Monday, May 26, 2014

Group 11 Final Project

Dr. Dolores Altoveros Ramirez
September 20, 1931 - present

Mark Arjay Bajo, Jericho Buenafe, Arjan Jake De Guzman, Jezaniah Dizon, Sharayah Nicole Dominguez, Joseph Charles Lim, Ina Isabel Lingan, Sittie Shermeen Macabaning, Jamaica Zoleta

The Philippines is proud to have dedicated and humbled national scientists such as and especially Dr. Dolores Ramirez who made huge contributions to the Philippine science. This project aims to tackle the life and works of Dr. Ramirez as a Filipino geneticist who graduated magna cum laude from and later started working in the University of the Philippines in Los Banos. It will especially explore her discoveries that serve as foundations for the development of the plant breeding industry not just in the Philippines but also in other countries. These discoveries also gave her several recognition and awards which, according to her, did not give her as much joy as her journey as a scientist did.

Dr. Dolorez Ramirez, geneticist, cytogenetics of Philippine crops, gene introgression, genetics of the makapuno mutant coconut, Joaquin J. Gonzales medal, Phi Sigma Biological Society Outstanding Undergraduate Award, Gregorio Y. Zara Award in Basic Research, CSSP Achievement Award in Research, UP Professional Achievement Award in Agriculture, Maryang Maya Achievement Award in Science, Rizal Pro Patria Award

I. Personal Life

Dr. Dolores Ramirez was born on September 20, 1931. Being born to a working class family, her parents, Augusto Ramirez and Leonor Altoveros, had 8 children (5 boys and 3 girls), Dolores being the eldest one. With that, Dolores showed her potential to excel in class which she said that she inherited it from her father who actually was inclined in science. Furthermore, what she inherited from her mother is far more important, the strength of character and indomitable spirit. That being said, her mother was also the one who gave her and her brothers and sisters fine Filipino and Christian values and education.

In the interview, she was asked if her parents influenced her to become a scientist. She answered that her parents did let them choose on what to do with their life. From what her parents said to their children (including Dolores), "bahala kayo kung ano ang gusto niyo." There was no parental pressure in the family, academically speaking. Her parents were busy almost all of the time. With that, she mentioned that her parents have no time to figure out what should Dolores and her siblings would be taking up in college.

In her high school and college years, it has been noted that she has little to no extracurricular activity. With that, she has focused on studying thereby producing high grades. She pursued graduate studies (up to PhD) abroad while her siblings only finished up to masters degree. With this, she came back to Philippines and worked as an instructor, being promoted to University Professor over the years she has been teaching. Now, she has retired and it has been noted that she is advising students on their PhD thesis study.

II. Academic and Professional Career

Dr. Dolores Ramirez, in her high school years, was a fan of art. It was only when she met her biology mentor, Dr. Godofredo Alcasid, that she started being interested in science. Her passion pushed her to build her career through science. In 1952, she graduated with honors and entered the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) where she chose to take agricultural chemistry. However, in her second year, she met Dioscoro L. Umali, the former head of the Department of Agronomy Plant Breeding Division who recruited intelligent students like Ramirez to major in plant breeding and genetics. According to Ramirez, many of those who majored in the said program were males. She was challenged to do her best and make it to the top. Because of this, she graduated as magna cum laude. Being the first in Class 1956 of UPCA, she was awarded the Joaquin J. Gonzales medal and Phi Sigma Biological Society Outstanding Undergraduate Award. She also became and still is a part of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma and the Society for the Advancement of Research. The young scientist did not end her life as a student in UPCA. She took MS in cytogenetics (minor in botany) as a Rockefeller Foundation scholar at the University of Minnesota. She then completed her Ph.D. still as a scholar in biochemical genetics (minor in plant physiology and plant pathology) at Purdue University. In 1964, she went back to the Philippines.

