VSP-ADMU topical conference announcement: “Boosting up the Philippine Technology through National Laboratory System”

by Christian Lorenz S. Mahinay

The Vacuum Society of the Philippines (VSP) in collaboration with the Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University, will be hosting the short topical conference which is free of attendance to all interested persons. The topical conference will center on discussions regarding a multidisciplinary approach in utilizing scientific resources in vacuum sciences and allied fields to raise the economic potential of high-tech industries and developing national research laboratories within the Philippines. Students and guests from Doshisha University, Japan, under the Global Resource Management program, will discuss on the possibility of strengthening the Philippines technological competitiveness through forming an inter-university research network with Japanese universities. Representatives from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Sunpower Philippines Manufacturing Ltd. will also give a talk regarding this topic from the view point of government and private industrial sectors.

Members and associates of VSP, and students can submit abstracts for the conference in both academic fields: business and technology. Selected papers will be invited to give a short oral presentation regarding their work on a special session on the second day of the conference. The scientific committee welcomes wide variety in academic fields.

There will be a guided tour through selected laboratories within Ateneo and UP and a historical tour to the National Museum in Intramuros, Manila on the second day.

  • Venue:  Faura Hall Audio Visual Room (AVR)
  • Schedule: March 4 and 5, 2019

Tentative Schedule:

March 4, 2019 (Monday)

  • 8:30 – 8:45 AM: Registration
  • 8:45 – 9:00 AM: Opening Ceremonies
  • 9:00 – 9:30 AM: First talk by Prof. Motoi Wada
  • 9:30 – 10:00 AM: 2nd talk by Dr. Henry J. Ramos
  • 10:00 – 10:30 AM: 3rd talk by Ateneo representative
  • 10:30 – 10:45 AM: Coffee Break
  • 10:45 – 11:15 AM: 4th talk by Dr. Alexander Mendenilla
  • 11:15 – 11:45 AM: 5th talk by DOST representative
  • 11:45 – 12:15 PM: 6th talk (TBA)
  • 12:15 – 1:30 PM: Lunch
  • 1:30 – 5:00 PM: Selected Laboratory tours within Ateneo, UP and PNRI

March 5, 2019 (Tuesday)

  • 9:00 – 9:15 AM: Registration
  • 9:15 – 10:30 AM: 1st round of Selected talks by students
  • 10:30 – 10:45 AM: Coffee Break
  • 10:45 – 12:00 NN: 2nd round of Selected talks by students
  • 12:00 – 1:00 PM: Lunch
  • 1:00 – 5:00 PM: National Museum tour

Opening Remarks of Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero during the Physics General Assembly 2018

Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero, Chair, Department of Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University

Welcome to our General Assembly for the First Semester of School Year 2018-2019. I am so happy to see all of you here, different batches of students, our faculty. We will have some fun and games later, but as part of the welcome remarks I would like to give an overview of where the Department is at as of this School Year.

A. Introduction of Students, Faculty, and Staff

First, I would like to introduce the faculty members who are here with us this evening. We have Dr. James Simpas, Dr. Obie Cambaliza, Dr. Pope Sugon, Dr. Mon de los Santos. Joining us this semester we have Mr. Jaren Rex and re-joining us this semester is Dr. Minella Alarcon. And Dr. Gemma Narisma who is also the executive director of the Manila Observatory. Another new faculty member we have Ms. Cathy de la Cruz. Another Faculty member we have Johanna Indias. The department will never work without our indefatigable staff members. We have Ms. Anna Asis, our Department Secretary. From our labs we have Mr. Ruel Agas. And our laboratory supervisor we have Mr. Numer Melaya.

Let us get a feel for the room. We have first year students. A freshman over there. Still very hopeful about the future. Our sophomores, we have the second year students. We have an exponential decay in numbers after one year. Our third year students. I think they have a class. They will be joining us later. Our seniors, the fourth year students. Thank you. Our superseniors, our fifth year MSE students. Some of them are here. Some of them are having their thesis updates with the MSE program. Joining us also are our graduate students. We have a healthy number. Hopefully, there will be less of them next year program after they finish their programs.

