Ateneo Physics Student and BPI-DOST Science Awardee Sarah Jaye C. Oliva wins First Place in the video contest of Optical Society of America

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

After receiving the BPI-DOST Science Award Last 4 March 2013 at Escaler Hall in Ateneo de Manila University for her work on “Optical wavelength tuning using a fluidic grating” under Dr. Raphael Guerrero, BS Physics with Materials Science Student Sarah Jaye C. Oliva won again another award this year. Sarah won First Place in the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest for the Students Category by the Optical Society of America (OSA). According to PRWeb:

Sarah Jaye Oliva, a graduate student at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, clinched first place in the student contest for her video “Black and White,” which describes the simple, but ingenious product enabled by optics—the laser barcode scanner. The video describes how the technology uses optics and the science of colors to do its valuable job.

Below is an interview with Sarah Oliva by the Ateneo Physics News. The interview on the BPI-DOST Science Award was held last March 20, 2013, while that on the OAS Award was done last November 22, 2013.

Ateneo Physics student Sarah Jaye Oliva during the awarding ceremony for the BPI-DOST Science Award at the Escaler Hall, Ateneo de Manila University, last March 4, 2013.

Ateneo Physics student Sarah Jaye Oliva during the awarding ceremony for the BPI-DOST Science Award at the Escaler Hall, Ateneo de Manila University, last March 4, 2013.

A. THE BPI-DOST SCIENCE AWARD

Date of interview: November 22, 2013

1. Can you describe what your work is all about?

A grating is an optical element—it is like what you find on the back side of your CD. You notice that when you move the CD around, you see colors around it. That is how the diffraction grating works. The white light is bent at different angles for different colors so you see a rainbow. Our fluidic grating is made of a polymer chamber and inside it is filled with water, in contrast to hard lenses which are made of glass. Our setup allows us to change the properties of the grating by controlling the volume of the water inside. By injecting more liquid into it, the grating gets stretched and effectively changing the grating spacing and how the colors are bent.

Optical wavelength is in the range of hundreds of nanometers. Tuning means I can control what wavelength of light I want as an output. In a sense, it is like tuning a radio: you change the frequency you want to listen to. But in our work, we changed the water volume to change the wavelength output. The wavelength and frequency are inversely related to each other with the speed of light as proportionality constant.

2. Is this idea new?

To the best of our knowledge, tuning using fluidic grating is novel research. There are other studies in related literature using fluidic lenses. There are also others with grating and lens setups, but we haven’t come across research that has a grating and lens in one element. A part of our work was already published in Applied Optics 2012, but only the first part–the variable diffraction part. In this set of experiments, we also use the fluidic grating. We used monochromatic lasers and a white light source for our tuning experiments.

BPI-DOST Science Awardees for 2013. From left to right: Nikita P. Bacalzo, Jr. (BS/MS Chemistry), Sarah Jaye C. Oliva (BS Physics with Materials Science and Engineering), and Napoleon Salvador B. Antonio (BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering)

BPI-DOST Science Awardees for 2013. From left to right: Nikita P. Bacalzo, Jr. (BS/MS Chemistry), Sarah Jaye C. Oliva (BS Physics with Materials Science and Engineering), and Napoleon Salvador B. Antonio (BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering)

3. How were you chosen as BPI awardee?

It started when my adviser told me to fill up some forms and prepare a write-up of what I have done so far. This was about October last year. And then as the semester ended, we were called for an oral presentation in front of a panel of judges from different Ateneo departments. By then they had narrowed down the list to six finalists. There were six of us who did the oral presentation. After that the judges and the SOSE (School of Science and Engineering) dean narrowed down the list further and chose the three finalists of the Ateneo. Each school from the ten partner schools of the DOST chooses three finalists. From this pool of 30 students, BPI-DOST shortlists six who shall compete for the project of the year award; the 30 of them already get the BPI-DOST awards. The six do another oral presentation for the project of the year award in in addition to the science award. I did not make it to the topi 6. It was Napoleon Salvador Antonio of Chemistry who made it to the Top 6.

4. Is it true that you only shifted to physics?

I started college as a BS in Applied Mathematical Major in Mathematical Finance (AMF). After a year of discerning, I decided to shift to physics. Even though I love math, I am not into business related things and essentially that is where AMF seems to be directed to. i decided that i want to pursue science. It is a childhood thing. All the science books and discovery shows sparked my interest as a kid. And out of the different sciences it was physics that I really got interested the most because of my physics high school teacher who taught it well. I am from St. Joseph’s School in Naga City in Bicol. It is a small Filipino-Chinese school. My physics teacher is Mr. Jodel Maomay. And so I shifted. By second year, i was officially a physics student.

5. You met some Ateneo Physics department before you shifted?

I met my physics teachers after I already shifted. I talked to Dr. Benjamin Chan. But before that I talked to upper class physics majors for some of them are my org mates. They were encouraging. They wanted me to get in.

6. I see that your mother came all the way here. How long does it take to go here from Bicol?

It is only an hour by plane and about eight hours on the road—sometimes extended a little bit to ten hours. I am the eldest of three girls.

7. Any parting words?

Looking back, I remembered how scared I was to shift out of the AMF program and into a world of the unknown. I knew a lot of people from AMF, but not in Physics. It was a new thing to me, considering that I only met Physics in the last year of high school, unlike Math which I took since way back. But I am glad I took a leap of faith to pursue what I wanted. Physics is difficult. I knew this before I shifted, but I know I love it. I have the motivation to persevere in this field and do my best here despite the challenge.

Congratulations to Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Oliva for winning the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest of the Optical Society of America for the Student Category.

Congratulations to Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Oliva for winning the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest of the Optical Society of America for the Student Category.

B. OPTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA (OSA) AWARD

Date of Interview: November 22, 2013

1. How did you know about the contest?

I am a member of the Optical Society of America. So I receive the member newsletter. That is where I read about it. There was another video contest a year ago which I also planned to join. Since I let it pass last year, I thought I might as well do it this time around. I made it happen.

