Women in STEM: Dr. Mayzonee Ligaray​

Dr. Mayzonee “Mei” Ligaray is an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM) in the University of the Philippines Diliman. She teaches courses related to environmental science and heads the HydroEcology Laboratory in IESM.


In high school, Dr. Mei developed interest in research and wanted to be a scientist. This encouraged her to take up a bachelor’s degree in engineering in UPD and became a licensed


Metallurgical Engineer. She then took her master’s in Environmental Engineering as her passion in STEM grew toward the environment. This gave her the opportunity to do her MS thesis in Taiwan where she also had the chance to be immersed in a science-directed culture. Dr. Mei focused on studying water and wastewater treatment during her master’s.


Dr. Mei focused on studying water and wastewater treatment during her master’s. And when she took her doctorate degree in Environmental Science and Engineering at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, her research interest further expanded to more aspects of water research such as the water cycle, the distribution and movement of water in our environment. Currently, Dr. Mei also ventures into water quality monitoring, fate and transport modeling of micropollutants and bacteria, artificial intelligence applications on environmental science, and watershed management and modeling.


Before deciding to pursue higher studies, Dr. Mei had doubts about her choices as she felt that society still has reservations against women who pursue higher education. She often heard traditional advice (“You should marry first because it’s hard for women to find partners while doing science”, “Your time is running out, “Your biological clock is ticking”). She realized that these were gender-based discriminations because she has seen men in her field getting married late in life with no one batting an eye.


Dr. Mei successfully finished her Ph.D. in 2017 despite these incidents. She did her postdoctoral fellowship in UNIST for two years before coming back to the Philippines in 2020 to become a professor in IESM. And just last year, she was married to LCDR Neil Eric Narzabal PN, whom she proudly considers as her supportive and understanding husband.


“Since I graduated, I can also see that more women are now going to graduate schools. Although women are still pressured to marry and have children, society is generally kinder to us compared to before,” says Dr. Mei. “But we should still remember that not everybody is privileged enough and are still expected to conform to traditions,” she adds. 


This is also why she believes that we need leaders that build programs and systems that encourage women to engage in science. “More women in science would be good because studies have shown that they are better at multitasking, keen in details, and gender sensitive.” 


Dr. Mei likes to remind younger generations who plan to pursue higher education to always prioritize their mental and physical health before anything. “Madaming negativities ang matatanggap nila as they go through life and it will likely affect their performance in school. I always tell them to consider physical and mental health as their first priority because it will provide them the strength to continue their scientific journeys.”


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