B. Mission and Vision

I would like to start by showing you our brand new mission and vision statements. One of the observations from the previous academic year is that our students are not aware of what the department is about. And that is true for many departments, not just in SOSE, but also in the other schools of the Loyola Schools. So this is who we are, our Department Vision. We are a center of excellence and we are seeking international recognition. What do we want to be known for? We want to be known for physics education and relevant research. We will also strive to serve society. No pressure there. Our priority areas are aligned with the priority areas of the School of Science and Engineering. And this will include earth systems physics–a very broad topic, but we are looking into disasters, undertstanding disasters, mitigating disasters, physics for sustainable development. We can have progress while still taking care of mother nature. And of course, teaching others to become better students of physics, allowing help to state of the country.. So this is who we are.

Now what do we do to get here to achieve this dream? We have our mission. So we will engage in scientific endeavors. We will do research. We will train you to figure out how the universe works. We will hopefully inspire you to make the world better. And we have all of these areas of expertise. This is now in alphabetical order. We have experts in atmospheric science, geophysics,, materials science, photonics, theoretical physics, vacuum and plasma technology, and of course all of of us are physics educations. Some of the best physics educators in the coutry are right here in your department. And through our faculty who will work together, who will always have the energy to teach you and to learn from you. We will help you become empowered. We will help you become productive members of the society through good sciece. Wow. That’s the dream. So our department is a center of excellence and all of us here are now part of that tradition of excellence. So make no mistake. You are in a center of excellence.

C. Research Laboratories

So here we have some of the research areas available. I will be asking some of the faculty members in charge of each research topic to talk to you a bit of what they are doing. For atmospheric physics, we have Dr. Cambaliza, Dr. Simpas, and Dr. Narisma. And they will introduce you to what they are doing and hopefully in a few years for our freshmen you will be working with them in trying to understand the thermodynamic engine that is the atmosphere.

The coordinator of geophysics will be joining us later. We will ask Dr. Maquiling for a few words. For materials science, Dr. Chan has a class. We will also have Dr. Chan have his few minutes with you. For Photonics, we work with light and its interaction with matter. We blast off with lasers. This is my favorite lab. No bias. Just see me if you are interested later in doing work with holography and flexible optics. For the other labs, we have Dr. Sugon who is working on things that are both real and not real. For vacuum and plasma, we have one representative Ms. Cathy de la Cruz, who have just joined the lab officially. She will be talking about their current experiment. We are also involved in our efforts in physics education and social involvement. Mr. Culaba is our social involvement coordinator for the School of Science and Engineering. But maybe Ms. Indias can talk to us on our NSTP activities. Ms. Indias and her team are going to Israel for that conference. Joining us also is Dr. Christian Mahinay. He is the coordinator of the Vacuum Coating and Plasma Laboratory.

D. Academic Programs

Some updates regarding our academic programs. With our Freshmen effective Schooly Year 2018-2019, we now have two new versions of our two undergraduate projgrams. You are either in the BS Physics program or in the BS Applied Physics with Materials Science and Engineering program. For BS Physics, it is now a 4 year program. We modify the BS Physics program. We used the intersession terms–those are the June-July terms. And we are to squeeze everything with Ateneo core and CHED requirements–all in four years, theoretically. For BS Applied Physics  with Materials Science and Engineering, it took some work. We were able to reconfigure it, so that after four years, you will graduate with your BS Physics batchmates. You will graduate with the degree in BS Applied Physics at the end of four years. Then for one extra semester, you get your second degree, which means you get to march up on stage twice. You do it once for your first degree in Applied Physics and then your second degree in MSE. Youhave an extra semester. And we are you can use that extra semester for a minor or you could start looking for jobs. Whatever happens, after one more semester after your fourth year after you get your APS degree, you will have your second degree in Materials Science and Engineering. You will be working closely with the Department of chemistry, particularly with your reseach projects or thesis.