2. Who thought about the concept?

Me. My boss (Dr. Raphael Guerrero) didn’t know about it until the results came out. It was Summer. He was out of the country that time. I did it on my own.

3. How did you know that you won?

They informed me by email, but I can’t remember when that was. I think that was about three months after the contest closed. At first, I was unbelieving, because I don’t know the email address. It could be anyone. They told me that they unanimously chose my entry. I was shocked. At that time I already forgot about it. I thought I didn’t win. And they told me to not share the news first. They wanted to announce it properly when the time came. So I didn’t tell anyone about it until they publicized it. That was when I told Sir Guerrero and that was when he learned about it.

4. Did you go to the US for the awarding?

I was not able to go. They invited me to come over for the awarding. But the awarding was right in the middle of the exam week first semester. So I told them I cant. There are also other problems: I don’t have a visa and stuff like that.

5. Is there a cash award?

There should be. I haven’t received it because just last week, I think, they had me answer some forms for the release of the check.

6. Can you summarize what you did in your work?

In my work, I can’t remember the actual phrasing of the theme. It is like how optics is at work in everyday life. And I chose to explain how a barcode scanner works. I explained it by relating it to what people know. So I related it to the common perception on clothes. How white clothes are cooler than darker colored clothes which I related to heat. And from there, it is quite a leap, I explained that the barcode scanner, at the very fundamental level, works in the same way as that. Light or heat (either way) is absorbed by dark colors and reflected by light colors, which forms a wave that is read by the computers. That is how the barcode information gets transferred to a computer. That is pretty much it. I think I won because I kept it simple. The other videos were too technical for me. I think that whole point of the video contest is to explain optics and science to non-science people. That is why I related it to what people experience.

Actually, the original instruction in the contest was to take apart a common item and explain how it works. But I don’t have a barcode scanner to take apart. That is why I did the drawing. At the end of the day, I also decided that drawing would appeal more to non-science people than to an actual video of something. In the video there there are many things going on. There is the background and there is you speaking . It is easier to direct people’s attention when you are drawing. And when I did that video, it was just my second stop motion video. The first one I did a week before. As you can see from the video. It is still a little rusty.

Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Jaye Oliva gives a lecture on her work on optical wavelength tuning with fluidic grating.  This work, which awarded for her the BPI-DOST Science Award, was published in Applied Optics 2012, a journal of the Optical Society of America (OSA).

7. What software did you use?

Software! I used Windows Live Movie Maker. Freeware. I used movie maker plus my video with my phone, an iPhone.

8. How long did it take you to make those videos?

I spent an afternoon drawing and taking the photos. And then an evening editing them. I actually did it fast. I did it in one run, one take in everything. I was lazy to take retakes. A day before the deadline, I already had the plan. I could see the plan and how I would do it in my head. I had a plan for several weeks already, but I executed it at the last minute.

9. You read a script or did you just explain as you go along?

By the script. I recorded it separately after I did the editing. I recorded the audio on top of it.

10. Are there other video contests you are planning to work on?

No. I haven’t heard of any other contests. I think I was just lucky that time because of the very rough editing and rough medium. It was lucky to have won that. I’ll try again next year.

11. Are you making more videos now?

No. I stopped there. I haven’t done other videos after that nor am I thinking of doing of something like that. It is actually challenging. It looks easy to do, but it is not, because I really thought of what device to explain and how I can relate that to people. And the easiest way is to visually explain it. There was a lot of planning into it in my head. It never materialized until the last moment.

12. Maybe you have a knack for teaching?

Actually, it got me to thinking when I finished. I always think of teaching as something we know. You teach when you relate it to something your students already know. I never really got to think of it more seriously until I did this video. For one, I appreciate teachers who were able to teach that way. And somehow I am thinking about maybe I can do that, too. I don’t know. Maybe.

13. Are you taking graduate school right now?

No, sir. Fifth year MSE (Materials Science Engineering).

14. How are your career plans?

Grad school. Not sure where. Abroad if I get a good scholarship. Hopefully.

15. Any parting thoughts?

Just go for it. I had that regret last year. I didn’t join the video contest that was held last year. When I saw the entries afterward, there were too few who joined. I was thinking: I can top that. I can do better than that. And then this year I was a little scared. When I submitted the video, I didn’t look at the other videos. I just submitted. I might lose faith. When the contest was over, I looked over the other entries. There were so many of them. What is my chance? And I am the only one who did the drawing. Everyone had real devices with them. So I really thought I did not have a chance. I think just go for it.

Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero is NAST Outstanding Young Scientist and TWAS Prize awardee for 2013

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero and Dr. Liane Pena Alampay

NAST Outstanding Young Scientist Awardees of Ateneo de Manila University: Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero of Physics and Dr. Liane Peña Alampay of Psychology. Dr. Raphael Guerrero also received the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize for Young Scientist in the Philippines.

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero received two awards from the National Academy of Sciences (NAST) Philippines during its 35th Annual Scientific Meeting last 10-11 July 2013 at the Manila Hotel: Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) and Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize. The NAST OYS award is “given to young Filipino scientists…who have made significant contributions to science and technology.” Dr. Guerrero is one of the nine awardees. The NAST TWAS Prize, on the other hand, “is an award given to outstanding young Filipino scientist by the Academy (NAST) and TWAS in the field of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics.” The TWAS award has the same age requirement as that of the OYS award. For the year 2013, the TWAS award was Dr. Raphael Guerrero:

 For 2013, the award is given to outstanding individual in the field of Physics. Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero of the Ateneo de Manila University was declared recipient of the said award, in recognition of his important studies on volume holographic storage and animation which offers a new holographic method for storing multiple pages of data in a nonlinear crystal and his works on the diffraction from relief gratings on a biomimetic elastomer cast from the carapace of a beetle found in Mindanao, Philippines, which have contributed significantly to the visibility of Philippine physics within the global community of scientists.

The other NAST OYS awardee is Dr. Liane Pena-Alampay of the Department of Psychology (see the related news story at the Loyola Schools website).  Below is an an interview with Dr. Raphael Guerrero by the Ateneo Physics News.

