The Ironic Story Towards Finding My North Star

This is my KPCB application Personal Statement, answering the question: “What impact do you want to have in the world and why?”

Ironically, after four years in a public science high school in the Philippines, I realized I did not want to be a scientist.

Instead, I discovered other means to augment it.

Every year in my science high school, the juniors and seniors go through rigorous science research training (for a subject called Science and Technology Research or STR). At the end of the year, they present their research projects via poster presentations. I recall walking down the long hallways, feeling overwhelmed with the highfaluting scientific words, but also feeling inspired with the work that my fellow schoolmates showcased. Every year, what happens to these projects? They are turned into published books that gather dust at the corners of our libraries. The posters are rolled up and are brought home by the creator or turned into storage wrappings in our labs. These amazing scientific explorations, ones that could have greatly impacted the lives of the people in the Philippines were left behind, never seeing the light of day.

My experience as a researcher was a wild ride. As a junior, the science research team I led was tasked to join a research competition. Our proposal involved examining the use of coconut oil to reduce heart disease through the peroxisomal beta-oxidation of fatty acids (phew… words). We presented this to a panel and won P120,000 in grant funding. Wonderful! We carried this project on until our senior year. After months of continued research, however, we ran into a huge hurdle. To execute our project, we needed to handle mice. To handle mice, we needed animal housing. We spent months searching, but everything was unavailable, up for renovation or closed off. The deadline was fast approaching and we had nothing to submit so we were forced to change our project. We scrapped a potentially great idea, returned the grant funding and ended up with a subpar month-long scrappily accomplished paper.

My research group and I

These experiences showed me two things. One, the Philippines was a far ways off in funding, facilities and resources to achieve breakthroughs in scientific research. There is so much potential, so many great minds, so many areas to explore. But not enough money is funneled into the sciences. Two, scientists back home are not equipped with entrepreneurial gusto to develop their ideas into something beyond just ideas. Of course, there are the exceptions: Aisa Mijeno’s SaLT Lamps, Dado Banatao’s 16-bit microchips & Fe Del Mundo’s medical incubator being some of my favorites. But there is so much more that can be done; so much more innovation that needs to be injected into our culture; so much more potential that can be unlocked.

This is where my meaning lies – in the bridging of my passions in science (manifested in technology and design) and innovation (sparked by entrepreneurship and business). I hope to augment economies and create enabling technologies that improve people’s lives. I want to immerse myself in the the tech industry, see what it takes to create behavioral change and learn how to create tech products to eventually start or contribute to ventures that improve upon the lives of people in emerging markets, starting with my home in the Philippines.

There’s a lot to do, but we’ll get there.

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