Manila, said that the event is an opportunity to disseminate the new study to a wider audience

“It’s good that this event is for the high school students and teachers so that they will become more aware of the advances in science and technology, genetics, molecular biology, and pharmacogenomics and their current applications in the Philippines. In one way, we encourage these high school students to go to the field of science because there is a need for more Filipinos to engage in the field and apply this in the local setting,” Dr. Heralde explained.

Related Links:
Background material on the Genetics Camp (GeneSoc Website/Google Site)
GenCamp 2014 Page (GeneSoc Website/Google Site)