Five years ago, he almost failed his first long exam in Math 17.

Five years later, he goes out to the world – on top of his class, a multi-awarded UP Diliman Summa Cum Laude with a degree in BS Chemical Engineering.

That exam marked the beginning of changes in the life of Alexander John Cruz. He thought he would be crawling his way towards his graduation after he received the result of that Math 17 exam. Before the exam, he was confident that he would get top scores. The results, however, betrayed his confidence. He was very disappointed. He remembered arriving at Kalayaan Residence Hall, his dormitory, without the slightest idea how he got there. He had a lot of concerns back then. Financial problems. Homesickness. Academic loads. A low exam score was the last thing he wanted. It was a humbling experience for Alex but it was also a moment that would eventually affect the rest of his life in UP. He was determined not to experience the same thing again.

Before the next examinations, Alex photocopied and reviewed all of the sample exams he can get his hands on. He dedicated his time and effort to avoid another frustrating score. He prepared. True enough, when the results of the following exam arrived, he did not just get a perfect score. It was more than perfect – 110 percent due to bonus points.

Alex came to realize the power of perseverance and commitment. That enabled him to give the best that he can give. Whenever he is struggling, he always pictures his family to remind him why he is studying and why he is persevering. His mindset allowed him to develop a focused character – something that helped him deal with the challenges that he faced in the future.

A few years later, some of his friends introduced Alex to the PIChE Quiz Bowl, a chemical engineering quiz bee. He began to dream of representing the university in different national competitions after that. He worked diligently to excel in his academics which paid off when he became part of the UP Diliman ChE Quiz Bowl Team in 2012. That year, the Quiz Bowl Team won the championship of the UP ACES – MCL Inter University ChE Quiz Bowl with the help of his team’s coaches, Asst. Prof. Jay R Adolacion and Engr. Kristian July Yap along with the rest of the Department of Chemical Engineering. His team placed second and third during the 2013 and 2014 PIChE Quiz Bowl, respectively. Aside from the ChE team, Alex was also part of another team who won third and first places in the 2013 and 2014 Intercollegiate Engineering Science Quiz, respectively.

The toughest challenge for Alex in the University though was his thesis during his last year in UP. With his group mates Reynaldo Marquez Jr. and Florence Jane Zurbano, he worked on a thesis that aims to provide an alternative source of energy using water and light. The study was titled “Design, Optimization and Field Testing of a Plasma-Enhanced Optic Fiber Reactor for Hydrogen Production via Visible Light-Driven Photocatalytic Water-Splitting”.

The idea for the study originated from the Chemical Engineering Department Chair, Dr. Rizalinda de Leon. With the help of advisers and instructors, especially Engr. Hyacinth Mae Tambago, from the Department and from the National Institute of Physics and the Institute of Biology, Alex’s team was able to see their project to completion.

The study won several awards including the BPI Best Project of the Year Award, International Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Special Citation for a Science Project, first place in the PIChE National Undergraduate Research Competition, and UP College of Engineering Undergraduate Project Competition second runner up.

Despite being an achiever, Alex believes that life is not just about medals, plaques and incentives. He knows that with his success comes the responsibility to help the country and to give back to the Filipino people in whatever way he can. In his case, he can contribute by being a catalyst for national progress through scientific innovation.

In the end, Alex proved that failure and disappointments are not hindrances to success. With perseverance and dedication to one’s dreams, even the lowest of scores cannot prevent one from reaching the heaven. When faced with challenges, he encourages everyone not to give up but to get back on track and to remember that we can all make an impact that can change the world.