Asst. Prof. Dr. Rommel J. Gestuveo, UP Visayas
Visualizing the future of research in PH
Pursuing what you really want and what interests you ensures a tantamount level of self-assurance and gratification. With the unprecedented events during the pandemic, the need for research and development in the aspect of virology is of great interest. Dr. Rommel J. Gestuveo from the Division of Biological Sciences gives us a peek on his research journey, from conducting research here in the tropics, to working for his PhD in Glasgow with the tenacity to undergo new experiences and learnings.
Dr. Gestuveo has an undergraduate degree in public health from UP Visayas. He took his master’s in molecular medicine at St. Luke’s College of Medicine in Quezon City. After that he worked as a research assistant at St. Luke’s Medical Center for three years before going back to UP Visayas as a research assistant under the projects of Dr. Jane S. Geduspan and Dr. Philip Ian P. Padilla. He served as a University Research Associate at UPV-NIMBB for a year and shifted to becoming a faculty member of the Division of Biological Sciences. From there, he pursued further graduate studies and opted to take PhD in Virology at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom through a DOST Newton Fund scholarship in collaboration with the British Council.
His research interests include epidemiology and biostatistics which are rooted from his public health background and molecular biology because it was his master’s degree. He has also been part of research projects on the molecular epidemiology of dengue virus and cardiovascular genomics research. Now he is focused on arboviruses or arthropod-borne viruses. These viruses are transmitted by arthropods such as ticks and mosquitoes. As we all know, these viruses transmitted by mosquitoes are prevalent here in the Philippines. When the pandemic happened, Dr. Gestuveo was also involved in COVID-19 research both in Glasgow and here in Philippine Genome Center-Visayas (PGC-Visayas).
Working in a different laboratory environment is not a huge challenge to Dr. Gestuveo since in most research groups and laboratories in the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, collaboration is very open. He can freely ask for help; may it be on the equipment he does not know how to use or on the analysis of data. The research culture in their laboratories are very collaborative in nature. The university that he went to is a diverse institution, with about 400 individuals and around 100 virologists who come from different fields, from veterinary medicine, clinical virology to sequencing genomics. What is interesting is they are not only sharing ideas, but resources too, may it be reagents or materials. He can easily ask for what he needs as much as he can also share his available resources.
Publishing in scientific journals with a high impact factor has been a goal of every researcher who aims to publish their research findings. Dr. Gestuveo got his paper published in a high impact journal with an impact factor of 17.69 (2021) – Nature Communications. In the UK, publication culture is fast paced as compared here in the Philippines and with the encouragement coming from his supervisors, he went for it. He said that his supervisor knows the weight of publishing in this journal when he returns to the Philippines and eventually if he pushes to go for a postdoctoral fellowship.
When writing his papers, Dr. Gestuveo shared that he prefers to have an outline before starting. “It is a very basic common skill, but I’m a visual person so I start by visualizing what I want to show”, he added. After listing the figures and visualizing what he wants to write, he threads a story out of it. In terms of writing scientific papers, he stated that he needed to have the data to support the evidence. He said that he has this habit of making generalizations that should not be since it is scientific data. With the guidance of his supervisors, he did overcome this habit and went on with a writing style that anchors in the results and talks about the results. To sum up his writing style, Dr. Gestuveo said “I think of the story, visualize it, and start writing.”
For aspiring scientists, this is what Dr. Gestuveo has to say — “If you wish to pursue further studies, you need to have the proper mindset if you really want to do it. Always go back to the reason why you are doing all of this. I really made it a point that I’m doing a PhD for four years in Glasgow and I am going back home. A lot of opportunities may come along the way, just go for it. You should grab all the opportunities that you can while you are still young, unsettled and untied with responsibilities”.
Moving forward, Dr. Gestuveo has high hopes in pursuing his research interests when he returned to the Philippines. Since he came back last year, he grabbed all the funding opportunities that he can apply for. There were rejections, successes, and failures but he eventually bagged a research collaboration with a professor from India under a joint DOST project. “I really would like to see in the future that there are opportunities to do research in UPV that is not only focused on virology but of course the potential of doing collaborative work”, Dr. Gestuveo said.
Right now, UP Visayas has established research facilities like the Regional Research Center (RRC), which houses PGC-Visayas. Currently virology is one of the widest developing fields because of the pandemic and Dr. Gestuveo hopes that it will jumpstart everything in terms of virology research in the country.