It was in 2014 when Dr. Reinabelle Reyes decided to go back home to the Philippines and eventually settle. At the height of her scientific career abroad, with her confirming Einstein’s theory of relativity and making headlines for her scientific discoveries and achievements, she questioned herself, “What was all of it for?” She was experiencing a midlife crisis and wanted to do something more fulfilling — being a scientist serving her own country.
Reyes is an astrophysicist and data scientist who took her PhD in Astrophysics in Princeton University after graduating BS Physics in Ateneo de Manila University. When she made the big move from Chicago back to the country she grew up in, she found herself slowly moving from astrophysics to a data science-focused career.
One of the remarkable things she started when she came back was a blog called Pinoy Scientists. Growing up, she was inspired and encouraged by role models and mentors who greatly influenced the scientist she is today. She also wanted to do such for the youth and this became her major goal in creating the blog, which eventually became an Instagram and Facebook blog account where the tagline was “Yes, we exist.” Every week, the account was taken over by one scientist who would share their research and life stories in their own words and ways. Additionally, the platform aims for her peers to reach out to a wider audience, voice out, and build linkages with other scientists. It has been nine years since the creation of Pinoy Scientists but the blog is still steadily growing over these years, catering to Filipino scientists all over the world.
Currently, Reyes is working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in the laboratory called “Pintig Lab,” to apply data science and analytics to developmental problems. As the lab’s chief technical adviser, she supports and guides the lab’s initiatives to monitor and track the COVID-19 pandemic and provide data-driven support to DOH, IATF, and other agencies in their response and recovery efforts. “The [COVID-19] pandemic showed the importance of timely and accurate data and the need to invest in people who have the skills and mindset to collect, organize, analyze and present data to decision makers,” says Reyes whose current goal is to contribute to helping PH achieve the sustainable development goals.
She also used to travel to deliver talks around the country which was recently diverted into online talks with today’s current challenges. While still sharing topics on astrophysics, Reyes is more dedicated to sharing her experience and knowledge on data science, hoping to spread its importance to many societal aspects and of course, to inspire younger generations.
In UP, Reyes is also helping undergraduate and graduate students in addressing societal challenges by way of research. She believes that faster solutions can be done through accurate and thorough research. Through being a teacher, she hopes to nurture Pinoy scientists who will have the heart to do scientific research for the betterment of the country. She is currently an Associate Professor at the National Institute of Physics and heads the Data & Computation Research Group under the Theoretical Physics Group. The group’s research interests currently fall under topics in data-driven astronomy— including gravitational wave astronomy and extragalactic astrophysics— and computational physics and data analysis— including machine learning and data for social good.
Reyes is open to visiting other countries to give talks but she expressed that she is happier doing public service here in the Philippines as a data scientist. She has worked in many private companies and government offices here with this specialty and so far, she is feeling content and satisfied with where she is now.
“With the connectedness of the world, it is easy for the youth to gain new knowledge everyday. Use the resources we have today to satisfy your curious minds.” These are her words of wisdom to the youth. She wants to encourage scientists of today to support the next generation of scientists so that the country becomes a better place for learning and doing science.