When the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) was established in 1975 at University of the Philippines - Los Baños, Dr. Dolores Ramirez became its first geneticist and was head of Genetics Laboratory. She then became the program leader for the Legumes Breeding Program and was the head of the Field Legumes Division from 1987 to 1990. In 1996, she became the head of two more divisions of the IPB namely Feed and Industrial Crops Division and the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory. Dr. Dolores Ramirez was primarily a researcher and a pioneer in the study of genetics but she also had a career both as a teacher and as an author. As an author, she was the editor of The Philippines Agriculturist, a pioneer journal for Filipino agricultural scientists. Dr. Ramirez was also part of the editorial board of the Philippine Phyto-pathological Journal from 1976 to 1980 and was the editor of both the Philippines Journal of Crop Science from 1976 to 1980 and The Philippine Journal of Crop Science from 1976 to 1980.

As an educator, she was an assistant professor from 1964 to 1968 and started teaching genetics in 1967 at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños. She has also contributed to forming undergraduate and graduate programs in genetics at the university. Dr. Ramirez is strongly credited for being the figure that inspired many to study genetics for she guided many to be significant contributors of their own in the field of genetics and plant breeding. As a member of UPLB College of Agriculture Curriculum Committee, she is also responsible for revising and updating the only lecture syllabus and laboratory manuals in genetics, which were published in 1967, every two years. She was then an associate professor from 1969 to 1974, a full professor from 1974 to 1995 and was finally elevated to being a university professor in 1995. For 11 years, she was also the dean of the UPLB Graduate School from 1978 to 1989. Although she already retired from teaching, she is currently an adviser to Ph.D. students in UPLB.

III. Contributions

Being one of our country’s national scientists, Dr. Ramirez’ contributions to science focused merely on plant breeding because aside from majoring in plant breeding and genetics, she also noticed the increasing demand for food in the Philippines. “Dr. Ramirez is noted for her comprehensive researches on the cytogenetics of various Philippine crops including rice, coconut, banana, sugarcane, ornamentals, legumes and fruits like durian, lanzones, santol and balimbing.” (Andaya et al, p. 223)

During our interview with Dr. Ramirez she defined cytogenetics as the study of the structure and functions of chromosomes. According to her, each plant is susceptible to certain diseases and what they do is that they get a resistance gene from a wild relative. Crossing plants was never easy because of incompatibilities and this is where cytogenetics played an important role. Cytogenetics overcome these incompatibilities by concentrating on the characteristics of the chromosomes of different plants and figuring out which plants have chromosomes that will fit together. This avoid breeders from pairing plants with mismatch chromosomes, thus avoiding incompatibilities.

With her many contributions to biology, Dr. Ramirez considers her work on the genetics of the makapuno mutant coconut the most memorable. Continuing what her mentor, Dr. Umali, and his student L Zuñiga started, Dr. Ramirez sought to investigate the genetic traits that caused the makapuno phenomenon – its irregular nuclear behaviour (high ploidy chromosome numbers) and budding cell division (regular coconuts divide via regular cytokinesis). Likewise, she chose the makapuno for its long lifespan and unusualness; it is, after all, a tumour (just think that each time you eat halo-halo, you’re actually eating cancer cells!). With her investigation, she discovered what gave the makapuno its cancerous traits: altered hormone metabolism (peroxidase, catalase, tryptophan aminotransferase) that affected galactomannan (carbohydrate metabolism) and altered cellular behavior (changes in amino acid and lipid composition).

That said, one of the makapuno’s problems is its heterozygous trait. Essentially, in order for its embryo to grow, it must have both recessive and dominant genes; consequently prompting Dr. Ramirez to describe it as “swertihan” or simply left to luck.  With Dr. Ramirez’s work on the makapuno, the added familiarity it brought, as well as the continued work of other scientists and the development of technology (e.g. Ramon Mitra, De Guzman, and plant culturing technology), it’s now much easier to produce the mentioned crop. Indeed, there are now hundreds of makapuno plantations all over the country, all thanks to the curiosity of such brilliant minds.