We also have to update our catalog numbers, so now it would be confusing. We have combinations of the old catalog numbers and the new catalog numbers.The old catalog number—or everyone here except the freshmen–you have PS subjects. Right now, you are enrolled in PS 197, that is Introduction to Quantum Mechnaics 1. We converted that to PHYS 141. The numbers now make sense. There is a pattern.  There is almost a pattern. PHYS 141 will be the new name of PS 197, but the content will be the same. For the freshmen, you will have the PHYS version of the subjects. Our graduate clases will also be updated, so that they are parallel with the undergraduate offerings. Now, we have PS 208 not even close to PS 197 in terms of the number. We are calling PS 208 as PHYS 241. It is the first graduate Quantum Mechanics course. Now there is more symmetry. You have 141 for undergrad and 241 for the graduate classes. For AS or Atmospheric Science, we have ATMOS. And we have different numbers. Some of the numbers will be parallel to the physics version, but some are independent. And for Physics Education–that’s PS ED—is now PHYS E, which will be confusing for Physics Education, but at least, for our catalog, that would be Physics Education, PHYS E. And there are new numbers as well.

E. Research and Publications

I checked SCOPUS recently. Scopus is a database which houses more than 36,000 journals and these are the journals which are held to the highest standards, at least in the academic commmunity. If you publish in a journal that is SCOPUS-indexed, you are doing good work. You are doing world-class research. As of today, the department has these articles indexed on SCOPUS.

We have  a journal article from the Geophysics Laboratory. The authors this year are  Adones and Dr. Maquiling. You have a journal article. And one of them will be graduating because of this article. We have one paper on Geophysics. Next, we have a paper from Dr. Mahinay and his team from Vacuum Coating and Plasma. They published a paper on modification of styrene. Using their plasma jets, they jmodify the properties of a certiain material. This is again at a level that is world class.

Another paper from the Dr.Narisma and her student in the Journal of Natural Hazards. They were analyzing storm surges. This is another priority area of the department. We have analysis of natural disasters. Hopefully, we can understand them better, so we can proevent the damange or reduce the effects on the populace. Another paper from Dr. del los Santos and his collaboration with Optics and Materials Science group in UP. He published a paper in the Journal on Infrared, Millimeter, and Terahertz waves. These are long wavelength types of radiation. This is still related to his doctorarate dissertation. Another paper again from Dr. de los santos. This time it is more on Material Science, but still involving long wavelength radiatoin. This was published in Thin Solid Films.

You notice that the journal articles can be very specififc, that is why you can have a journal about anything. And in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics from Dr. Mahinay’s team. They expose organics to plasma and examine what would happen. The rice became better in terms of certain properties. And in the Meterological Society of Japan, we also have a journal. We have Dr. Narisma and she is testing different parameters in a climate model. This was just this year. We had seven SCOPUS indexed articles just for this year. And it is just September.

Looking at SCOPUS, this is for the department. If you go on the SCOPUS website and search the Ateneo de Manila University, you will come up with 1,100 hits. In the SCOPUS database, the Ateneo as a university has generated more than 1,000 papers. If you fine tune the search and look for Physics entries, this is what you will see. From 1988 to year 2000, the physics output in terms of articles in SCOPUS was just 3 papers. In 1988, there was a paper from Fr. Su. He had paper of his work in Manila Observatory. That was in 1988. From 2001 to 2010, over off-the-moon of 27 papers. Right now, in this current period, from 2011 to 2018. We have 37 papers in the database. The department now has the capability to perform world-class research. Our faculty have publication experience. The world believes in our expertise. This is an exciting time for us and especially for you. Because now we have the capabitity. We have the option to do world clas research that will help you add to this body of knowledge, which is called Science. And can help you do that. We have the ability to help you do that.

F. PhD in Physics Program

Our department has a rich history. We are better than ever. And for our grduate students, there is hope for you. The PhD Physics program was first approved in the early 2000. The first product of the PhD Physics program is here with us. We have Dr. Pope Sugon. It takes a lot of work to come with a PhD graduate. One of the requirement is that the PhD student must have a dissertation based on a published article. That is one of the greatest challenges for a PhD student. But fortunately, the deparment is now at the level that we are now consistent in generating publications. So it is up to the student to contribute to Physics to our knowledge of nature. For the first few years, it took a while: one graduate each from 2011 to 2016. Then something clicked in 2017. Now, we have a total whopping 6 graduates of the PhD in Physics program. What is nice about this, not just the numbers, is that our students go back to their schools in Mindanao. Some of them are in Marawi. Some of them are in CARAGA. Those are in Mindanao. They are helping elevate the state of Physics in the region. One of our graduates is one of the most active researchers in the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.

