Typhoon Haiyan survivor uses scholarship money to further science education at MIT

CAMBRIDGE, MA — “Nung nangyari yung Yolanda, we were complacent kasi sanay na kami sa baha… suddenly meron parang brown water rumagasa dun sa door namin, yung door namin lumipad talaga from one side to the other side of the room… my dad punched a hole into the ceiling tapos pumasok kami dun.”

For five grueling hours back in 2014, Hillary Diane Andales and her family clung on for their dear lives inside their house’s crawl space – just inches away from super Typhoon Haiyan’s raging storm surge.

After surviving one of the most powerful and deadliest tropical cyclones ever recorded in the Philippines — this Abuyog, Leyte native never thought she’d be able to leave her hometown one day to pursue her dreams.

She won a $250,000 scholarship in 2018 for creating a video that explained Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Andales chose to use her breakthrough prize money to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become a research scientist in astrophysics.

“Actually 85 percent of the mass in the universe, we don’t know where it’s from and that’s really scary, and alarming.. So that’s why we’re working to find where that 85% is coming from.”

As a child, Andales said learned about great scientists even before she learned about nursery rhymes or fairy tale characters.

After her initial talks with ABS-CBN’s knowledge channel — Andales is hoping to share her skill of making scientific explanations easy to understand through fun, educational shows.

“We need to put it more mainstream, yung mga kino-consume talaga ng almost everyone, I feel like we need to produce more shows like that kids are actually interested in science.”

“Time is relative, the really mind-blowing idea here is that observers in different frames will perceive different version of the same reality.”

Andales is also studying philosophy and the impact of science to society — and she hopes to use science to stop alternative facts and fake news.

“People have lost trust in vaccines, sa Philippines bumalik yung polio, we have measles outbreak, we also have climate change deniers… science really needs to be restored.”

Andales said she’s only three weeks into her MIT courses –- but she cannot wait to change the world for the better.

She also hopes science education will significantly improve in the Philippines to pave the way for more young people to become successful scientists one day.

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