A young graduate of BS Biology at the Central Luzon State University is loving his work at Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); describing it as fulfilling and fun.
Only 24, Jonathan S. Concepcion, Science Research Analyst at Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division, has authored 17 papers and posters. Amidst the research rigors, he manages to pursue his studies and other skills.
Found his love at the lab
Jonathan started as a PhilRice intern, then a thesis student, and now a researcher working on the development of submergence tolerant and multi-stress tolerant rice varieties. Why is he in this job? Because this is where he found his passion. He choose to focus on laboratory and field work for he believes that it will bring him closer to his life goals: becoming a scientist and earning a doctorate degree.
“Honestly at first, I have no idea what I was doing, so I had to look around and ask people how to do this and that, and seek for advice and inputs from more seasoned researchers,” Jonathan recalls.
Jonathan finds the lab as his haven. “The laboratory has always been my safe place, and comfort zone,” he says.
He shares that whenever he gets a good result from experiments, he would literally sing and dance out of happiness. With this papers and posters presented in conferences, you can imagine that he does these all the time.
In 2015, he conducted studies on molecular genetics, characterizing some elite mutant lines, which can be used for rice breeding. After a year, a best paper award was given to their research team for their study on Genetic Improvement of Submergence-Tolerant Rice Cultivar FR13A through In Vitro Mutagenesis.
Last year, he received simultaneous awards for best poster during the 30th National Rice Research for Development Conference in at PhilRice, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. The poster on Assessing Effectiveness of Sea Water in Imposing Salt Stress for Tolerant Rice Selection won 1st and 3rd place for the poster on Multi-Environment Field Performance of Submergence-Drought Tolerant Elite Rice Breeding Lines. His paper entitled High Yield Multi-Stress Tolerant Rice Breeding Line Development from Single Cross PSB Rc14 x PSB Rc68 became a finalist for Best Paper Competition for the Downstream (Applied) Research Category in the 24th Federation of Crop Science Societies of the Philippines Scientific Conference in Iloilo. He works with other researchers and scientists on these studies.
Recently, his poster on Multi-Environmental Adaptability and Molecular Variability Assessment of In vitro Mutagenesis-Derived Elite Lines from Rice Variety NSIC Rc9 (Apo) won 2nd place during the 11th Philippine Association for Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Scientific Convention in Bohol.
“It’s exciting to see rice plants submerged for more than a week at 1 m deep, and they still survive, grow, and even have grain yield. It is joyful to know that the seemingly simple activities can contribute greatly towards developing rice varieties to be utilized by farmers,” he says.
Working with scientist
Prior to joining the country’s lead agency on rice research and development, he perceived that PhilRice scientists are uptight, strict, and tough. Now that he had joined them in workshops and conferences and worked with them, he admitted that he was wrong about his perceptions.
“They are accommodating, cheerful, and really humble,” he says.
There are times when Jonathan doubted himself, asking if he can deliver the outputs expected from him. However, his mentor, Dr. Nenita V. Desamero, a PhilRice principal plant breeder and tissue culture expert, and recipient of the Achievement Award in Research in 2010 and Technology Development in 2017 by the Crop Science Society of the Philippines (CSSP), let him feel that he can always do it.
“Doc Nenette allowed me to explore, innovate, and express myself in the researches that I do.” For him this is something he will forever value.
Sharing his work learnings and experiences, he served as research consultant and supervisor for high school students from Talavera National High School, Nueva Ecija High School, University Science High School-CLSU, and Honorato C. Perez Memorial Science High School in conducting investigatory projects and writing manuscript for thesis.
He also supervised college interns from CLSU, Mindoro State University, and Khon Kaen University Thailand for their activities in molecular genetics and stress tolerance screening.
“It’s a challenge to train students and equip them with skills and knowledge. But when you see them learning, and applying the skills you taught them, it’s priceless and rewarding,” shares Jonathan.
“It makes me happy and accomplished that I have imparted something to these youngsters. It’s cool when they treat you as “kuya” most of the time rather than a supervisor, and all the small talks are fun, especially during free time,” he adds.
Work, studies, and life balance
To achieve his life goals, he spends his Saturdays at school for his master’s degree in Biology at CLSU for almost three years now. He has faith that this will help him land a permanent job.
As studying while working can be very complicated, Jonathan believes that it’s only a matter of prioritization and time management.
“All I do is finish work and requirements based on deadline. If I have ample time, I analyze data and write report ahead of time so that reports and papers won’t pile up,” he says.
Amidst work, he finds time to catch up with family and friends.
“I often schedule trips or overnight with friends and I spend time with my family usually on weekends and during important events.”
Being busy at work and school does not limit him from living his other interest. To relieve from stress, he engages in a new yet worthwhile hobby, mobile photography. His photography skills is evident from the photos he shared on his social media accounts.
“I was inspired by the photos I’ve been seeing on Instagram and Facebook travel pages, so I gave it a try. It’s a great hobby,” Jonathan shares.
Juggling work, studies, social commitments and photography could be tiresome but according to this young man, prioritization and time management will get you through and also enjoy life.