Dr. James Simpas mentioned before that for a Center of Excellence to be really excellent, you have to help other centers, other institutions become excellent as well. With the PhD Physics program, I think that is what we are doing. We are helping other schools, other institutions become better.

This is where you are. That is what you are a part of. Again, thank you for being here this evening. And welcome to our General Assembly.  

[Credits: transcribed and edited by Quirino Sugon Jr]

Dr. Raphael A Guerrero with the faculty, students, and staff of the Department of Physics of the School of Science and Engineering of Ateneo de Manila University at the Physics General Assembly last 18 September 2018, 17:30 PM, at CTC 413-414.

Manila Observatory talk: Environmental pollution and public health by Dr. Candice Lung of Academia Sinica

by Obiminda Cambaliza

Dr. Candice Lung of Academia Sinica (photo credit: Future Earth)

The Air Quality Dynamics and Instrumentation Technology Development (AQD-ITD) Laboratory of Manila Observatory cordially invites you to a talk on environmental pollution and public health by Dr. Candice Lung on November 21, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. at the Heyden Hall. Dr. Lung is a Research Fellow at the Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. She is a collaborator of the AQD-ITD Laboratory in the AI-SOCD (Advanced Institute on Disaster Risk Reduction with Systems Approach for Slow-Onset Climate Disasters) transdisciplinary project “Building urban resilience: A systems approach to analyzing social and personal health risks of jeepney commuters and drivers to PM2.5 in Metro Manila, Philippines”.

Dr. Lung received her B.S. Atmospheric Sciences from National Taiwan University, and her M.S. Air Pollution and Sc. D. Environmental Pollution from the Harvard University School of Public Health.   Her research interests include organic aerosols, exposure and risk assessment, environmental health management, health adaptation and heat vulnerability assessment. We requested Dr. Lung to first talk about her personal journey as an atmospheric scientist who eventually decided to focus on air quality and public health, as well as her past and current research projects especially those that actually made an impact on Taiwan’s environmental policies. 

Physics dissertation defense of Adones Dengal: Dynamics of a rotating sphere on free surface of vibrated granular materials


by Quirino Sugon Jr

The Department of Physics of the School of Science and Engineering of Ateneo de Manila University cordially invites you to a Physics Dissertation Defense by Adones B. Dengal this Monday, 12 November 2018, 3-5 PM, at Faura Building, Room 106. Mr. Dengal’s dissertation adviser is Dr. Joel T. Maquiling, while his panelists are Dr. Ramon M. Delos Santos, Dr. Raphael A. Guerrero,  Dr. Gil Nonato Santos, and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.


This study investigates the rotational dynamics of a low-density sphere on the free surface of vertically vibrated granular matter (VGM). The dynamical behavior of the sphere is influenced by the external energy input from an electromagnetic shaker which is proportional to ε, where ε is equal to the ratio between the square of the dimensionless acceleration Γ and the square of the vibration frequency f of the container. Empirical results reveal that as the VGM transits from local to global convection, an increase in ε generally corresponds to an increase in the magnitudes of the rotational ωRS and translational vCM velocities of the sphere, an increase in the observed tilting angle θbed of the VGM bed, and a decrease in the time twall it takes the sphere to roll down the tilted VGM bed and hit the container wall. During unstable convection, an increase in ε results in a sharp decrease in the sphere’s peak and mean ωRS and a slight increase in twall. For the range of ε values covered in this study, the sphere may execute persistent rotation, wobbling, or jamming depending on the vibration parameters and the resulting convective flow in the system.

