MO and AdMU scientists join NASA’s Cloud, Aerosol and Monsoon Processes Philippines Experiment (CAMP2Ex) 2018


From left to right: Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma, Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza, and Dr. James Bernard O. Simpas

by Genie Lorenzo and Quirino Sugon Jr

A team of scientists from the United States an the Philippines will perform an airborne and ground-based field campaign (The Cloud, Aerosol and Monsoon Processes Philippines Experiment:  CAMP2Ex) from July to August 2018 to study tropical weather and aerosols in the South East Asian Region.  The CAMP2Ex project was initiated by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America. The operations will be based in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

The CAMP2Ex Mission Management Team is composed of 6 scientists: Hal Maring (Program Science), Vidal Salazar, and Jhony R. Zavaleta (CAMP2Ex Project Manager) of NASA; Jeffrey Reid (Mission Science) of Naval Research Laboratory; and Gemma Teresa Narisma (MO Science) and James Bernard Simpas (MO Project Manager)  from Manila Observatory. Dr. Narisma is the Program Manager of the Regional Climate Systems (RCS) and Associate Director of Research at Manila Observatory. Dr. James Bernard Simpas, on the other hand, is the Program Manager of Urban Air Quality and Instrumentation Technology Development (UAQ/ITD) of Manager. Both scientists are faculty members of the Department of Physics of the School of Science and Engineering of Ateneo de Manila University.

The other members of the Manila Observatory Team are composed of scientists and staff of Manila Observatory’s Urban Air Quality, with some students from Ateneo de Manila University: Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza (Co-Principal Investigator), Sam Ajoc (Collaborator), Paola Bañaga (Student), Grace Betito (Student), Melliza Cruz (Collaborator), Genievieve Lorenzo (Collaborator).

The Philippines and the South East Asian region are at high risk to Climate Change and hydro-meteorological hazards.  More studies are needed to shed light to the meteorological processes that are affecting the region, but these have been limited because of the persistent cloud cover in the region that makes satellite-based investigations difficult. So CAMP2Ex wishes to study clouds and the regional atmosphere in South East Asia where Philippines belong.

Clouds are fluffy cotton-like puffs in the atmosphere in warm sunshine; but they can also become heavy with water, darkening our days with heavy rain. The formation of clouds, particularly the cumulus and congest clouds, are affected by aerosols—fine solid particles or liquid droplets from fog, dust, air pollutants, and smoke. CAMP2Ex wishes to examine how aerosol particle concentration and composition affect the optical and microphysical properties of these cloud types, and how these in turn impact the three dimensional heating rates and fluxes that serves as feedback on the evolution of aerosols, clouds, and rain.

According to Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza, Dr. Jeff Reid and Dr. Hal Maring (principal investigator of CAMP2Ex) will be in the Philippines from December 4 – 9, 2017.  They will go to Subic to check out the hangar, accommodation, and other things. Dr. Reid already visited the country before when he gave talk entitled, “Introspection on the past, present, and future of aerosol remote sensing,” last 20 Sep 2016 at Heyden Hall, Manila Observatory. He also gave a talk on “Biomass Burning Observability and Predictability in the Maritime Continent” last 10 August 2015 in celebration of Manila Observatory’s 150th anniversary.

Below is the global simulation of clouds and aerosols by NASA for 2005-09-01 to 2005-12-31.



MO and AdMU organized the Philippines Grants Workshop 2017 with speakers from US funding agencies

The participants of the Philippines Grant Workshop 2017 held last August 26, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel in Ortigas, Quezon City. The workshop was organized by Manila Observatory and Ateneo de Manila University. The speakers are from the US Department of State (DoS) and Department of Defense (DoD).

by James Bernard Simpas

The Manila Observatory and the Ateneo de Manila University organized the Philippines Grant Workshop 2017 which provided researchers in the Philippines an overview of international grant opportunities from the US Department of State (DoS) and Department of Defense (DoD). It was held at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel in Ortigas, Quezon City on August 26, 2017. The workshop presented tips on how to write successful grants and introduced the participants to some of the administrative requirements such as registering their university in required systems, and how to submit grants to the US system. Most importantly, the workshop provided an opportunity for researchers to meet face-to-face with points of contact within the US DoS and DoD so that they would feel comfortable reaching out with research ideas.

There were 44 participants in the workshop. Of the total number of participants, nine were speakers and representatives from the US DoS and DoD as well as from the US Embassy. The thirty five local participants were from Philippine universities, Philippine government agencies, and research institutions. The academic sector was represented by participants from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman). Of the 35 local participants, a number was also from the Manila Observatory. The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was also represented, as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources? Environmental Management Bureau – Cordillera Autonomous Region (DENR EMB-CAR).

The speakers and resource persons from the US DoD and DoS provided information about their grant opportunities for Philippine researchers. The welcome remarks were delivered by Dr. Antonio La Viña, Executive Director of the Manila Observatory. He underscored the importance of the workshop as a means for initiating and strengthening engagements and collaborations. The Introduction from the US Embassy was given by Mr. Walter Nightingale, Vice Consul of the US Embassy in the Philippines. A presentation on the grant opportunities from the Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG), and briefly from the US Army International Technology Center Pacific (ITC PAC) were provided by Dr. Jason Wong, the Science Director of ONRG. CDR Joseph Martin, the incoming ONRG Science Director, was also introduced during the workshop. The grant opportunities from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (OARD), were presented by Lt. Col. Scott Robertson, program officer of OARD. They emphasized that they find, fund, and manage innovative science and technology studies that are relevant to their missions, and that they fund researchers outside the United States, mostly universities and non-profit scientific institutions.

