Dr. Cecilia Conaco, an Associate Professor of the Marine Science Institute, has always been curious and passionate about science ever since she was a kid. She remembered reading “Mutation” a book about the perils of genetic engineering. From that moment on, her interests in molecular biology piqued, which made her pursue a degree in Molecular Biology and, eventually, a career in Science.
Dr. Conaco started her scientific training in molecular biology, with the goal of becoming a neuroscientist someday. While she was doing her Ph.D. and post-graduate study in the United States, she worked on mouse brain development but later became more fascinated with the evolutionary aspects of neuroscience. This led to an interest in the origins of the nervous system of early-diverging animals such as sponges and corals. She eventually made the switch to marine science and is now dedicated to studying all kinds of marine life to find out what makes each one unique and resilient.
“My colleagues in MSI have been supportive of my journey. Doing fieldwork was really new for me, that was a struggle at first, however, my mentors, which are mostly women, were really supportive and helpful when I started at MSI. I grew up surrounded by women role models, so it was nice to be surrounded by empowered women in MSI as well.”
Dr. Conaco believes in the importance of women taking roles in scientific fields because women have different perspectives and ideas to contribute. However, despite the achievements and contributions of women scientists, people would still discount these, diminishing the importance of their roles.
“The general populace really has an image of what a woman should be doing. People would, sort of, discount the achievements of young, women scientists because we have ‘more time’ to devote to science compared to women devoted to raising children. Our achievements do not come without sacrifice.”
Despite the preconceived notions regarding women in science, Dr. Conaco highlights the role of social media in breaking these notions and how it has become an important tool for recognizing women achievers in the field of science. Learning about the many contributions of women scientists worldwide could be a source of inspiration for young girls to pursue a career in the sciences.
“Science is for everybody! Everyone should know that science is an open field— everyone can take a part in it especially here in the Philippines where there is still a lot to discover. You just have to be curious!”