Ateneo Physics alumna Angeleene Ang: PhD student at ITMO University in Russia and Ben-Gurion University in Israel

Ateneo Physics News

Angeleene “Zemmy” Ang with a 1:1 scale model of Sputnik satellite at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow

by Quirino Sugon Jr

After finishing her BS Physics degree from Ateneo de Manila University in 2015, Angeleene “Zemmy” Ang won first place at the SPIE International Day of Light competition hosted by the Nano-optomechanics Laboratory of ITMO (Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics) University in St. Petersburg, Russia.  She accepted her graduate scholarship prize at the university and finished with a degree in MS in Photonics and Optical Information Technologies, with her thesis “Scattering Forces within a Left-Handed Photonic Crystal.” In 2017 she moved to Israel for her PhD in Optics/PhD in Electrooptical Engineering studies, a joint program of ITMO University with Ben Gurion University of the Negev. She now works on “Tailoring Optical Forces Through Electromagnetic Field Manipulation Using Auxiliary Structures.”

Below is an interview with Zemmy Ang by Ateneo Physics News.

  1. What got you interested you in science? Were you homeschooled?

I first got curious about the world when I was a little kid, watching how fireworks change the color of the night sky. It also really helped that my family had an impressive library with three sets of encyclopedias. I have my late brother to thank for that. One of those encyclopedias was a children’s science set, and I read the entire series. I absolutely loved the volume on space exploration and engineering inventions. I wasn’t homeschooled, though. I went through three private schools. I left the first one Montessori Child Learning Center (now known by a slightly different name)—because of reasons that are still unknown to me. I left my second school—Holy Family School, it’s that one behind Claret School—because I couldn’t fit in with an all-girls crowd. I eventually graduated high school in Saint Claire School in Villa Corrina (it’s now defunct).

In school, I did relatively well in the STEM classes, except for Biology. When it came to choose my major, I knew I wanted to do more science-computer-y stuff.

2. What motivated you to choose BS Physics in AdMU?

I originally wanted to do B.S. Chemistry-ACS, but my parents said that it only leads to a teaching career (which I didn’t want, and still don’t). So I switched it to BS Computer Engineering and got accepted in Ateneo. Halfway through the first semester of the second year, I realized that I was bored and I wanted to do something more. Something relating to whatever those guys in that lab with a placard “Photonics Lab” are working on, that sounded pretty cool. At the time, I was taking a required Physics class, and I honestly enjoyed the topics we were discussing. The class itself, not so much. So I switched majors. And then I found out that the supervisor of the Photonics lab was going on a 3-year sabbatical leave, thus closing the research lab to me and everyone in my batch. I looked for something else. I heard someone else was doing Optics/Photonics research, but what he did was more on the theoretical side. I went to the guy.

3. What research did you do in your undergraduate thesis?

I first did research on skew ray tracing within optical fibers using Geometric Algebra with Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. This was mostly a demonstration of the flexibility and ease-of-use of Geometric Algebra more than anything else; a ray tracing simulation program could have done the same thing I worked on in a matter of seconds, and it would have been a one-day assignment, not publishable research. I finished it towards the end of my 3rd year and we wrote it as a journal article. It got published in Applied Optics.

With my adviser’s blessing, I begged a legend, Dr. Jerrold “Doc J” Garcia, to come out of his partial retirement and become my second supervisor. That took a while, but after some months later, he agreed. With him, I studied the effect of the higher-order multipole moments on the planetary orbits, basically an extension to the Kepler problem. I don’t know of any articles that study this particular topic, so I think it might be worth a paper, but I haven’t had the time to do a proper extensive literature review and re-write the manuscript. I may even need to re-do some of the simulations, which were all written in Fortran 90, because the original rendered animations were low-quality (I only had access to a low-end Intel Atom netbook at the time, and it could only run so much). It also doesn’t help that Doc J seems to have vanished nearly completely and I don’t know anyone else who can help me with the paper, or even where to submit it.

4. How did you end up taking your graduate studies in Russia?


The main building of ITMO University in Russia


Right outside the main building where I worked at 10:30 pm


Waddling around in knee-deep snow is actually fun when you get used to it, as opposed to waddling in knee-deep floodwaters


Peterhof tour during the Days of Diffraction 2016 conference


Everyone I meet asks me how and why I ended up studying in Russia, of all places. My usual response: “My undergrad adviser suggested that I apply in Russia. He’s insane.” And it’s true – anyone who knew Doc J or ever became his student would know how much he likes texts from Russian physicists like Vladimir Arnold or Lev Landau.