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero in his office at the Photonics Laboratory in Faura Hall

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero in his office at the Photonics Laboratory in Faura Hall

Question 1: Can you tell us more about the award?

I was awarded Outstanding Young Scientist by the NAST, the highest recognition and advisory body regarding S&T in the country. NAST is a body consisting of the premier minds of science in the Philippines. The President of the Philippines listens to the recommendations of NAST. The awarding process started July 11, 2013. Last November 2, the nomination forms and supporting documents were submitted for those who wish to get the award for 2013. The notification letters came by the fourth week of May. It was six months of waiting. There was a screening committee for the Outstanding Young Scientists. They asked me to submit other requirements: descriptions of scientific accomplishments and other stuff needed to get a background on what I do as a scientist.

Question 2. How long have you been in Ateneo?

I started teaching in the second semester of SY 2000-2001. That was 13 years ago. I had just received my master’s degree from UP that April. After a semester of being a research associate at NIP, I decided to give teaching a try. Back then, I walked up to the third floor. The chair was Dr. Holdsworth. I inquired about the possibility of teaching in the department. Luckily, the department was actually looking for an instructor. After submitted my documents, they gave me a load. My load was interesting: I taught all majors for Ps 171 (Classical Electrodynamics I), Ps 113 (Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics), and Ps 102 (Classical Mechanics II). Not bad for someone teaching for the first time.

I gave a demonstration lecture. I remember that Gemma Narisma, Ivan Culaba, Obiminda Cambaliza, and Joel Maquiling were part of the audience. We had not really met at that point in time. I gave a demo on diffraction from a slit. It was in F304. I did not notice anybody else or maybe I was scheduled at a different time. I’m not sure if there were other new faculty.

Question 3. What was your career background?

I went to UP Rural High School. It is the official high school of UP Los Baños located next door to my elementary school. After high school, I always wanted to go to UP Diliman. I applied for their Physics program at UP Diliman, a pure physics program. It was a five-year course. (I work mostly on Applied Physics these days.) In 1998, I entered the laser physics lab in my 3rd year doing work on photorefractive crystals. In that same year, I graduated after performing work on Bismuth Silicon Oxide type of photorefractive crystal requiring 5 kV applied voltage. It was the first demo of volume data storage in the Philippines. Back then, it was the best you can possibly do. Holography was still in infancy in the late 1990s. After graduation, I felt I learned nothing from my BS degree, so I took up master’s degree in UP Diliman. It took two years. Different crystals, but still on volume holography and Lithium Niobate. I obtained my masters degree in 2004. Getting a PhD was longer.

I took a break for a semester before proceeding to the PhD program in UP. I started the PhD program while teaching in Ateneo. I mostly teach a series of electives The biggest challenge was coming up with an original work published. After some awkward first few years of trying to find a suitable topic, I was able to publish an article on pattern recognition, still using Lithium Niobate and volume holography. It was accepted June 2004. I graduated with PhD in Physics in 2005. This was while I was teaching full time in Ateneo. In 4.5 years, a Ph.D. can be done full time.

After obtaining the third degree, I was no longer interest in postdoctoral study. It is not something programmed into me. I became busy improving the research capabilities of the Photonics Laboratory in Ateneo. In Physics, we can generate ISI-indexed publications.

I received funding from government over a course of several projects. Previously, the Photonics Laboratory was focused on optical fibers and semiconductor diode lasers. That was the laboratory I saw in 2001 which I inherited under Dr. Holdsworth. Today, the laboratory is mostly on elastomeric optics using PDMS or polydimethylsiloxane, commonly known as silicones. We also have the only working volume in holography set-up in the country. The technology was transplanted from the National Institute of Physics (NIP) to here at the Department of Physics of the Ateneo de Manila University.

In 2005, Ateneo made me assistant professor. No big deal, after getting your PhD. After four years of working and generating papers, I became Associate Professor in 2009, still teaching full time. And here we are in 2013–still teaching, still in the same office.

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero with his family

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero with his family

Question 4. What led you into physics?

My parents are trying to figure that one out. After the awarding, we were getting coffee and they were just talking, reminiscing whether there were any signs I would go into science. My father, Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, is a famous man of science. He developed the method of increasing the productivity of the tilapia industry using the sex reversal technique. He is a legend. His science helped people get food. It is a really important piece of technology. My mother, of course, is a talented zoologist. These fields are loosely related to experimental physics.

I guess, when I was growing up, I remember my father going on trips giving lectures, seminars. Each time he would come home with a souvenir and a toy. All the toys are science-based. The rocket would be launched via water pressure. A He-Man flashlight which you pumped with your hand. There are also Chemistry toys, but I never liked chemistry. I had two telescopes. I had a lot of toys that deals with science in high school.

When we were choosing courses, I joked that that the hardest course in the list is UPCAT. Physics was good. Molecular Biology and Biotechnology were hot, really hot in early ‘90s, but people didn’t know what they were. Physics just sounded really good, so I went to UP Los Baños for Applied Physics. I saw the people working in the farm — that was not really inspiring to me. So I decided to pursue physics. Diliman was the flagship school of UP, the only UP branch that offered physics, and I really wanted to go to Diliman. UPLB was not cool enough for me.

And in the ‘90s, there was MacGyver. He was known for figuring out and solving problems and helping people. There was amazing physics in MacGyver. It was something to do, but in the end it was still a mystery. I don’t know why I went to this field. Interesting. Maybe it’s because people are impressed by physics majors, though scientists find that hard to believe.

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero and his toy collection

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero and his toy collection

Question 5. Can you tell us about your toys?

