Dr. Sharon N. Nuñal, Associate Professor and Director of IFPT-CFOS, UP Visayas
Being a researcher is truly a challenging role. You should continuously be progressive in finding new approaches to meet the current needs of our communities. Dr. Sharon N. Nuñal tells us her research journey in creating impactful and relevant research studies.
Doing research has been a huge part of every academic researchers’ career milestones. From engaging in a number of research studies to discovering novel products and techniques and publishing articles–the basic questions will always be: “What is this for?” “To whom is this for?”. For Dr. Sharon N. Nuñal, it is essential for researchers to immerse in communities to first-handedly determine pertinent problems that necessitate solutions, in that way, research outputs can be more impactful and relevant.
Dr. Sharon N. Nuñal was a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Fisheries at the University of the Philippines Visayas. After she graduated from college, she worked as a research assistant in aquaculture research, which involved feed formulation and fish nutrition. She then became a University Research Associate in the National Institute for Microbiology and Biotechnology (NIMBB). From there, she discovered her passion for microbiology and was involved in various projects covered by that field. She was then introduced to Maida sensei, a professor and an expert in microbiology who is a collaborator of UPV Professors, Dr. Saclauso and Dr. Seraspe. She pursued her graduate studies in Mie University in Japan and took MS in Bioresources in Marine Resources. The study that she pursued during that time is on oil degrading microbes which is leaning on bioremediation. Currently, she is a professor and director at the Institute of Fish Processing Technology, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of the Philippines Visayas. Apart from being an educator and administrator, she is also conducting various research projects which are inclined towards biochemistry and biotechnology.
One of her recent research involvements is the Mussel Biotechnology Program funded by the DOST-PCAARRD. The said program came to life because the biotechnology aspect is part of the mussel roadmap of the DOST. This focuses on the transformation of mussel into another form of technology, mostly on non-food applications which includes pharmaceutical products and cosmetics. Just like any other research project, Dr. Sharon’s group did an extensive review to conceptualize the project. They aimed to develop food supplements from proteins and lipids from the green mussel.
The DOST has been continuously exerting efforts to increase the production of green mussels. However, the market of green mussels is not stable, if this technology takes off and will be utilized, it will give another product utilization of mussels aside from food and it will provide a stable market for our mussel farmers. For Dr. Nuñal, this project is one of its kind because it produces a tangible product. It is also refreshing for her to lean towards applied research as her previous involvements were more on basic understanding mechanisms.
She believes that change is inevitable when it comes to doing research projects. Previously, research was done and conceptualized based on the researcher’s specializations. However, after doing so, the challenge always is to find a community that can benefit from it. Because of this, Dr. Nuñal with her research colleagues immersed themselves in the community, in the industry and in the people’s organization that will be their future beneficiary. This gives them a clearer perspective of what the community needs for closer involvement with different stakeholders helps in making relevant and impactful research.
“You get to know a lot of people along the way when you are doing research. You get to learn from them as much as they learn from you”, she said.
For Dr. Nunal, it is always a two-way learning process and always an enriching experience, they may be from the funding agencies, research colleagues, research assistants and most especially the communities.
Her message for young researchers: “put emphasis on hard work, everything is a product of hard work. It is okay to commit mistakes, what is important is you learn something out of these. Know your research by heart and always remember that you are always doing this for the benefit of science and ultimately for the people”.