I sent out a bunch of inquiry letters everywhere, there were a few that sent back responses, but one got my attention. This particular department had a International Day of Light competition, and the first place was a full scholarship plus a certain amount of money. I applied, and won first place, so I ended up going to ITMO University (National Research University of Information Technology, Mechanics, and Optics) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I did research on optical forces and radiation pressure from structured materials in the Nano-Optomechanics Laboratory headed by Dr. Alexander Shalin, with the help of a collaborator, Dr. Sergey Sukhov, who was working at the University of Central Florida. It got published in Sci Rep.

5. How’s the Russian winter? How’s food and travel?

Acclimation to weather is a thing. It’s a shock at first, but you get used to it. The nice thing with cold weather is that you can just keep adding layers and it’ll work, as opposed to warm weather, because you can’t peel your skin off. On the flip side, the long summer days (only 2-3 hours of darkness) are absolutely gorgeous. Walking along the riverbanks at 10pm with the sun still in your face is lovely.

I went to Moscow for a weekend to see a concert of my favorite Japanese metal band. I took the high-speed train and it was awesome: 400 kms in 4 hours. I also saw the important sites there – Red Square, the department store GUM, the Cosmonautics Museum, the hill overlooking Moscow State University, the largest shopping mall in Europe (I enjoy big shopping malls very much), among other things.

I also took advantage of every single student discount I can find. The Hermitage Museum is free for all students of all nationalities; the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and the Cruiser Aurora museum has half off the entrance fee for Russia/CIS students. Some conferences I attended had city tours built in the program. I also went to see Vyborg – a little town in between St. Petersburg and the Finland border – on a day trip. They had old castles, it was pretty cool.

The food is okay. If you like dill, that is. They put it on literally everything. I enjoy these thin Russian pancakes with various fillings, it’s called blin. They have a local fast food chain called Teremok that serves variations of blin, and I make it a point to bring any Filipino I meet in Russia to that food chain. It’s like their Jollibee. They also have these boiled dumplings called pelmeni. It’s the Russian student food, kinda like how Americans have instant ramen. Borsch is fantastic, too.

As for vodka, it’s not my thing. They like it neat and it smells like rubbing alcohol and/or diesel. Caviar tastes like arosep with too much salt. That’s just me, though.

6. Why did you move from Russia to Israel for your PhD studies?


Be’er Sheva is not as picturesque as St. Petersburg, but they have a lot of cats, which makes me very happy. This was taken at the university, at the bust of David Ben-Gurion.


The university/city mascot is a camel. Go figure. It’s the desert. This one wears headphones.


My poster and I at a conference at the Weizmann Institute


We also did a little educational event at Lehavim – a village not far from Be’er Sheva. The lady presenting is my supervisor; the guy assisting is a PhD student in the group. I was taking photos.


Every Israeli I meet ask me how and why I ended up studying in Israel, of all places. My usual response: “We knew someone who knew someone who was looking for PhD students.” I had enough of the language barrier and wanted to go to an English-speaking country – that was my main issue when looking for a PhD program. Plus, being in a new environment, with their own culture and cuisine, is always a fun learning experience. My supervisor suggested Israel. I saw an opportunity to go there (specifically, in Tel Aviv University) for a Winter School, so I got to check the place out a bit. It was a nice bonus that the country had a decent-sized overseas Filipino worker population.

When I was there, I met up with a research group who we knew was looking for students, in Be’er Sheva. They seemed like nice people, so I applied for the PhD program under the group of Dr. Alina Karabchevsky. Now, I’m currently a student in Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

I’m working on an extension of my previous work on optical forces. My first project there was an continuation of something I was already working on immediately after I graduated at ITMO: a study of optical forces using the photonic hook effect from a dielectric cuboid. We were planning to submit to PRB, but stuff happened, discussions were made, and it got published in Sci Rep. I personally think that that particular research was at a dead end due to the results I obtained, so I moved on to a different topic: trapping cold atoms using structured waveguides. We have a proof of concept result and the paper is in progress.

7. How’s Israel?

Fun fact: Israel has the largest percentage of Russian speakers outside of the former Soviet Union[cite]. Sometimes, it feels like I never left Russia.