Well, they say men never really grow up. I might be the best example of that. Some men have sports cars as toys. Some guys a high-end computers. I just stuck with actual toys. My collection is not random. Some are based on comic characters I resonated with, on stories from Marvel and DC. Like growing up I bought toys and statuettes in some cases, portrayed them in some cases, because the stories are nice. Buying a toy is my way of commemorating how important they were to me growing up. Also with a regular salary, it is easier to buy toys. I was able to buy Voltes V in die-cast metal that I did not get one Christmas. Voltes-V costs a lot of money back then. It costs even more now. It was a lost opportunity; I could have bought it before. Anything that I find interesting that I can afford these days, I look for bargains. I also have a collection of comics in high school, and I never stopped. It has become a major investment in money and space. I have several shelves dedicated to graphic novels. The boxes of comic books increase in number every year. Cliché in Big Bang Theory. That is my life right there. Interesting hobby. Very interesting way to spend your time collecting mementos and reading these fantastic stories.

I give my students a false sense of security in PS1 and PS11. I always start the class with a broad description of physics — really interesting, such as Star Wars, using it after every sentence. that is the fun part of the semester: light sabers, star destroyers, or faster than light travel. They all have physics in them, but no syllabus. I find it really difficult to lecture physics. How I wish I could inject a Star Wars into every lecture. With both content and time constraint, this is not feasible.

6. You travel a lot?

Not as much as I would like to travel for free. I have been lucky having visited many countries because of my physics background–attending conferences, being invited or participating in a certain function. I have a checklist of countries. Egypt, 2008. I am specifically looking forward to a conference in Cairo. I found a military college in Egypt which gave me an excuse to visit Egypt, with support from the University. Subsidized conference expenses. It would be worth it to touch the great pyramids, inhale the dust of Giza Plateau. In Italy, Rome was nice. I was able to see the David sculpture of Michaelangelo. I was able to take a picture of – you are not supposed to do that. I went to Japan several times. US, of course, is my favorite destination for the shopping and for the sheer size of the conferences in optics. Largest Optics Cnference is the SPIE conference in San Diego. It runs for several days. The research areas in optics were vast, so vast that they have become subsections. The plenary talks were from Nobel laureates were humbling and inspiring. Just to mingle with those optical scientists proved inspiring.

Every year I try to go abroad. But I still have to go to Paris. I want to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Taj Mahal. I want to know what is like to travel in another Third World country. I want to go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, though my wife is terrified of possibly catching diseases. I wish to go to the Great Wall of China. I have not seen in years.

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero with his graduate and undergraduate thesis students at the Photonics Laboratory

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero with his graduate and undergraduate thesis students at the Photonics Laboratory

7. Are there other things you wish to add?

I want to thank the department for providing me such a welcoming and supportive home for my professional career. Many faculty members here have become my close friends. I am lucky to be part of the faculty in Ateneo. Ateneo trusted me with a load of teaching these college kids. It feels like it’s a privilege and an honor to be part of this institution. I am very grateful to the Department of Physics, which really supported through these past thirteen years in my accomplishments, awards, publications, action figures, although all that would not have been possible without the support of the university.

8. What are you visions or plans for the Photonics Laboratory?

We talked about this, Pope (Quirino Sugon Jr.). I wish getting published in a journal were easier. Over the next five years, we will have every graduate thesis in Photonics translated in tons of ISI-indexed articles. I plan to translate these into articles this year for all of my graduate students. I would also like to increase the output of papers. Hopefully, we can increase the average number of paper published from one paper a year to two papers a year. I would like to apply for lots of big projects, or maybe buy bigger light sources and lasers and other equipment the lab needs to proceed with research output. I plan to increase publications output. Well, it is still the same goal I had five years ago.

9. Do you have any message to our physics students?

I wish you all the best! I hope physics is as good to you as it is to me. I have been very, very lucky that physics has had to do with my success up to this point, and I hope you will fully enjoy the adventure as physics majors as much as I did. Don’t lose hope! There is a future in physics. You just have to find it.

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero and Dr. Liane Pena-Alampay with the administrators of Ateneo de Manila University

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero and Dr. Liane Pena-Alampay with the administrators of NAST and Ateneo de Manila University

Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Eduardo Cuansing, Jr.: The journey from Creative Writing to Theoretical Physics

Dr. Eduardo Cuansing, Jr. giving a lecture on electron-phonon interaction

Dr. Eduardo Cuansing, Jr. giving a lecture on electron-phonon interaction

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Dr. Eduardo Cuansing Jr. is a new faculty of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University. He obtained his BS Physics degree from the University of the Philippines, Diliman and his PhD Physics from Purdue University. His undergraduate thesis was on non-Abelian Gauge theories and his doctoral dissertation was on critical phenomena. He did postdoctoral research work at the University of Pittsburgh on the theory of vortices in high-temperature superconductors and at the National University of Singapore on the quantum transport of electrons and phonons. He has recently moved to the Department of Physics, Ateneo de Manila University. This 5 August 2013, he will give a talk entitled, “Electron and phonon transport in nonequilibrium many-body quantum systems with dynamic forces and components.” Below is an interview with Dr. Eduardo Cuansing, Jr. by the Ateneo Physics News:

Question 1. What was your career track?

I studied in Tay Tung High School in Bacolod City. Actually, I passed in Philippine Science High School, but my parents did not allow me to go. I was also accepted in the Ateneo Chemical Engineering and Management Engineering programs, but I studied instead at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City.

I like science. I like to write. So I asked my self, “Why not Creative Writing?”After one year, I went to the University of Philippines-Diliman as a Creative Writing major. I was thinking of writing science fiction novels as a career, though I did’nt know yet that I needed to take Chemistry and Physics to do this. Then I met Prof. Yanga in Natural Science 1 in UP Diliman. He convinced me to shift to physics. After one year in Creative Writing, I shifted to physics and then finished my degree. I worked with Dr. Magpantay for my thesis on non-Abelian gauge theories.

