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Filipino scientist bags ASEAN Science Prize for Women

CORTES, Bohol (PIA) -- A Filipina scientist has won the Mid-Career Scientist Category of the Science Prize for Women 2023 for her pioneering research to enable micro-hydro systems to generate electricity more efficiently. 

Dr. Charlle L. Sy, a professor and current chair of the Industrial and Energy Engineering Department of De La Salle University-Manila, is one of the two First Place winners of the Science Prize for Women 2023.

The award was handed over during the 84th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Committee on Science, Technology, and Innovation (ASEAN COSTI), hosted by the Department of Science and Technology in Bohol. 

Dr. Sy’s project, Target-Oriented Robust Optimization (TORO), uses advanced mathematical modelling techniques that account for uncertainty, leading to more effective and resilient energy solutions for local communities. 

The Science Prize for Women emphasizes the role of female scientists who have used their work to improve society in sustainable ways and have acted as role models for other women learning, working in, and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. 

The prize is given through a partnership among the United States government through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), ASEAN, and the Underwriters Laboratories Research Institutes (ULRI). 

It aims to strengthen science and technology capacity and gender equality in the region. 

The prize was launched in 2014 to empower women to solve health and environmental challenges at a regional level through scientific discovery and rigor. 

While ULRI funds the award, ASEAN COSTI and USAID promote, administer, and manage the contest. 

This year, the COSTI Prize focused on electrification to recognize the notable work of ASEAN women scientists to create electricity using renewable or clean sources of energy in a way that brings economic benefits and protects the environment. 

Along with the recognition for their achievements, winners received a cash award of $12,500 each for both the Senior Scientist and the Mid-career Scientist categories, while $5,000 was awarded to the honorable mention awards in each category.

Dr Challe Sy (2nd from left) receiving her award as first place winner of the Mid-Career Scientist Category of the Science Prize for Women 2023. Dr. Sy focused on helping communities get the most from out of a micro-hydro system to energize their homes and start livelihood, through a developed algorithm that helps people decide after her invention has eliminated options, making decision-making easy. (PIA Bohol/Photo from DOST Bohol)
Electricity to Filipino households

Dr. Sy was moved to pursue her project to provide electricity to millions of Filipino households that have no access to it.

She believes that her project can immensely provide a pathway to combating climate change.

Dr. Sy specializes in Operations Research and System Dynamics, which is her developed algorithmic framework in TORO that integrates uncertainty at the point of decision-making.

TORO guarantees computational tractability so that models can be solved efficiently to yield solutions, providing extensive applications even in the design and planning of engineering systems, including infrastructure and network planning in the fields of production, water networks, and energy.

She is currently active in different theoretical and applied research projects dealing with climate change and COVID-19 mitigation using her algorithm.

With a heart and mind to help, Dr. Sy explored other sources of renewable energy to provide innovative solutions for Filipino households that are mostly in remote communities that cannot be reached by the national grid.

Her optimization approach uses mathematical models that consider uncertainty at the point of decision-making, leading to solutions that can withstand unintended events.

The TORO project highlights the importance of economic viability as a pillar of sustainable development.

Her technology is now used in micro-hydroelectric generators in a barangay in the Apayao province.

On top of providing electricity to households, the micro hydro also creates a livelihood for the community, which allows them to start exploring farming activities that require electricity, such as agro-processing, farming incubation, and grain milling.

Helping communities

DOST Undersecretary Dr. Leah J. Buendia congratulated Dr. Sy, saying that it is good to have scientists directly helping communities through Science, Technology, and Innovation. 

“It is encouraging to witness scientists prioritizing technologies shared among the grass roots rather than focusing them for patent,” Buendia said. 

Aside from Dr. Sy under the Senior-Career Scientist Category, Dr. Pimpa Limthongkul of the National Science and Technology Development Agency in Thailand also won First Place for her Energy Storage – Research, Development, and Promotion Effort project. 

Professor Madhavi Srinivasan from Nanyang Technological University won honorable mention on her Electrification via Batteries with Circularity, while Dr. Nofri Yenita Dahlan from Universiti Teknologi MARA of Malaysia won honorable mention under the Mid-Career Scientist Category for her Cloud-Based Energy Management System Using Artificial Intelligences for Virtual Power Plant. (RAHC/PIA Bohol with DOST)

About the Author

Rey Anthony Chiu

Regional Editor

Region 7

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