Providence smiled on six young souls from the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos Integrated School (UNO-R IS) four months after they clicked “submit,” on the first day of February, when their names were called onstage to receive one of the most coveted student research awards in the country – Champions of the UP ALCHEMES Research Fair 2020 Research Competition. Grade 12 STEM-Medicine and Allied Health (STEM-MAH) students Dane Claudelle Abalayan, Maria Ella Bagaforo, and Francis Raymund Garcia won the Life Science category of RF2020 Research Competition with a study entitled “Structure-Based Virtual Screening of Seaweed Metabolites as Potential Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors.” Aivan Karl Ambagan, Shanly Yanna Granada, and Molerick Paul Otero, also Grade 12 STEM-MAH students, had their study “Characterization of Calcium Oxide Nanoparticles from Blue Swimmer Crab (Portunus pelagicus) Exoskeletons as Fabricated Biofilter for Vehicle Gas Exhaust” win in the Physical Science category of the same competition. Both teams were coached by adviser Mr. Jude Xerxes Herbolario, and were joined by 23 senior high school and 3 junior high school students in the Youth Science Convention, alongside faculty advisers Mrs. Maria Cindy Gabutas, Ms. Joy Borcelas, Mr. Joemar Flores, and Mrs. Jen Navarro. “Research is as much a tool for learning as it is a tool for societal change,” Mr. Herbolario said. “These students demonstrated a great love for science and research, and they found purpose in the knowledge they gained by ensuring what they learned about can be used by the world that surrounds them.” Research competitions like RF2020, which is organized by the UP Academic League of Chemical Engineering students and held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, are the battlegrounds of research students from some of the best high schools in the country and are judged by some of the most respected experts in their fields of expertise. Even then, the UNO-Rians were not fazed and saw opportunity in competition. This was the third time that UNO-R IS joined RF, and won Grand Champions in the 2019 edition in the Case Study competition with Dymme Jerah Barrera, Thea Gillera, and Jerrylle Siasat. This is the first time UNO-R IS won in the Research Competition. “[The researchers] had experience in student research, having come from other institutions with [science] concentrations,” Mr. Herbolario added. “We simply honed their skills further to meet our standards, gave them purpose, and showed them how far they can go. The rest was all them, and in their perseverance and willpower they reached the pinnacle of student research.” Asked what they plan to do with their research, the students were clear: they intend to pursue their studies further to help others using the information they processed, and to encourage other students to pursue research in the sciences.

The UNO-R IS Director, Fr. Persiuz Joseph Decena, OAR, congratulated the students for their achievement. “This recognition affirms UNO-R’s continuous commitment to excellence and quality education. It will continue to motivate us to do more and be able to work hard to improve the quality of education we offer our students,” he said. As our intrepid researchers claimed their medals and celebrated alongside their peers in science research, they took time to bow down and pray. Then, as they basked in the light of the afternoon sun, in the midst of all the maroon and green of the UPD campus, they sung the colors that dominated that day: Blue and Gold. (News by Mr. Jude Xerxes Herbolario, RMT, LPT)