UP NSRI DNA Analysis Laboratory Director
Forensics and Ethnicity Program Director (01 May 2014-30 Apr. 2017)
PhD in Microbiology, The University of New South Wales, 1999
Areas of Current Research: Forensic DNA technology, human population genetics
Dr. Maria Corazon A. De Ungria had spent more than 10 years of her life in Australia training to be a research scientist in the life sciences. Her work on the plasmid biology of Helicobacter spp. used in animal models of infection introduced her into the exciting field of molecular biology. Upon her return to the Philippines, she was immediately appointed as head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the UP Natural Sciences Research Institute where she actively focused on two major areas of study: the validation of molecular procedures for forensic applications (1-23) and the expansion of Philippine population databases in order to better understand the genetic diversity of different Philippine groups (4, 24-38). Dr. De Ungria took this work a step further by participating in several multi-center genetic studies within and outside the Asia-Pacific region (29, 31, 39, 40). Her work generated more than 50,000 SNP data for three regional Philippine populations, one indigenous Philippine group and five Philippine Negrito groups, and was included in the paper that was published by the HUGO-Pan Asia Consortium in Science in 2009 (40). In 2011, she was appointed as the Director of the Program on Forensic and Ethnicity of the Philippine Genome Center, a position she holds concurrently as she continues to be the head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory. With this new appointment, Dr. De Ungria had been tasked to further expand her work in the development of DNA forensics as well as in studying Filipino ethnicities, and to initiate projects with other scientists and universities in order to magnify the benefits of rigorous scientific research in the Philippines.
Dr. De Ungria also focused on utilizing forensic DNA technology to improve the Philippine criminal justice system, to protect the rights of women and children and to maximize the use of science in disaster victim identification. Dr. De Ungria has assisted Philippine courts as an Expert Witness in civil and criminal cases as well as helped draft the Rule on DNA Evidence that was promulgated by the Supreme Court in 2007. This judicial rule which is unique to the Philippines, provides guidance to trial court judges regarding the admissibility, relevance and probative value of DNA evidence.
For her efforts, Dr. De Ungria had been awarded prestigious scientific awards such as the Outstanding Young Scientist awarded by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 2003, the UP Gawad Hall of Fame for Best REPS in Research in 2005, the Outstanding Young Scientist award by the Third World Academy of Science in 2006 as well as being named as one of the regional fellow affiliates of the Academy of Science in the Developing World (TWAS) from 2007-2011. Dr. De Ungria’s type of leadership was further recognized by different sectors that awarded her with The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award in 2005, the Gerry Roxas Leadership Award also in 2005, Asia Society Young Leader Award in 2006, The Outstanding Women in the Nation Service (TOWNS) in 2007 and the one of the Philippine Graphics Young Leaders in 2008.
In 2009, Dr. De Ungria won the search for the Outstanding Woman Researcher in the Life Sciences organized by the Third World Organization of Women Scientists and Elsevier in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr. De Ungria is also working with Drs Jose Lorente and Arthur Eisenberg in promoting the use of DNA to combat child trafficking in the Philippines under the DNA-Prokids initiative. In 2011, Dr. De Ungria was named as one of the two National Fellows of the L’Oreal – UNESCO Women in Science Program. She is currently the Second Secretary of the Quality Assurance and Standard Committee of the Asian Forensic Science Network (AFSN). In 2012, Dr. De Ungria helped launched the Innocence Project Philippines Network that seeks to help inmates in different Philippine penal colonies who claim to have been wrongfully convicted. In 2013, DOST named Dr. De Ungria as a Scientist II awardee for the DOST Science Career System. In 2016, UP promoted Dr. De Ungria to the rank of University Researcher V, the highest research position in UP, once again recognizing her academic achievements as well as her efforts in putting science at the service of society.
- G. Calacal, et al., DNA Tests for Maternity Determination. Acta Medica Philippina 42, 39-42 (2008).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, in Selected Essays on Science and Technology for Securing a better Philippines, G. C. Padilla, E. A. Padlan, C. A. Saloma, Eds. (University of the Philippines Press, Quezon City, 2008), vol. 1, pp. 327-330.
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., Overview of Forensic Services by the UP-NSRI DNA Analysis Laboratory. Acta Medica Philippina 42, 34-38 (2008).
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., Evaluating DNA tests of motherless cases using a Philippine genetic database. Transfusion 42, 954-957 (2002).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, Forensic DNA analysis in criminal and civil cases. Continuing Legal Education Journal 1, 57-72 (2001).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, Forensic DNA analysis in criminal investigations. Philippine Journal of Science 132, 13-19 (2003).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, DNA Evidence in Paternity Cases. Philippine Law Journal 80, 1-11 (2005).
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., Forensic DNA evidence and the death penalty in the Philippines. Forensic Science International: Genetics 2, 329-332 (2008).
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., Resolving ten cases of disputed parentage using a Philippine genetic database. Science Diliman 14, 8-16 (2002).
- F. C. Delfin, B. J. Madrid, M. P. Tan, M. C. A. De Ungria, Y-STR analysis for detection and objective confirmation of child sexual abuse. Int J Legal Med 119, 158-163 (2005).
- J. Gilmore, M. C. A. De Ungria, F. C. Delfin, B. J. Madrid, J. M. A. Ochave, The DNA Manual. An Official Publication of the Child Protection Unit Network (Manila, 2004).
