/ 29 November 2021

AN ALUMNA of the University of the Philippines Diliman placed second in the Forskar Grand Prix held on November 25 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Sophia Raine Hernandez, a Molecular Biology and Biotechnology graduate, won for her presentation titled “Tackling Malaria by Looking at the Biology Parasites.”

FGP is a competition in which researchers in Sweden compete to find out who is best at presenting their research in just four minutes.

Participants qualify to compete in the final heat by winning in regional heats and two online heats.

“Hernandez opened her presentation by admitting that she dreamed of becoming a superhero as a child. But when she grew up, she chose to become a scientist instead, since scientists, much like superheroes, work to protect humans from an array of villains. Only the villains, in this case, are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites,” UPD said in a statement.

“For Hernandez, her arch-nemesis would be the parasite Plasmodium, which causes malaria, one of the most severe public health problems worldwide. Malaria causes around half a million deaths each year and disproportionally affects developing countries,” the university explained.

“Knowing this, Hernandez made it her quest to defeat this super-villain of disease using science—by developing tools to study the essential genes of the parasites to try to get a better understanding of the parasite’s biology and provide valuable information to the development of ways to target the parasite such as therapeutics and vaccine design,” it added.

Hernandez is a doctorate student at the Umeå University in Sweden.

She is working with the Bushell Lab at the Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden.

In 2018, she and fellow UP MBB graduate Andrea Ong received the Sanger Prize, an outreach competition for undergraduate students who live in and study in low or middle-income countries.