Meet Justine Perry Domingo, Newton Fund grant awardee.

Research topic: Assessment of spatial and temporal variation in the sediment, nutrient, and metal flux in mine-affected catchments

Host institution / UK university: University of Edinburgh

Home institution: University of the Philippines Diliman

Degree programme: PhD Atmospheric and Environmental Science

Describe your PhD research in layman’s terms.

Nickel mining areas are usually affected by significant siltation and metal contamination, yet there is limited data available on the extent of the pollution or siltation problem. In this research, we aim to examine the behaviour of sediments and metals in watersheds affected by nickel mining in the Philippines. Aside from identifying sediment sources, we will also try to provide models that can help resolve environmental issues in such areas.

What is the relevance of your study to the economic development, welfare and poverty issues in the Philippines?

The Philippines is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world, and also one of the top nickel ore exporters worldwide. With the high global demand for nickel due to its vital role in modern infrastructure and technology, the Philippines also faces a tantamount environmental risk. Although several mining operations have been suspended by the government, there still is a great uncertainty regarding the extent of the environmental problems. 

By identifying where sediments come from and how they settle down in the river systems, we will be able to define the contribution of mining activities to the problem and assess suitable measures to reduce siltation in lower-lying areas. In addition to improving agricultural productivity, this research also hopes to promote responsible mining practices, both yielding positive economic impacts at the local and national levels.

How do you envision your UK education can contribute to your future career as a researcher?

This scholarship provides me perfect opportunity to acquire skills and learn technological applications that I can use to address existing knowledge gaps. But more importantly, my doctoral training in the UK will enable me to utilize these technologies to full potential to effectively deal with problems in the country.

This research has been made possible by the partnership between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, through the Department of Science and Technology and the British Council. In line with this partnership, we also aim to foster collaboration with other institutions brought about by this research. Even after completing the PhD, I intend to look for opportunities that will allow my home and host institutions to work together on similar research interests. This way, we allow innovative research to continue that will surely be beneficial to both countries.

How has the commitment of the UK in science and technology influence your decision in choosing the Newton Fund?

The considerable investment the UK puts in research and development is evident from the outstanding results achieved when demonstrating the impacts of studies on wider society. UK’s commitment in science and technology is mirrored by its top universities and research institutes. As a scientist, I aspire to be in this kind of environment - world-class and research-intensive, with emphasis on social impact, industry relations, forging partnerships, and development of transferable skills. Thankfully, the Newton Agham Programme provided me the perfect platform to take part in this first-class experience and the chance to deliver research outputs with global relevance.