HER FIRST CHAPTER
Growing up in the Philippines, Annie Cruz was no stranger to scientific events. Earthquakes were a common occurrence, but fear of these events turned into fascination once she could read. "I could finally understand where the earthquakes were coming from and I was riveted. From there, I started exploring everything around me, whether it was photos of cross-sections of the earth or the parts of the flowers in my family's garden."
Annie credits her family for her love of reading. "Both my parents and my aunt were teachers, and I have another aunt that was a librarian, so there was no way I was going to be anything other than a perpetual student." She continues,
"I REMEMBER WHEN MY MOM, A READING TEACHER, WOULD COACH HER STUDENTS. I WOULD BE THERE IN THE BACKGROUND, PEEKING, LOOKING, LISTENING."
Over time, Annie became part of the teaching experience when her mom began testing out new lessons on her to decide if they were the right level of difficulty. Her dad, a shop teacher and avid gardener, would bring books home from work and let her borrow them, as literature was in short supply in their rural town. "Growing up in the Philippines you don't get a lot of access to books and I had never seen these books before. It was very exciting. Most people don't ever have those kinds of resources handed to them, so I was extremely lucky that I did." Her dad even tried to pass along his skills in the garden. She laughs, "I learned what to plant but I did not inherit his green thumb."
While education was very important in Annie's family, leaving the country to obtain it was not common. So, for many years she continued her education in the Philippines, eventually pursuing her masters in Chemistry at the University of the Philippines.
A professor in her doctorate program, however, inspired her to think about broader opportunities. Annie began exploring schools in Australia and the United States until finally she decided to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "My dad was not happy, as he wanted me to settle in the Philippines, but at the time it was very difficult to conduct research there. The kinds of experiments you could consider were very limited - mostly very simple purification processes. The problems that I wanted to solve needed more finesse ... and high powered equipment that wasn't available there." Promising her parents she would return, she set off to finish her doctorate.
"My intention was to leave and learn and then bring what I learned back to the Philippines. I planned to return and either teach or continue with research."