Maribel Nonato is 2020 Outstanding Chemist

The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP), the accredited professional organization of registered chemists and registered chemical technicians in the country, has the honor of announcing that the Outstanding Chemist of 2020, bestowed by the Professional Regulation Commission, is awarded to Dr Maribel Nonato.

Dr Nonato is one of the country’s leading researchers in the field of medicinal plants chemistry and natural products. She obtained her PhD in Organic Chemistry with specialization in Natural Products Chemistry from the University of Wollongong in Australia in 1993. She also received post-doctoral fellowships at Chiba University (Japan), University of Strathclyde (Scotland), University of Queensland (Australia), and University of Wollongong. She has collaborated with prominent international professors and researchers, published numerous papers and articles on natural products and plant metabolites and presented them in numerous local and international scientific conferences.

Little was known before about pandan as there was barely any previous studies or scientific references about it. To most people, pandan is simply a flavoring agent to certain dishes, nothing more. It was this uncharted territory that Dr Nonato focused her attention on. So in 1991 she started conducting extensive research on Pandanus species endemic to the Philippines, and has been a pioneer in the field ever since. She has explored the chemical and biological potentials of the natural products found in pandan which led to the discovery of its many medicinal attributes. Intensive studies on the plant has found it as a potential source of anti-microbials, antiviral substances, diuretics, antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory and antitubercular agents. Her research on novel Pandanus alkaloids paved the way for other countries in the Southeast Asian region to conduct studies on their own variants of pandan. This passion for pandan has earned her the moniker “Pandan Queen” and a new pandan species recently discovered in Quezon province, Freycinetia nonatoi, was named in her honor.

Dr Nonato is a loyal Thomasian through and through. At present, she is the Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, where she graduated with BSc (1978) and MSc (1986) degrees in chemistry. In addition to being one of UST’s respected administrators, she is also a chemistry professor at its College of Science where she served as college dean from 2008 to 2012 and a researcher at the university’s Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences. A proud teacher, Dr Nonato also served as a class adviser to numerous batches of UST’s undergraduate chemistry majors and mentored many students as their research adviser.

Dr Nonato has always been committed in improving the quality of chemistry research and education in the country. Since 2009, she serves as a member of the technical committee for chemistry of the Commission on Higher Education. She is the incumbent president of the Natural Products Society of the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific regional coordinator of the Phytochemical Society of Asia. She also was editor of Acta Manilana (2000-2007) and a paper evaluator for the scientific journals Kimika and the Philippine Journal of Science. In addition, Dr Nonato served as board member (2006-2009) of the Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas; president (2000-2016) of the Organic Chemistry Teachers’ Association; and secretary (2000-2006), vice-president (2006-2008) and president (2008-2012) of the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies.

Dr Nonato is no stranger to awards and accolades for her accomplishments. Some of her noteworthy recognitions include: the National Research Council of the Philippines Achievement Award in Chemical Sciences (2007); the Dr. Gregorio Y. Zara Award for Basic Science Research (2016); and the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies’ Shimadzu Award for Chemical Research (2017). She has also received annual recognitions from UST for her commendable teaching performance, achievements in research and publication, and various roles and capacities in national scientific organizations. In May 2020, Dr Nonato was elected as an academician of the country’s National Academy of Science and Technology.

This year’s Outstanding Chemist is a stalwart of the chemistry profession, and her relentless dedication to research and love for teaching serve as proof of her stellar career. Congratulations Dr Maribel Nonato, the ICP is truly proud of you!

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