The food here is awesome. I (figuratively) cannot stop eating falafel. Hummus and shakshuka are also great. I’ve also had some traditional Jewish food like jachnun (tastes fantastic, horrible for your health), gefilte fish, kneidel, and more than five variations of cholent. There’s a great chicken schnitzel place behind the university which makes up for the lack of Subway and KFC in the country. The only disappointment is that due to kosher laws, things like pork, shrimp, and authentic foreign food are either prohibitively expensive or hard to find. The Arabs make great desserts, though.

I mentioned earlier that I went to Tel Aviv for a winter school. I did some research beforehand, but there was an important bit I forgot to search. Apparently, these guys take “thou shall keep the sabbath day holy” very seriously. I landed in the middle of Shabbat (friday evening to saturday evening) – meaning no public transportation, some shops and restaurants were closed, etc. There are more English-speaking locals and foreigners from English-speaking countries here than in Russia. Definitely a culture shock for me.

I’ve been to most areas of Jerusalem’s Old City, Caesarea, the Dead Sea, dropped by Nazareth twice, and went swimming at the Kineret/Sea of Galilee (which, fyi, is actually a shrinking lake). We also went stargazing in the central Negev desert (in a town near the Ramon crater), ran around the touristy areas of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, went boating around the port of Acre/Akko, took the cable car at Rosh Hanikra, walked around a moshav in the Galilee area, went down the steps of the Ba’hai gardens. I’ve also visited the Weizmann Institute for a conference. It’s a nice place. I haven’t been to the disputed areas: Bethlehem or East Jerusalem, mostly because I’m waiting for the University to organize a tour.

There was one rocket strike in Be’er Sheva literally 5 minutes before I left to go to the airport for a trip, another one that hit a house very recently (no casualties), and at least one incendiary balloons from Gaza. The city and the country are well-prepared and to deal with these kinds of incidents, so it’s very safe. Besides that, nothing much happens, just the usual “I’m bored and there’s nothing to do because shabbat laws.”

Also, one of my colleagues (another foreign student, a native Russian) mentioned that, in the train, he once saw a young woman in civilian clothes, armed with an assault rifle, and she was knitting. Perfectly normal.

For those unaware, Filipino citizens are allowed to travel to Israel, visa-free.


The fourth station of the Via Dolorosa at the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. My impromptu guide was a Jewish guy reading stuff off Wikipedia.


We arrived at Jerusalem and went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on that one historic day where they closed down for non-religious reasons. We left the day after. The next day, they settled the issue and opened again.

8. What are your future plans? 

Nothing specific yet, but I know I don’t want to stay in the academe. I’m already tired of long-term travel; it sounds fun at first, but it’s mostly a pain. I want stability – mostly financial, but I also want a stable community of friends, I want consistent health care, and I want to get back to my old hobbies. Most of these things are impossible with a semi-nomadic lifestyle, despite the internet being a thing. Almost all of my life had to be put on hold when I left for Russia.

Another big thing I noticed for academics is that those who are particularly outgoing, talkative, and extroverted are those who get grants and collaborations. I don’t fit in within that kind of environment.

9. Any parting thoughts, especially to Physics majors who may wish to follow your path?

Don’t get so picky. Does the fact that I had a publication in my undergrad look impressive? Well, ICTP and a few other universities I applied to for my Masters didn’t. That’s why I applied to somewhere unusual, and it worked out, and it kept working out. Having a goal is important, but sometimes, it doesn’t go the way that’s planned. Being flexible and learning to adapt are both good skills to have.

You might also think that since you’re in a scientific field and people mostly publish in English language journals, then it would follow that most scientists around the world would speak fluent English. That is very wrong. I overhear scientific discussions in Modern Hebrew, the revived language of the Old Testament, on a regular basis. Learn a language – Russian, German, Mandarin, whatever. It helps.

Also, learn how to proofread for technical English. It’s surprising how all my English grammar classes ended up becoming very useful out here.

I’m easy to find on the internet. Feel free to say hello.


At the Lebanon border up north, near Rosh Hanikra. My cousin took a me and some of her friends up there on a day trip.