A Filipina survivor of Typhoon Haiyan
Besting 11,000 other entries from 178 countries, 18-year-old Hillary Diane Andales won the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge for her video explanation of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, reports ABS-CBN
Andales, whose community was nearly wiped out by one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded back in 2013, reportedly received 7 other scholarships following the contest. However, she eventually decided to accept the MIT scholarship offer so she can fulfill her dream of becoming an astrophysicist.
“Ultimately, I want to become a research scientist, specifically in astrophysics,” she was quoted as saying.
Born to a chemist father and an accountant mother, Andales had an early affinity to science and math.
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“Instead of fairytales, they told me stories of Marie Curie’s struggles as a woman in science in the early 20th century,” she shared. “They told me about Charles Darwin’s adventures in the Galapagos Islands and how Einstein had a really big idea that revolutionized physics.”
Andales revealed that she is hoping to someday land an internship or a full-time job at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Looking back at the tragedy that befell her hometown six years ago, Andales lamented how more people could have survived the typhoon’s devastation had Filipinos known more scientific jargon.
She recalled that many families remained complacent and refused to evacuate when a warning for a storm surge was announced.
“From the time the water came through the door up until it filled up our house, it took only 1 to 2 minutes. It all happened really fast. The house was really filled with water. We had to run up to our double-deck bed because we didn’t have a second floor,” she said.
Her family survived by holding on to their rooftop steel trusses for 7 hours.
“I was actually really disappointed in myself. Even though I was already interested in Science, I didn’t know what a storm surge was. I think that was a big flaw in the process of science communication in our country because …many people in the community didn’t know,” she said.
Now she aims to make a difference by producing more visual materials that would simplify technical terms for Filipinos.
She acknowledged that the Philippines has a long way to go before all Filipinos could fully appreciate science.
“When the recent blackhole image came out, people were freaking out how it is going to eat us alive and all that,” she said. “That was kind of a sign for me that we have a long way to go.”