Plant hobbyists get pointers at UST Grad Sch Natural Science cluster online seminar on threatened PH native plants; cluster lectures on biosensors for monitoring diseases

The quarantine that kept most of us home for nine months now was a necessary measure to slow down the transmission of COVID-19. Being at home for very long hours has resulted in discovering skills and abilities that otherwise were not consciously known even to the persons themselves. Hobbies and other creative endeavors, and those with financial rewards sprang, and one of those is planting.  

The sudden emergence of the so-called ‘plantitos’ or ‘plantitas,’ a term used to describe one who has taken into planting, buying plants for personal planting activities, primarily to use quarantine time productively, and others who saw the economic prospects in their hobby, have turned to plant-selling, in addition to plant propagation. With this fad came the demand for unique plants, and therefore, are more expensive to procure or sell, giving its owner a ‘wow factor.’

With this taking place, University of Santo Tomas graduate students under the Natural Sciences cluster held its first online Graduate Seminar lecture presentation targeting audiences whose interests are plants and monitoring disease, both of which are timely under our present circumstance.  The online seminar was held last December 5, 2020 with speakers Asst. Prof. Melanie M. Arbias, who discussed “Threatened Philippine Native Plants during Covid-19 Pandemic” and Asst. Prof. Francis G. Binas, who presented “Immobilization of IgG on Au QCM surface.”

Asst. Prof. Arbias discussed how to become responsible ‘plantitas’ and ‘plantitos’ by being cautious about buying or selling plants that are threatened and might soon be endangered. She mentioned some of the popular native plant groups during the COVID-19 pandemic plant craze that are threatened, due to possible poaching from their natural habitats such as aroids, ferns, palms, carnivorous plants, hoyas and allies, Medinillia, some native trees, ant plants among others.

Arbias emphasized how gardeners and plant hobbyists can spot wild-collected plants sold in garden shops. She gave a reminder not to procure those plants and not to tolerate the harvest and sell practices of some plant sellers.

Meanwhile, Asst. Prof. Binas delivered a talk on how to make a biosensor sensitive in monitoring diseases. He presented one of his PhD experiments from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan and that is the utilization of mass sensitive quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) platform where Immunoglobulin G (IgG) was immobilized on the surface of gold electrode of QCM chip. Orienting the IgG where more antigen binding sites can bind with the analyte will make the biosensor sensitive.  Students, faculty members, and research enthusiasts attended the online seminar.

College of Science Dean Rey Donne S. Papa, himself a scientist, and subject coordinator for the course on Graduate Seminar of the UST Graduate School, delivered the opening remarks. The UST Graduate School offers the Graduate Seminar course under the curriculum of Natural Sciences. It aims to provide the graduate students who are taking their doctorate to organize and conduct lectures in the general public.

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