I went to the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy for the diploma program in high energy physics. After that I moved to Purdue University for my PhD. in Physics. In Purdue I did research on Statistical Mechanics and Critical Phenomena. Dissertation with Hisao Nakanishi. After that I moved to University of Pittsburg to work with Yadin Goldschmidt. I was a postdoctoral fellow and we were working on the physics of vortices in high Tc superconductor. I went back to the Philippines and taught at De La Salle University for two years and two trimesters. Then I went to the National University of Singapore. In the first two years I was at the Physics department working with Jian-Sheng Wang on thermal transport in quantum systems. After that I had another postdoctorate, but this time in Electrical Engineering with Albert Liang on electron transport in quantum devices. So finally, after three postdoctorate fellowships, I decided that it was time for me to go back to the Philippines and go to Ateneo de Manila University. Why Ateneo? Ateneo is semestral unlike DLSU which is trimestral. I prefer the semestral system. Ateneo is also close to UP; I can collaborate with people in UP. And the environment in Ateneo is a university setting compared to other universities. Academic setting is more conductive for thinking and doing research.

That is how I went from Tay Tung High School to Ateneo de Manila University. It is a long path. But you know, sometimes you go with the flow. You may also try to find your position, but sometimes you cannot prevent but just go with the flow. There are things that you cannot control.

Carbon nanotube transistor and a graphene transistor

Carbon nanotube transistor and a graphene transistor

Question 2: What research do you intend to work here in Ateneo?

Right now I am working on quantum transport in really small devices that are small versions of existing ones like transistors or RF receivers and things like that. I am also working on devices that haven’t existed yet, something new. I wish to study how electrons, phonons, or photons and other quantum particles would travel in these really small quantum systems, and how we can manipulate their motions. I wish to take advantage of their properties. Right now I am specifically looking at time dependent behavior of these systems. It is a hot topic. But normally what has been done is on steady state and not on time dependent state. That is, you let the system evolve for a long time and then study the characteristic of the system after this long time. This is the steady state of the system. But what I would like to study is really the real-time behavior of the system. For example, if you have a cellphone, there is a signal impinging on your device. That signal is time-dependent and not steady state. What is the physics of this time-dependent process? There are attempts to study this. It is a very difficult topic. It needs a long of hard work with the help of computers. One advantage for researchers nowadays is the existence of really powerful and cheap computers. We could take advantage of that. Problems that are difficult to solve 20 years ago we can now actually find a numerical solution using these powerful computers.

In quantum transport specifically, I am looking at electrons moving in a system where there are phonons which will carry energy as heat or internal energy. So when an electron interacts with a phonon, what happens? Will the electron slow down? Will they influence the phonons? Will they heat up? Can we make sense of these energies by doing computations? Can we direct energy to another place, to another part of the system? I also wish to find devices involving electron transport that haven’t been discovered yet. I guess the main title for what I am working is time-dependt quantum transport.

There are also questions if you have photons. Photons impinging on your system will interact with the electrons. What will happen to the electron? If the electron absorbs the photon, the electron will increase in energy. In these devices, there are energy barriers like the ones discussed in undergraduate Quantum Mechanics. When particles are moving into a barrier, you either get reflected or transmitted waves. If you have particles with high energy, the transmission is better compared to a particle with that of a slower one. If the particles have energy below that of the energy barrier, the particles can tunnel through; it is going to be difficult for the electron to pass. If you have a photon interacting with an electron, there will be more energy. What happens to things like these? If you shine light on this quantum system, what will happen? What if the light is time-varying? Can we control how the electron moves? Can we have photon-dependent transistors on nanowires?

Now, there is also the question of Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics. Students may be interested on the open questions on these fields. But solving these questions are more difficult since they are more mathematical. But we can make use of some empirical methods in quantum transport to construct theorems in non-equlibrium systems.

If a student is interested in both quantum transport and non-equilibrium thermodynamics, and he is also interested in computers, then he can apply numerical analysis and programming. Some mathematical problems that were difficult to solve 20 years like triple and multiple integrals can now be solved numerically. We can also apply computers when the system has disorder. There is no good way to analytically treat the system unless disorder is Gaussian, which is not interesting. Computers are actually actually the best used when there is disorder. If you are just interested in theory, then you can also do this.

Question. 3. What are the system requirements for the computers that you need?

Nowadays, we have powerful computers that are cheap, such as quad core I7 costing about Php 30,000. This computer has four processors that are active which you can program in parallel, unlike five years ago when you only have a single core Pentium IV, unlike five years ago when you only have Pentium IV that has only one core. If you have a program, it is 3 gigahertz per CPU. With quad core i7, you can run four programs at the same time or run four calculations at the same time. The program is faster. It is not necessarily four times faster, but definitely faster than one computer alone. It all depends on the programmer.

Programming parallel computers is different from programming serial computers. It is really an art to make good parallel programs that are fast. This means the programs scale linearly with the number of processors. But if you have unlimited resources, you would want to have a supercomputer. But our resources are limited. So we use I7 and a Linux cluster consisting of desktop computers. The one thing nice is the software part: you can make a cluster just by using Linux, not with windows. The Windows OS is expensive and unstable. Linux is best when you want to do clustering of computers.

In my research I use Linux. And I use Fortran and C++ to write my programs. These have languages subroutines or libraries available in the internet that you can download. These libraries were programmed by experts in computer science, so they are really good. For example, if you want to program in linear algebra, it is numerically more efficient if you download the linear algebra package. This is written by computer scientists in University of Tennessee using Fortran 77. But you can use Fortran 90 to make calls to Fortran 77 libraries. You can also use C++ to call Fortran libraries. But just take note that there are differences. For example, in arrays, C++ counts from 0 to n-1, while Fortran counts from 1 to n. Thus, if you want to pass an array or matrix in C++ to Fortran, you must be careful with the language differences before interfacing them.

I prefer to use Fortran. There are libraries in Fortran. Translation is correct donw not have to make sure. But if you know how to program in C++, then you can learn how to program in Fortran. The Fortran compilers are included in Linux, so you don’t have to buy any compiler. I don’t do much graphics, unlike people in Atmospheric Science and Meteorology where they need good graphics. For may cases, we don’t deal with graphics that much. We only calculate integrals and solutions to differential equations for simulations of disordered systems. But for graphics, the requirement is not that high. We only need powerful number-crunching computers.

Question 4. What are you teaching right now?

