Lapitan of Chem Engg, RCNAS wins top prize in NAST Young Scientists competition

For his contribution to the field of bioanalytical science and nanomedicine research, Dr. Lorico D.S. Lapitan, Jr. of the Department of Chemical Engineering stood out among his fellow young scientists and won the First Prize for the 2020 National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Talent Search for Young Scientists (TSYS). Lapitan presented his research during a live telecasted public presentation on June 26, 2020 at the Philippine Science Heritage Center (PSHC) in Taguig City.

His research entitled “Combining magnetic nanoparticle and poly-enzyme nanobead amplification for ultrasensitive detection and discrimination of DNA single nucleotide polymorphisms” was a component of his doctoral thesis, in which he developed a strategy of signal amplification in DNA detection. This study also presented the remarkable potential of a biosensor as one of the most sensitive and PCR-free DNA detection strategies reported in the global biosensing platform.

“During the research presentation, I was able to communicate to the audience two important things – the importance of early diagnosis as a best strategy to respond to the steadily increasing number of reported cancer cases in the country and the development new diagnostic assays that provide excellent sensitivity for detection of cancer related DNA,” said Lapitan in an interview with the UST Communications Bureau.

“It is a great honor to be declared as the top prize winner by the distinguished members of the board of judges. The 2020 NAST TSYS award is an affirmation that I carried out excellent projects in my PhD dissertation. The countless challenges of doing a PhD and the long journey to wearing the “green-robe” are worth it! I am very happy that I was given the chance to share to everyone my passion of doing research during the TSYS presentation,” he added.

Given that the competition was an avenue to showcase the potential contributions of young scientists to their respective fields, Lapitan also highlighted things that he learned in his early career as a scientist, with the hope of inspiring other aspiring scientists to watch out for these when they enter the field. “It is important to use the early years (e.g. masteral, research internships, etc.) to learn as many techniques as you can. The knowledge and skills that you learned will help tackle an array of problems in the future. Research involves a lot of hard work, long hours of work, and great effort of concentration. It is important to take time to relax! perhaps, attend tea or coffee breaks or enjoy other activities. Forgive yourself in taking breaks! As a young scientist, we should also start making a mark in the field. You can do this by engaging in research projects and frequently publishing in high-impact journals. Another important aspect is to improve communication skills. – this is very important! as a scientist, we must learn how to deliver presentations and effectively communicate our results to various audiences. Above all, we need to be persistent and creative no matter what.

“Doing a PhD aboard is no easy thing and the skills that you gain are invaluable. On-top of the monumental tasks required by the doctoral program, living far from my family is itself a massive sacrifice! It is important to maintain good physical and mental well-being. I handled these life challenges by surrounding myself with great friends and engaging in outdoor activities. Indeed, I am immensely grateful for the numerous people that I met and who gave reasons to carry on with my studies.” Lapitan added.

Lapitan, who finished his doctorate degree in chemistry in the University of Leeds in 2018, expressed appreciation to the University of Santo Tomas and the University of Leeds for providing a Leeds International Research Scholarship (LIRS). Prior to his doctoral studies, he obtained his BS (2007) and MS (2010, Cum Laude) degrees in Chemistry from the University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. He conducted his master’s research on electrochemical surface science at the National Central University in Taiwan (2009).

Lapitan was a recipient of international research internships in Japan (2011) and Taiwan (2014) under the JSPS-Invitation Program for Young East Asian Researchers and TIGP-International Internship Program, respectively. His doctoral thesis involved the development of magnetic nanoparticle based ultrasensitive DNA and gene mutation assays for early cancer diagnosis and synthesis of polyvalent silver nanoclusters for antibacterial applications. Dr. Lapitan has also received the Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Awards (Chemistry Category) in 2010 given by DOST for his M.Sc. Chemistry thesis.

Lapitan is a faculty member and the laboratory supervisor of the UST Department of Chemical Engineering. He is also a resident researcher at the UST Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences. His research interest focuses on developing nanomaterial-hydrogel composites for smart antibacterial wound dressings and developing biosensors for early cancer diagnosis and for other diseases. Dr. Lapitan is also an associate member of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom.

The NAST Talent Search for Young Scientists is a project of the National Academy of Science and Technology that seeks to embolden the youth to pursue a career in Science. Lapitan will officially receive his award along with several other outstanding scientists and researchers who won in various categories during the online awarding ceremony on July 11, 2020. The award includes a plaque of recognition, cash prize, and research grant from the DOST.

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