This woman scientist is working for 18 hours

To some spoiled brats and clueless individuals, working 18 hours is quite impossible. Nevertheless, for scientists like Academician Virginia Cuevas working 18 hours is a regular work routine.

“Some think working for 18 hours is laughable. I’ve been doing that since the 1980s,” Cuevas, a 1969 BS Botany graduate of University of the Philippines Diliman said in a recent webinar, “Game-changing Women of Science,” organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology.

“Do not count the number of hours in your work. I only slowed down during the pandemic. Before Covid-19 hit the country, I traveled a lot doing research work,” Cuevas added.

She pointed out that scientists pursued their careers not aiming to win awards because they are passionate in pursuing research.

“We find fulfillment in contributing to the development of science in the country. Awards are just garnishes for us,” Cuevas said.

The ninth of 13 children, Cuevas recalled she was a initially intimidated when she started studying in UP in 1965 because of the small women population in the campus. Nevertheless, she was motivated to study by her parent’s advice that education is the only legacy that they can leave to their children.

After graduating in 1969, Cuevas started her teaching career general elective courses in a school in the University Belt area.

During her two-year stint in the university, Cuevas recalled having witnessed several demonstrations led by the students who were calling for social change in the country. She thought that the “serve the people” slogan of the students would be a great inspiration for teachers in imparting knowledge that would benefit the people.

Despite being a mother of four, Cuevas pursued higher studies and finished her Ph.D in Botany in 1987.

In 1989, Cuevas developed her first product—trichoderma harzianum, a fungicide that addresses the decreased soil productivity marginalized by acidity.

“The result [of acidity] was that the soil suffered from nutrient imbalance,” Cuevas said.

By combining it with organic and inorganic fertilizer, Cuevas said her product was used as an adaptive strategy for drought caused by El Nino.

She said trichoderma harzianum was also used by farmers engaged in banana, rice and vegetable.

“We are still promoting it to have a widespread application among the farmers in the country,’ she said.

Cuevas said aspiring scientists must first define their goals, give focus, full attention and passion in pursuing a career in science. You must also have time management can achieve a balance between family and career,” she said.

“My enabling environment in UPLB was also a big help in my pursuit of higher studies,” Cueva noted.

Image credits: UP Alumni web site photo