- S. M. Maiquilla et al., Y-STR DNA analysis of 154 female child sexual assault cases in the Philippines. Int J Legal Med 125 817-824 (2011).
- H. B. Perdigon, G. C. Calacal, K. L. Co Seng, S. Halos, M. C. A. De Ungria, Evaluation and in-house validation of five DNA extraction methods for PCR-based STR analysis of bloodstained denims. Science Diliman 16, 37-48 (2004).
- J. M. Salvador, M. C. A. De Ungria, Isolation of DNA from saliva of betel quid chewers using treated cards. J Forensic Sci 48, 794-797 (2003).
- J. M. Salvador, M. C. A. De Ungria, DNA stability of forensic STR markers in FTA-extracted buccal DNA of betel-quid chewers. Oral Oncol 40, 231-232 (2004).
- G. C. Calacal et al., Comparing different post-mortem human samples as DNA sources for downstream genotyping and identification. Forensic Sci Int Genet 19, 212-220 (2015).
- G. C. Calacal, M. C. A. De Ungria, Fungal DNA challenge in human STR typing of bone samples. J Forensic Sci 50, 1394-1401 (2005).
- G. C. Calacal et al., Identification of two fire victims by comparative nuclear DNA typing of skeletal remains and stored umbilical tissues. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 24, 148-152 (2003).
- G. C. Calacal et al., Identification of exhumed remains of fire tragedy victims using conventional methods and autosomal/Y-chromosomal short tandem repeat DNA profiling. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 26, 285-291 (2005).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, Applications of forensic DNA analysis in the Philippines. The Philippine Law Gazette 13, 41-45 (2001).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, in Human Genome: Perspectives and Applications, E. Padilla, P. D. Santos Ocampo, Q. Kintanar, Eds. (Manila, 2004), pp. 49-70.
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., in 7th Indo-Pacific Congress on Legal Medicine and Forensic Science. (Melbourne, Australia, 2001).
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., DNA evidence in Philippine courts: a case report. Philippine Law Gazette 13, 46-49 (2001).
- M. C. A. De Ungria, J. M. Jose, in Genetic Suspects: Global Governance of Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing, R. Hindmarsh, B. Prainsack, Eds. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010), chap. 15.
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., Allele frequencies of 19 STR loci in a Philippine population generated using AmpFlSTR multiplex and ALF singleplex systems. Forensic Sci Int 152, 281-284 (2005).
- M. C. A. De Ungria et al., The Philippine genetic database of Short Tandem Repeats (STR) in DNA-based paternity testing. Philippine Journal of Science 131, 1-8 (2002).
- F. Delfin et al., Complete mtDNA genomes of Filipino ethnolinguistic groups: a melting pot of recent and ancient lineages in the Asia-Pacific region. Eur J Hum Genet 22, 228-237 (2014).
- F. Delfin et al., The Y-chromosome landscape of the Philippines: extensive heterogeneity and varying genetic affinities of Negrito and non-Negrito groups. Eur J Hum Genet 19, 224-230 (2011).
- R. Lessig et al., Asian online Y-STR Haplotype Reference Database. Leg Med (Tokyo) 5 Suppl 1, S160-163 (2003).
- S. M. B. Maiquilla et al., Expansion of the Philippine Autosomal Short Tandem Repeat Population Dabatase for DNA-based Paternity Testing. Philippine Journal of Science 140, 1-6 (2011).
- J. Purps et al., A global analysis of Y-chromosomal haplotype diversity for 23 STR loci. Forensic Science International: Genetics 12, 12-23 (2014).
- J. J. R. B. Rodriguez, J. M. Salvador, G. C. Calacal, R. P. Laude, M. C. A. De Ungria, Allele frequencies of 23 Autosomal Short Tandem Repeat Loci in the Philippine Population. Legal Medicine 17, 295-297 (2015).
- J. M. Salvador, G. C. Calacal, L. P. Villamor, M. C. A. De Ungria, Allele frequencies for two pentanucleotide STR loci Penta D and Penta E in a Philippine population. Leg Med (Tokyo) 9, 282-283 (2007).
- J. M. Salvador, K. A. Tabbada, M. C. A. De Ungria, Population data of 10 Y-chromosomal STR Loci in Cebu province, Central Visayas (Philippines). J Forensic Sci 53, 256-258 (2008).
- K. A. Tabbada et al., Development of a pentaplex X-chromosomal short tandem repeat typing system and population genetic studies. Forensic Sci Int 154, 173-180 (2005).
- K. A. Tabbada et al., Allele frequencies of eight short tandem repeat loci in three Visayas regional populations of the Philippines. J Forensic Sci 47, 1397-1398 (2002).
- K. A. Tabbada et al., Philippine mitochondrial DNA diversity: a populated viaduct between Taiwan and Indonesia? Mol Biol Evol 27, 21-31 (2010).
- M. M. Tan, G. C. Calacal, F. C. Delfin, L. Roewer, M. C. A. De Ungria, Y chromosome STR allele frequency distribution among Filipino males in the NCR for Forensic Applications. Philippine Journal of Science 132, 95-101 (2003).
- K. N. Ballantyne et al., Towards male individualization with rapidly mutating Y-chromosomal STRs. Hum Mutat 35, 1021-1032 (2014).
- HUGO Pan-Asia Consortium et al., Mapping human genetic diversity in Asia. Science 326, 1541-1545 (2009).