An exemplary educator, an outstanding young scientist, and a science advocate, Dr. dela Cruz holds the rank of Professor 5, the highest academic rank at the University of Santo Tomas. He received this rank in 2016 at the age of 41, the youngest faculty member then to have received this position. Following completion of his doctorate study in 2006, Dr. dela Cruz established the Fungal Biodiversity, Ecogenomics, and Systematics (FBeS) group at the UST Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences.
His researches focus on the identification and discovery of fungi, including lichens and the fungus-like protists, slime molds (or myxomycetes), in under-explored microhabitats in tropical ecosystems. These are done through a polyphasic approach of morphocultural, physiological and genomics/phylogenetic (DNA barcoding) methods and the understanding of their biodiversity, ecological patterns and interactions through culture-dependent and culture-independent (metabarcoding) approaches in response to emerging and novel contaminants (microplastics and other chemical-based pollutants) and to changing landscapes brought about by man-made activities (habitat fragmentation) and natural hazards (typhoons, volcanic activities). He also conducts researches on the natural products of fungi for drug discovery and novel agro-chemicals and on ethnomycology and microbiology education.
To date, his group has published 76 technical papers, 5 teaching strategies in microbiology, 2 book chapters, 2 viewpoints and an online instructional material. He has supervised 40 BS theses, 40 MS theses, and 8 PhD dissertations. Dr. dela Cruz is also actively engaged in various community outreach and in science education and promotion activities. He developed 2 activity booklets that introduce fungi to kids and facilitated the Expedition Mundus game that allows kids to experience how to be a scientist. He organized training courses that teaches basic techniques in microbiology and research to high school teachers and students.
Dr. dela Cruz completed his Doctor of Natural Sciences (Dr. Rer. Nat.) at the Technical University Braunschweig in Germany and his BSc Microbiology and MSc Biological Sciences degrees at the University of Santo Tomas. He holds a Diploma in Science Teaching at UP Open University. Dr. dela Cruz was one of ten Outstanding Teachers of the Philippines in 2015 and one of ten Outstanding Young Scientists of the Philippines in 2012. The American Society for Microbiology awarded him the ASM Graduate Microbiology Teaching Award (2017), while the Philippine Society for Microbiology recognized him as Outstanding Microbiologist (2019). He serves as Philippine Representative to the Asian Mycology Committee from 2007 to present. He is a fellow of the Philippine Academy of Microbiology, the Indian Mycological Society, and the Global Young Academy.