IV. Recognition and Awards Received

  • Joaquin J. Gonzales Gold Medal for Outstanding Graduate in Agriculture, UP College of Agriculture & Mr. Joaquin J. Gonzales, 1956
  • Phi Sigma Biological Society Outstanding Undergraduate Award, Phi Sigma Biological Society, Alpha Chi Chapter, 1956
  • U.P. President's Pin for Honor Graduates, University of the Philippines, 1956
  • Most Outstanding Agronomy Student Award, UP College of Agriculture, 1956
  • Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, 1957-58/1961-63
  • SEARCA Professorial Chair in Genetics, SEARCA, 1974-76
  • CSSP Achievement Award in Teaching, Crop Science Society of the Philippines, 1976
  • Gregorio Y. Zara Award in Basic Research, Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science, 1976
  • Distinguished Alumna Award for Scientific Journalism, UPLB College of Agriculture Alumni Association, 1977
  • Rizal Pro Patria Award for Outstanding Achievements in Science (Plant Genetics), President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Republic of the Philippines, 1981
  • CSSP Honorary Fellow Award, Crop Science Society of the Philippines, 1982
  • G.O. Ocfemia Memorial Lecture Award, Philippine Society of Microbiology, 1982
  • First Maryang Maya Achievement Award in Science, Sigma Delta Phi Sorority Alumnae Association, University of the Philippines, 1983
  • CSSP Achievement Award in Research, Crop Science Society of the Philippines, 1984
  • Outstanding Women of Calamba, Laguna, Maria Clara Jaycees of Calamba, Laguna, 1984
  • UP Professional Achievement Award in Agriculture, UP Alumni Association, 1985
  • Academician, NAST, 1987-date
  • D. L. Umali Professorial Chair in Genetics and Plant Breeding, UPLB, 1988-89
  • Metro Manila Commission Professorial Chair in Genetics, UPLB, 1993-94
  • Outstanding Teacher (Biological Sciences), UPLB, 1996
  • Recognition Award, Philippine Society for the Advancement of Genetics, 1996
  • National Scientist, President  Fidel V. Ramos, Republic of the Philippines, 1998
  • Recognition Award, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, 1997
  • Recognition Award, Institute of Plant Breeding UPLB College of Agriculture, 1998
  • Outstanding Scientific Paper Award (w/ A.C. dela Viña, L. M. Engle & A.C.A. Mendoza), NAST, Philippines, 1999
  • Recognition Award, CIMMYT, Wheat Program, Mexico, 2000
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, Laguna Institute, Class ’52  on its 50th Anniversary, 2002
  • Recognition Award (as Member of Outstanding Research Team), College of Agriculture UPLB, 2004
  • Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement, Laguna College of Business & Arts  on its 75th Anniversary, 2005
  • Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement,  City Government of Calamba, 2005
  • Honorary Fellow, Gamma Sigma Delta, Honor Society of Agriculture, 2007
  • University of the Philippines Centennial Award as National Scientist, UP System, 2008
  • Life Achievement Award, Phi Kappa Phi, 2009

V. Media

Dr. Dolores A. Ramirez
Taken on May 23, 2014 at UPLB Graduate School, Los Banos, Laguna
during a sit-down interview with Dolores Ramirez.

Taken on May 23, 2014 at UPLB Graduate School, Los Banos, Laguna after an interview with Dolores Ramirez. From left to right: Arjan De Guzman, Jamaica Zoleta, Sharayah Dominguez, Ina Lingan, Sittie Shermeen Macabaning, Dr. Dolorez Ramirez, Jezaniah Dizon, Joseph Lim.

A voice record interview with Dolores Ramirez on May 23, 2014 at UPLB Graduate School, Los Banos, Laguna.

A short video on Dolores Ramirez’ message to the youth taken on May 23, 2014 at UPLB Graduate School, Los Banos, Laguna.

VI. References

Andaya, Darhl S., et al. (2000). National Scientist of the Philippines (1978-1998). Department of Science and Technology, National Academy of Science and Technology (Philippines). Pasig City. Anvil Publishing. 2000.

Department of Science and Technology, National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST Philippines). Retrieved from Accessed on May 20, 2014.

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