Professional science degree equips young Filipino scientist for industry
Philippine universities produce an average of 500,000 college graduates a year. But instead of being a boost to the workforce, more than half of them end up jobless for at least a year after graduation. Graduates in the science and technology fields find it most difficult to get into an industry where they can use their education and training. For technology and innovation companies, the problem is not the lack of applicants to fill vacancies but the lack of skills of graduates to translate scientific discoveries into products and business ventures. It was clear that university training in S&T disciplines needed to go beyond the basics.
In 2014, USAID began offering Professional Science Master’s (PSM) scholarships to outstanding young Filipino scientists through its STRIDE program (Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development) under the Graduate Scholarship for Science and Technology (GraSST). PSM degrees are hybrid programs created by American universities to advance college-level science or engineering training by including a professional component such as business, management, and entrepreneurship.
A year later, USAID’s first PSM scholar graduated with a degree of Master of Engineering in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University.
Back in 2013, Janella Mae Salamania was one of over half a million college graduates in the country. While most of these graduates scrambled to land their first professional job, she decided to take higher studies. Fresh from gathering accolades for her undergraduate work, the high-achieving applied physics major embarked on a new adventure as a PSM scholar with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell. Janella took to heart the rich experience of learning from experts in one of the leading universities in the world. She shared that she appreciated the independence given to her by her mentors.
“American students prefer to work individually which is quite different from the Philippine academic culture,” she said. “In research [in the U.S.], the professors and colleagues give us enough freedom to decide how to go on with our research.” Most importantly, Janella is grateful that her PSM scholarship gave her a whole new understanding of the role of S&T in economic development. “I used to believe that a graduate of science and engineering only had three destinations in the Philippines: industry, government or academia,” she recalled.
“But studying in the U.S. had led me to believe that there is an additional path towards inclusive economic growth entrepreneurship.” She now works for a multinational semiconductor manufacturer as a failure analysis engineer, a vital role in new product development.
Together with 25 PSM scholars under STRIDE, Janella is leading the way for future Filipino scientists as technopreneurs – a new breed of experts that would jump-start innovation towards economic development in the country.