Pisay student wins NY Times’ STEM writing contest

Natalia Araña, Grade 11 student at the Philippine Science High School – Main Campus, emerges as one of the top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s second annual STEM Writing Contest organized by The New York Times.

Her essay, “Mycowood Violins: A Different Kind of Time Machine” stood out from among the 3,741 entries.

Araña’s winning essay discusses how scientist Dr. Francis W.M.R. Schwarze from the Empa Applied Wood Materials Lab recreates the effects of the cold temperature on wood by using white rot fungi to produce “mycowood” that resonates the sound of the original world-renowned Stradivarius violins.

Made over 250 years ago by Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari, only a few hundred of these million-dollar violins are still in existence, based on the essay.

A fungi-treated violin could provide musicians with accessible instruments made from high quality wood, even when the original material is lost to the past.

“We have tried to replicate many things taken away by climate change, from the exquisite wood of the Stradivarius to the beautiful landscapes of nature. Although we can’t recover everything, researchers like Dr. Schwarze are continuing to find ways to restore the past as we carry on our battle for a more sustainable future,” Araña concludes her essay.

In honor of the top 11 winners, The New York Times published her winning piece last April 29.

About the Author

Aries Oliveros has written textbooks on grammar and creative nonfiction and is currently an executive assistant at the Office of the Executive Director of the Philippine Science High School System – Office of the Executive Director.

He was formerly Chief of the Curriculum and Instruction Division and adviser of the school paper The Central Scholar. He studied Bachelor of Secondary Education, Major in English at Philippine Normal University, Manila.

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