Ps 52 for sophomore physics majors and Ps21 for sophomore computer science majors. Well, we only met for few weeks. So far the students are attentive and well-behaved. They participate in class. I like the students. But you know it is just a few weeks. The rest of the semester we will see how they would perform. But I think I have high hopes for the physics majors. They are really interested in physics. I am inspired to continue doing things more about physics, even if we are just in the sophomore level. So I try to add as many advanced physics flavors to the class. I am not requiring them to understand everything such as photons, general relativity, and quantum mechanics that we discuss in class but are not part of the syllabus. These are just flavors to get them more curious about advanced topics and learn more on their own, and hopefully inspire them to continue in physics.

The Computer Science students are also ok. I am interested in computing and I can relate to their interests. I am also interested in playing games. The students of this generation studied computers with ipad, iphone, and so on. Most of them are exposed to games. You cannot avoid to not to let them play games. In talking about projectile motion, I use the physics of Angry Birds. The question is this: how do you calculate the angle and height of the projectile? I told my students that they can write their own prototype of the Angry Birds game using the physics we are learning in class. I always try to relate physics to computer science and computing.

I am also teaching Classical Mechanics in Graduate School and in Undergraduate tutorials. So far, it is doing well. Classical mechanics is an important part of a physics student’s education. All the methods such as the Lagrangian, Hamiltonian, and the Principle of Least Action are also used in Quantum Mechanics, Field Theory, Electrodynamics, and Statistical Mechanics. This is just a tutorial course; maybe the department accepts more graduate students so we don’t have to give tutorials. Something must be done to promote the department to get more graduate students.

Question 5. What are your first impressions of Ateneo?

At least there are active research groups here, such as Photonics, Vacuum Coating, and Materials Physics Laboratories. I see students working during their laboratory meetings. They are actively talking about their research. That’s in the first floor of Faura Hall. I don’t know about the third floor. I think the ambiance is nice. If you are thinking about doing research in physics, the academic atmosphere makes makes you feel like doing physics, too. But the teaching can be time-consuming, such as when I prepared for teaching in the first two weeks, the teaching assignments changed; they are not set yet. The system is like that. Something can be done to improve the system. As a new faculty, I don’t have a syllabus. So I just ask a reference syllabus of other people, and construct my syllabus almost a day before the class. It is tough to to think about the syllabus, especially for a new faculty, of how things would progress during the semester. At this point, I don’t know what is going to happen, especially in the laboratory. I am a theorist. The laboratory is difficult for me. Now, I am designing an experiment, hopefully an experiment that is not too easy nor too difficult, because for a theorist all experiments are easy. Designing an experiment for a theorist is not trivial. I cannot really gauge how difficult an experiment is because I am a theorist.

Question 5. Any parting words?

Physics can actually be fun. If you are freshman, you study physics such as Newton’s Laws, Torque, and Statics. At some point, it can be boring if you just learn as much as you can. These are important concepts you learn on which you can build on. All knowledge is based on whatever was done before. Newtons laws–just learn them. When you go to advanced physics, the fun starts with Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, and Advanced Electrodynamics. The fun would start you explore cool ideas. And if you keep on, you proceed to graduate school and contribute to discovering new knowledge. The most rewarding thing about being a physicist is when you discover new knowledge and become the first person to realize that a particular system actually acts in a particular way. It is very satisfying feeling.

Also, everybody is curious, but physics satisfies that curiosity. If you have a system, you can be curious about what happens if you change this or change that. So you do an experiment or calculation. If you are an experimentalist, you change the parameters here and see what would happen, e.g. you lower the temperature. It is also possible to satisfy your curiosity if you are a theorist. You can do calculations. Let us say, instead of say F = ma, why not F = ma^{1/2}? What happens to physics if you have ma plus a very small term? Would the physics of the universe change? Questions like these can satisfy by doing calculations. What is satisfying about physics is that you can satisfy your curiosity about physical systems.

So as a physicist, you don’t really consider work as work; it is mostly play—playing with ideas using computers and equipments. It is not really work. That is why when you meet a physicist, he will always work, typically always in the laboratory. Form him work ins not work but play. Pleasurable. Something you don’t really feel burdened to do. Enjoyable.

The only thing about being a physicist is that as a career, it is financially not that rewarding. If you become a professor, your salary is not that much. If you like physics, then doing physics is just like getting paid to play. If you really want to earn a lot, you can work in an industry or become a stock market analyst. The things that you learn analytically such as how to solve differential equations and how to construct equations for physical systems may be used here, but nobody has really successfully described the stock market very well. It is very a very difficult differential or integral equation. But people have tried. Success can be fifty percent. You can apply your analytical skills to financial markets and earn than those working in the academe.

Meeting of Filipino physicists at Trieste, Italy (May 2013).  From left to right: Ernest Macalalad, Dr. May Lim, Dr. Ian Vega, Dr. Eduardo Cuansing Jr., and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

Meeting of Filipino physicists at Trieste, Italy (May 2013). From left to right: Ernest Macalalad, Dr. May Lim, Dr. Francis Michael Ian Vega II, Dr. Eduardo Cuansing Jr., and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

Ateneo Physics Alumni Fr. Oliver Dy, SJ: Bridging Science and Theology

College physics classmates Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. (left) and Fr. Oliver Dy, SJ (right) at the Manila Observatory

College physics classmates Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. (left) and Fr. Oliver Dy, SJ (right) at the Manila Observatory

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Fr. Oliver Dy, SJ finished his BS Physics in Ateneo de Manila University last 1997. He entered the Jesuits in 1998 and was ordained a priest in 2009. He spent two years serving in the prisoners in Muntinlupa and their families. At present, he is pursuing a Doctorate in Theology at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Below is an interview with Fr. Oliver Dy, SJ by the Ateneo Physics News.

Question 1. Can you share to us your vocation story?

All my life I always think of myself as a scholar in one way or another. In grade school my father worked for an international company. The tuition was Php 20 every month, salary deductible. You can only enter that school if your parents are in a certain position in the company in South Cotabato. In high school I was in Philippine Science-Diliman for three years. My last year was in Philippine Science-Davao. And then I took up one year college in Electronics and Communications Engineering in San Carlos University-Cebu. It was in Cebu I met the Jesuits. They convinced me to finish my education in Ateneo. So I took up BS Physics in Ateneo de Manila University. As you can see from this simple life history, it is as if I have been a pilgrim in search for the truth. It is as if my vocation has been to be a mediator between different worlds.

