Campaign underway to make Silliman ‘Zero Waste’ University

By Jennifer C. Tilos

Silliman University (SU) is aggressively pushing for a more systematic way of curbing the volume of garbage generated on campus and strictly regulating, if not eliminating, the use of plastics in the University.

This came after visiting scholar and adjunct professor in the University Dr. Jorge Augustin Emmanuel, a Filipino-American scientist who played a key role in the battle against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, was invited to give a brief lecture on “The Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution.”

This lecture segued into preparations of the University to address the mounting problem of plastics on campus.

These include a research on the impact of plastics and an upcoming institutional campaign against the use of plastics that envisions Silliman as a “zero waste” university.

Dr. Emmanuel shared some findings in scientific reports which reveal that many people do not really know or lack some knowledge on the presence of plastics in food, water and even air.

“The microplastics that we are eating and breathing today are because of the people who had dumped plastics 50 years ago,” Dr. Emmanuel said.

He added that without any intervention from the present generation, the problem gets worse and the impact of microplastics on the health and living conditions of future generations is greater.

“Today, we are producing about 400 million tons of plastics a day – much more than what was being produced 50 years ago. This means that the waste that we are producing today will be affecting our great, great, great grandchildren 50 years from now.

They will be eating this in their food and water and will be breathing it in their air at even larger concentrations than we do,” he shared.

According to Dr. Emmanuel, by their very nature, plastics attract persistent organic pollutants found in air or water, when broken up to microplastics, they do more harm.

“Toxic substances in the environment preferentially absorb on the surface of microplastics,” he added, making it easily digestible by marine life, like fishes and crustaceans.

And as they are invisible to the naked eyes, these microplastics, along with toxic substances, become part of the meal and are unconsciously ingested.

As Silliman gears up to be a model university in its waste management, the adjunct professor who handles courses at the Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences, College of Engineering and Design and Graduate Programs proposed three measures that Sillimanians can do on a personal level: (1) don’t use plastic water bottles; (2) stop using straws; and (3) stop using plastic bags.

In her message, Silliman President Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann reinforced the rationale behind the presentation of Dr. Emmanuel and asked the audience: “What has the advocacy for breaking free with plastics got to do with all of us?”

“Everything. This is happening. It is largely because of us, and it is getting worst. At this point, we are into damage control but our damage control will only be as strong as the weakest link in our University,” she said.

Dr. McCann confirmed plans “to bring about changes in the way we deal with plastics and other wastes that we now use and dispose in our campus.”

Dr. McCann urged everyone: “let us all cooperate in this endeavor.

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Siliman, US university collab for bioinformatics course workshop

By Jennifer C. Tilos

Silliman University, (SU) through its Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management together with Old Dominion University (ODU) in the United States collaborate anew to provide bioinformatics course-workshop from June 18 to July 3 at Mariano and Lina Lao Activity Center.

SU Office of Information and Publication Director Mark Raygan Garcia said the workshop on ‘omics and bioinformatics’ runs for 12 days which gathers around 30 students, researchers and scholars from different institutions in the Philippines and the US.

It is designed to give participants an introduction to the skills and knowledge needed to develop a project using genomics or transcriptomics, Garcia said.

Topics clustered into three weeks are progressing in level from beginner, intermediate to advanced, with each week’s discussions being a foundation to the next, he added.

Garcia said the topic will range from overview of molecular ecology, application of ‘omics in answering biological questions, computer sessions dealing with processing next-generation sequencing data in a mostly command line environment, molecular theory in properly handling data during processing and analysis to advanced analysis with SNP data.

Workshop participants are expected to gain experience running analyses via high performance computing (HPC) resources through ODU’s Turing Community Cluster.

Supported by ODU’s Information Technology Services, the Turing cluster contains more than 190 multi-core compute nodes each containing between 16 and 32 cores and 128Gb of RAM, allowing researchers to use parallel programming applications for quick processing of the large amounts of data generated by the latest genomics methodologies.

Lecturers are professors Chris Bird (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), Malin Pinsky and Rene Clark (Rutgers University) and Dave Gauthier, Dan Barshis, John Whalen and Maddy Kenton (ODU).

Garcia said the upcoming workshop runs under a bigger five-year (2018-2022) project collaboration between Silliman and ODU known as Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE): Centennial Genetic and Species Transformations in the Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity.

This is funded by the US National Science Foundation and is administered under the supervision of ODU professor of biological sciences Dr. Kent E. Carpenter as principal investigator.

National Scientist and Silliman Professor Emeritus Dr. Angel C. Alcala heads the team in the Philippines as project leader.

Accordingly, the collaboration is Silliman and ODU link-up under the PIRE project.

In 2011, the partnership was involving the broader Coral Triangle region where, among others, researchers and graduate students at the University’s Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (IEMS) were trained in molecular ecology and larval distribution techniques and laboratory methods.

Heading the Coral Triangle-PIRE project for the University that time was IEMS Director Dr. Hilconida P. Calumpong, Garcia added.

Participants in the ‘omics and bioinformatics workshop have already been identified.

They include the undergraduate and graduate students from the US (ODU, TAMUCC and RU) and the Philippines, faculty and researchers from the Silliman’s IEMS, Biology Department and College of Computer Studies, and researchers and scholars from the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines Mindanao, University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Silliman University announces fellows for 2018 National Writers Workshop

By Roi Lomotan

Silliman University (SU) announced the names of 10 individuals accepted as fellows for the 57th Silliman University National Writers Workshop this year.

The ten fellows are Romalyn Ante of Lipa City, Batangas and Catherine Cando of Quezon City for English for Poetry in English; Wilfreda Cabusas of Talisay City, Cebu and Herminigildo Sanchez of Catbalogan City, Samar for Poetry in Bisaya (Balak); Sigrid Gayangos of Zamboanga City, Zamboanga and Reil Benedict Obinque of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur for Short Fiction; Jade Baylon of Digos City, Davao del Sur, Rhounee Ron Kevin Frany of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, and Joel Donato Ching Jacob of Manila for creative non-fiction; and Manuel Tinio of Mandaluyong City for One-Act Drama.

SU – Office of Information and Publications Director Mark Garcia said this year, the workshop accepted manuscripts for Balak with corresponding English translation which will enrich workshop discussion regarding the craft of poetry rendered in different languages and the cultural nuances that underpin such expression.

The workshop will be held from May 7 to 18 at the Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village in Camp Look-out, Valencia, Negros Oriental and at the SU Campus.

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is the oldest creative writing workshop in Asia founded in 1962 by S.E.A. Write Awardee Edilberto K. Tiempo and National Artist Edith L. Tiempo.

Garcia added that the workshop continues the legacy of the Tiempos in giving value to literature and creative writing in the country.

The workshop is conducted in partnership with the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA).