From Mentee to Marvel: A Biologist’s Journey to being the 2nd Outstanding Young Scientist of Central Mindanao University

The saying “Scientists are not born but made” resonates deeply in the vibrant world of science. A relentless pursuit of knowledge and the nurturing guidance of mentors transform ordinary individuals into extraordinary scientists, such as the inspiring journey of Dr. Fulgent P. Coritico, a young biologist who defied expectations to become the 2nd Outstanding Young Scientist of Central Mindanao University.

During his first year, Dr. Coritico has always dreamed of being a student at Central Mindanao University. Yet, as he approached the enrollment process, uncertainty clouded his mind regarding the course he would pursue. Initially, he was inclined towards chemistry, but when he encountered a friend lining up for biology, this caught his attention. He engaged in conversation and soon found himself questioning his original choice. In the moment of spontaneity, he decided to switch to biology, setting the stage for a transformative journey.

Upon entering his fourth year in Biology, Dr. Coritico discovered the daunting reputation of Dr. Victor B. Amoroso, a professor known for being strict and primarily focusing on teaching graduate students. And during this time, Dr. Amoroso opened an opportunity in which he would accept five Biology students to conduct their thesis in the picturesque Mt. Pantaron Range, exploring topics ranging from plants, ferns, trees, amphibians, to insects – a true cornucopia of biodiversity.

Fortunately, Dr. Coritico eagerly applied and got the chance to work with Dr. Amoroso. Although his initial thesis study focused on frogs, he couldn’t help but be intrigued by Dr. Amoroso’s unwavering dedication to studying plants. As they delved into the diverse ecosystems of the mountain range, Dr. Coritico witnessed firsthand the meticulous training and mentorship style that Dr. Amoroso employed with his students. He learned the importance of advanced reading, as the professor would directly quiz his students on-site. This experience instilled in him a profound respect for Dr. Amoroso’s mentoring approach. 

Upon graduating, Dr. Coritico continued taking his master’s at CMU while working as a Research Assistant for seven years from 2009-2015 under Dr. Amoroso. He planned to pursue his doctoral studies abroad with a scholarship opportunity at the University of Zurich. The collaboration with Dr. Amoroso, who had offered support on his journey, seemed like a dream come true. However, the scholarships were highly competitive, with only one scholar each selected in Asia. He got in during the first training but did not pass during the interview. Undeterred by this setback, he decided to continue his studies at Central Mindanao University under the guidance of Dr. Amoroso and Dr. Florfe M. Acma.

Many were shocked by his decision to forgo opportunities at renowned institutions like the University of the Philippines (UP). But Dr. Coritico carefully evaluated that CMU houses experts in his desired area of specialization, and the quality of education is also available at CMU. Thus, he continued his doctoral degree at CMU.

After completing his doctoral degree, Dr. Coritico was hired as a University Researcher 1 at Central Mindanao University, the Center for Biodiversity Research and Extension in Mindanao (CEBREM) for two years from 2016-2018. And continues to be a faculty in the Department of Biology from 2018 to the present.

Armed with a wealth of knowledge and passion for discovery, he dedicated himself to sharing his findings with the world. One of his noble contributions to the field of biology came in the form of a groundbreaking discovery. He stumbled upon the critically endangered species of lycophyte known as Isoetes philippinensis, a unique amphibious fern. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) this fern has been thought to be nearly extinct in the wild.

Driven by curiosity and a desire to understand the fern’s ecology and reproductive mechanism, Dr. Coritico obtained a permit from the DENR, where they found that the last recorded collection of the species was back in the 1960s. Dr. Coritico dove to depths of up to 10 meters in the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Davao Oriental Province, Mindanao, to carefully observe and collect specimens of the fern. His rediscovery of Isoetes philippinensis brought hope and renewed attention to the conservation efforts of this critically endangered species. Dr. Coritico’s research contributes to the broader understanding of plant diversity and conservation in the Philippines.

Dr. Coritico’s contribution also extends beyond his scientific productivity. While he has published 85 articles as of July 2023 and achieved a notable H-index of ten on Google Scholar, he understands the importance of engaging with local stakeholders and serving his community – recognizing the interconnectedness between scientific research and the community’s well-being. Dr. Coritico actively seeks opportunities to make a positive impact outside the confines of the laboratory. He understands that the knowledge and expertise that he has acquired can be instruments in addressing local challenges and promoting sustainable development.

In addition to his impressive accomplishment and community involvement, Dr. Coritico’s outstanding contribution was recognized last July 13, 2023, as he received    the highest honor from the scientific body in the Philippines. This distinguished accolade is not something that can be personally applied for; instead, it is a recognition bestowed upon individuals who are nominated by their peers or colleagues.

In the case of Dr. Coritico, his nomination came from Dr. Acma, the esteemed CEBREM Director of CMU, who recognized his immense potential in the field of science and technology, even during his undergraduate years as a BS Biology student. According to Dr. Acma, Dr. Coritico’s nomination was a result of his exemplary work as a research assistant, where he showcased diligence and exceptional leadership qualities. Even while pursuing his graduate studies, he exhibited remarkable time management skills, balancing his academic pursuits with his research responsibilities.

Dr. Acma nominated Dr. Coritico for the Outstanding Young Scientist award based on his impressive track record and accomplishments. By touching the lives of local communities and addressing relevant environmental concerns, Dr. Coritico exemplifies the transformative power of scientific research and its ability to bring positive change to society. Dr. Coritico’s dedication and passion for scientific inquiry serve as an inspiration to budding scientists, making him a shining example within the scientific community.

Being the sole nominee from their institution speaks volumes about Dr. Coritico’s exceptional contribution and achievements in the field of science. The Judging for the Outstanding Young Scientist award undergoes a rigorous selection process. The criteria for selection are based on the quality and quantity of scientific works and publications, the contributions to the advancement of science in general and science in the Philippines, and the contributions to the well-being of the Philippine economy and culture.

So, when Dr. Coritico heard he won the Outstanding Young Scientist in the field of Biology, he felt thankful for CMU, especially to Dr. Amoroso, whom he learned so much from “Kaning pagka OYS nako, dako gyud kong pasalamat, especially sa CMU, especially si Dr. Amoroso nga nag mentor gyud pud sa akoa nga para ma develop.” (Me being nominated as OYS, I’m extremely grateful, especially [to] CMU, and especially towards Dr. Amoroso who really mentored me to develop). This nurturing environment has allowed Dr. Coritico to work as a researcher and a scholar, expanding his horizons and deepening his understanding.

The inspiring journey of Dr. Coritico highlights the significance of finding joy in one’s work, embracing the advice of mentors, and recognizing the value of individual strength and specialties. Dr. Coritico’s path was driven not by a predetermined dream but by a passion for research and commitment to community engagement. By embracing these principles, we can carve out our own remarkable path, find fulfillment and make a positive impact in our chosen field. [Nicole Mae D. Abao & Rose Ann Q. Sulatorio]

Photos Credits to Dr. Fulgent Coritico and CEBREM

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