Being brought up in an international company, I was exposed to realities—more of the American kind of upbringing in a very Filipino culture. The cultural hybridity was there with all the politics attached to it. And then in Philippine Science, again the relationship between faith and reason devotion as expressions of religious and scientific worldviews were prominent questions in my mind. So in college I was a part of a socially oriented religious group, the Ateneo Student Catholic Action or AtSCA. At the same time I was taking up physics. I was somehow caught between the scientific world and the world of the poor. I seem like a man placed in the middle of things—bridging the different worlds and allowing them to interrelate, so that I can infuse inspiration for the future generations. So now I am a priest.

I finished BS in Physics in1997. It was the old Ateneo then. I taught one semester in Mindanao State University in Gen. Santos City. Then I taught a summer course in Notre Dame of Marbel. One of my colleagues there was Mr. Rudy Dorado, a mathematician. In Marbel also was his wife, Susan Dorado. Susan and I discussed the necessity of religion, educational formation, and things like that. In a way science has always been connected in my life. Susan was connected to Manila Observatory before.

I entered the Jesuits in 1998, a year after I graduated in college. I was ordained in 2009. I spent 2 years working with prisoners and their families in Muntinlupa and Mandaluyong. Muntinlupa is for men; Mandaluyong is for women. And now I am pursuing a Doctorate in Theology degree, particularly in the Historical Theology at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. And I hope to teach Historical Theology and Systematic Theology—or at least make myself available to teach these subjects, probably first at the Philippine Loyola School of Theology. Also, I think I have the gift of education and my work is part of the mediatorship part–trying to communicate information that are not easily digestible to an ordinary audience in more presentable or understandable way. Education means to lead people. I would like to be that bridge that allows the access communication of the truth. That is my vocation both as mediator and an educator.

In the future, I hope to be a chaplain to the science community in the Philippines. I feel that Faith can provide the inspiration for scientists: to add value and energy for them to pursue their scientific research and lines of inquiry, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to work within the religious contexts, especially in Asia where religion is still a cultural phenomenon. I am against the idea of a total conflict between science and religion. I see them more partners in search for common life-giving truth. So I am happy. My point here is that I wish to use my background to develop scientific talent human resources in the Philippines. If people are simply inspired by a life committed to a transcendent goal that is rooted in the truth, then I think they can do wonders in life.

Question 2. What are you studying in Theology?

One of my interests is approaching theology via history. You can apply that historical methodology to science in the history of thought. Science is also epistemological enterprise, a kind of knowing about the world which has changed. My training in the history of science makes me rethink scientific thought. So I also keep in touch with the developments in science by following the writings of Leonard Susskind in Stanford University. He is a cosmologist who challenged and won over Stephen Hawking in the debate regarding the information loss of the universe. Susskind believes in the conservation of information. This idea is against that of Stephen Hawking. Hawking is an inspirational figure because of his health (he is paralyzed and can barely speak). Susskind, on the other hand, was a plumber. I see also the possibilities of science fiction. It gives us the ability to re-imagine life. One science fiction novel is the Dune series by Frank Herbert. It has something to do with politics, environment, truth, and power. I am also a literature guy, too. Literature provides some foil to scientific empiricism.

One of the things I learn in prison is this: we do not realize the significance of the freedoms by which we operate in ordinary society. I wish we could use those freedoms well. In prison the people are living in difficult situations of deprivation of freedom. We must cherish, develop, and use our freedom in the common search for truth and in our common dialogue inquiry. It is very important both for the church ans secular society to keep on talking.

In the Philippines, I feel that both religion and science will need more of each other because our people have religious ethos like the rest of Asia generally, unlike now in Europe. We have to respect that historical development and implement science projects accordingly. This ethos is not simply Catholicism, but also of Philippine indigenous religious subgroups. For science to have an impact, we need to capitalize on these religious dynamics, energies, and world views. For science to develop in the Philippines, we need to learn to translate science in the language of the common life of the people, which includes their religious perspectives.

Question 3. Is there a connection between Physics and Theology?

In my own religious s thinking the concepts of physics have been really helpful in imagining things. For example, in classical physics, we use imaginary models for magnetism, such as flux lines. The imaginary worlds and models science became pedagogical tools for me, helping me to communicate religious thoughts better. At the same time, science has also given me a certain ability to criticize unhealthy forms of religion like fundamentalism which leads to religious violence. As a mediator, I wish to thrust religion more into a rational discourse. This demands that I know much about both the history of science and of religion as histories of human thought. This is my key to bridging science and religion.

I believe that some scientist have—what we could call in Christian language—a vocation to be scientists, even though they do not explicitly recognize a god of some sort, as long as they have an implicit drive to know more about transcendent truth. Scientists pursue truth along scientific lines. But this pursuit is at the same a movement towards transcendence. For example, people who read the biographies of Richard Feynman, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, Richard Dawkins are people who sincerely seek for the truth. And I feel that if they could continue along these path, then this itself is a noble enterprise, even though they have not conclusively found the truth, because truth involves a never-ending search. There is no point in the history of science we have found the truth. Decades ago there is no such thing as dark matter. But now there is a possibility that such matter exist. Indeed, there is always something new to discover in this universe. I draw inspiration from scientists who are dedicated to their craft. They inspire me also to pursue the truth. They are my as walking partners and interlocutors, even though officially they seem to be more agnostic and atheistic.

I feel that there is a big gap between what scientists do and how they are perceived by the public. But as the world become more technological, the scientific discourse will enter into ordinary discourse. And so it is the function of the scientist to actually elevate the ordinary public’s level of discourse, by communicating science in such a way that ordinary people will appreciate its value, and more young people will be inspired to be scientists in the future.

I thrive on conversation and dialogue, because I want to know where other people are coming from. These are people who inspire me to search more to with a sincere heart. In a way I salute all the Filipino scientist who have dedicated their lives to science, even if their contributions remain unrecognized. Somehow I feel that their work will lead to a tipping point to a more new humane and a just Philippine society. All scientists of good will are seekers for the truth.

Question 4. For all your work, do you still have time to pray?

Because I am influenced by many factors in life, I always bring my work into prayer and let if flow from prayer—devotional prayer. Even in secular society like Belgium, I maintain my devotions. My devotions provide me with the energy to dialogue with men with all sorts of convictions. But it is such a private and solitary devotion that sometimes it is something like religious mysticism, something very Ignatian. So I thank St. Ignatius for introducing this kind of spiritually for the life of the church and the world. Probably if there is no St. Ignatius of this world, a person like me would have difficulty finding redemption.

Question 5. What happened to your thesis work on sonoluminuscence?

My sonoluminescence work is a failed experiment. I feel I am not called to be a researcher in physics. I now see myself as a Jesuit recruiting and empowering others to enter the scientific enterprise. This is where the lay people can make a contribution to the Church and the world we needs more scientists. If we need find a dedicated Catholic layperson doing science, he is a living gem, for in the local and global context, so much science is needed to shape political policies in environmental education and in many aspects of Philippine society in general.

One time I was still teaching in Zamboanga as part of my training priesthood. In my first class early in the morning, I was still groggy and I teach religion. In my second class after lunch when it was hot, I teach physics. So I gave my students heaven and hell. Then I remember one of my fun times when I gave an oral exam for the 15 top students in a special science class in Zamboanga. I posted at the door a quote from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” That was a fun oral exam. To draw out the best in promising students, you have to given them enough challenges suited to their ability. And with a little bit of humor.

Question 6. What are some memorable things that happened to you while you were studying Physics in Ateneo de Manila University?

I thank Ateneo for giving me a good education in physics that is challenging enough to be an adventure. I would like to thank my for intellectual formators in Ateneo, especially Sir Norberto Tecson whose subject mastery and pedagogy is one of a kind. His educational training and mentoring really brought physics to life.

Here are some of my quotable quotes in physics:

My fellow physics students Kenneth and Kath were working on a breadboard for a common project. Every time it would not work, you hear someone saying,“You know what? We did something wrong.” If the experiment would go right, you hear instead, “Yes, I did it!” The nice thing about having a laboratory partner is that you have someone else to blame if something goes wrong.

One memorable line is what I read in a poster in our laboratory: “Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. They are better than stupid mistakes.” The equipment in laboratories are expensive, and a stupid mistake costs a lot. If your laboratory is too neat and tidy, I think it is better to ask whether people are doing any work there at all.

I was asked once looking at the gauge for Dr. John Holdsworth. He used to be our Department Chairman. Now he is in University of Newcastle in Australia. “Oliver, what is the reading of the gauge?” he asked. “The gauge reads ‘oxygen’, sir.”

One time because I do not know how to prove an equation, I skipped a very big chunk of the steps and placed the immediate conclusion on the board. “Magic!” Mr. Patricio Dailisan cried. “Science is not about magic!”

Question 7. Any parting message to Ateneo Physics students?

Two of my favorite movies was Contact starring Jodi Foster and Twister starring Helen Hunt. These are two female scientists driven by their life issues to search for the truth. I guess if a person is internally driven with passion for the truth, then his life would be such a great adventure.

I know the place where Albert Einstein stayed in Belgium for sometime. He met there Fr. George Lemaitre, SJ. He was the one who discovered the Big Bang model, though the credit went to Hubble. Fr. Lemaitre is quite a figure. When Lemaitre presented to Einstein the conclusions based on Einstein’s own equations, Einstein did not believe him. “Vos calculus sont corrects, mais votre physique est abominable,” Einstein said. Fr. Lemaitre showed that there is the possibility of a primordial egg which he calls as the “Primeval Atom”. Because he had written his work in French, and there were some important omissions during the translations, the credit was given to other people. Fr. Lemaitre is not really after credit. He only wants to elevate the discourse and contribute something to the scientific enterprise whether or not there is credit. Many more things can be done if people are not after credit.

University Traditions 2013: Response of Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ giving a response in the University Traditions book launching last March 11, 2013 at Ateneo de Manila University

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ giving a response during the University Traditions book launching last March 11, 2013 at Ateneo de Manila University

by Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ
March 11, 2013
Ateneo de Manila University

Science today can be seen in many lights through many lenses. We hear that it is a social construct, made essentially by the rules of modern men and women who themselves are the products of their culture and their times. This is in contrast to the founders of science and the scientific method as enshrined in the paradigmatic trilogy of observation, theory, and experiment. The founders thought they were discovering the laws of nature, not inventing them. What started as a European enterprise spread to the limits of the world and today is a world culture. It transcends any one culture or time as its development in any culture or nation is seen as a sign of progress. As such, it is aspired to by all nations.

But in Jesuit education, science is something even more. Its light is not only to illumine the human mind but also to cast its brilliance upon the way to God. What started as the philosophia naturae is meant to lead to the philosophia humanae in the educational structure of Jesuit pedagogy.  This is nothing new.  It is the tradition in which St. Ignatius himself grew up intellectually.  It is another of the creatures whose in depth understanding cannot but lead to the Creator.  It is stepping stone on the path to God.

The language of science is mathematics but the language of the soul is prayer.

Earlier generations of Jesuits saw the humanities such as literature and language/culture as the best educational path to follow, the most luminous torch to guide the student to an understanding of the Self and so of God.  St. Ignatius has already told his followers that God constantly speaks in the depths of the Self.  Hence, the Ignatian Exercises are but hearing aids for the listening soul.

Enter science.  How is it humanistic?  It helps the questing spirit to enter the path of rigor guided by mathematical training.  It inspires the search in nature for its laws with faith in the rationality, not to say the beauty of the material world.  It helps to listen because it trains to listen well.

The end or finality of science is the human being.  The human quest to understand not only oneself but all the matrix that evolution has given each of us.  Science  is part of the gift the Creator has given to his creatures.

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