Several presentations on funding opportunities from the US DoS were also provided by speakers from the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in Manila. These grant opportunities were (1) STRIDE – Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development; (2) YSEALI – Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and (3) the opportunities managed by the Philippine American Educational Foundation (PAEF) such as the Fulbright Scholarship Program, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the Fulbright Graduate Student Program, among others.

(See original article at Manila Observatory for more photos.)

Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Gemma Narisma appointed as next Executive Director of Manila Observatory


Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma, 12th Director of Manila Observatory (Photo courtesy of Manila Observatory)

In a memo dated 24 October 2017, Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Manila Observatory, announced the appointment of Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma as the incoming Executive Director to serve for a three-year term from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2020. Dr. Narisma currently serves as Associate Director for Research and Head of the Regional Climate Systems Program of Manila Observatory, while teaching as Associate Professor at the Department of Physics of the School of Science and Engineering in Ateneo de Manila University.  As Fr. Villarin noted:

Dr Narisma earned her BS in Applied Physics and MSc in Environmental Science degrees from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She received her PhD in Atmospheric Science from the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She later joined the Centre for Sustainability and the Global Environment) SAGE at the University of Wisconsin, Madison as Research Associate. For her exemplary contributions to science, she was awarded NAST Outstanding Young Scientist in Atmospheric Science in 2012 and the TOWNS Foundation Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service in 2013.

Recently, Dr. Narisma was featured in a children’s book, Beyond the Storm, which is part of the Women of Science series written by Dr. Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo, a Professor of the Department of Information Science and Computer Systems (DISCS) of Ateneo de Manila University. The Women of Science series was published by Bookmark, Inc. and was launched at the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University last 20 May 2017.

Dr. Narisma shall succeed Dr. Antonio La Viña who was appointed last 6 October 2017. In his Facebook page, Director La Vina wrote that Dr. Narisma shall be the 12th Director of Manila Observatory starting from 1865:

I am the 11th and Gemma is the 12th director in 152 years of continuing research, unbroken even by revolutions (1896, 1986) and two world wars. Out of the 12, four have been lay persons. The other two are Santiago Simpas and my immediate predecessor Toni Yulo-Loyzaga.

Aside from Padre Faura, other legendary scientists have worked in the Observatory: Fr. Jose Algue, SJ, who followed Faura, is also commemorated through a Tondo street; Fr. Manuel Selga, SJ, who relinquished his Spanish citizenship to continue to work in the Philippines; and Fr. Francis Hayden, SJ, whose work is honored by Georgetown University who has named its Observatory for him.

More recently, Fathers Francis Glover, Victor Badillo, Dan McNamara, Peter Walpole, and Jett Villarin, all Jesuits, worked in or led MO. Currently, Fr. Sergio Su, healthy and still as sharp as ever at 95 years old, is the only Jesuit working full time with us. What was once a vibrant Jesuit community of scientist-priests is now a group of lay scientists, majority of whom are women and many in their 20s and 30s. We are now working to transform this group to a strong Ignatian community dedicated to do science that matters for the country and especially the poor, motivated by a desire to do our work on climate change and disaster risk science excellently for the greater glory of God.

“As a scientist-leader, Dr Narisma is expected to execute the strategic plans of the Observatory and to ensure its maximum impact and sustainability in the next ten years,” wrote Fr. Villarin, SJ.

Brain-on-a-chip for understanding cortical circuit formation and function: a talk by Dr. Vincent Daria of Australian National University

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by Marienette Morales Vega

The Department of Physics would like to invite you to the talk “Brain-on-a-chip for understanding cortical circuit formation and function” by Dr. Vincent Daria, Group Leader of Neurophotonics Laboratory at the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience of Australian National University to be held on 17 July 2017, Monday, 11:00 a.m. at CTC 118.

Title: Brain-on-a-chip for understanding cortical circuit formation and function


We aim to understand the formation and function of brain circuits by growing neurons on nanostructured semiconductor devices (a.k.a. Brain-on-a-chip). We artificially grow brain cells on a semiconductor wafer patterned with nanowire scaffolds. From a fundamental perspective, we aim to investigate the structural significance of nanoscale topographies for guiding neurite outgrowth. To correlate the circuit function on the neurons grown on-a-chip with that of certain areas in the brain, we need to analyse the function of single neurons and population of neurons forming circuits in living mammalian brain slices and that of an intact rodent brain. To achieve this, we use novel photonic technologies not only to visualize these neurons but also to stimulate and record neuronal activity to understand the input/output transfer function of neurons and circuits. Understanding neuronal and circuit function is in itself a grand challenge and has attracted major research thrusts worldwide. Hence, correlating the input-output transfer function of neuronal of circuits from both living brain and that of neurons grown on-a-chip can lead to new insights on how the brain functions during learning, memory and information processing.

About the Speaker

Vincent Daria earned his PhD in Applied Physics from Osaka University, Japan. From 2001 to 2004 he pursued postdoctoral work at the Risoe National Laboratory (Denmark) where their group pioneered the use of dynamic multi-beam optical tweezers for manipulating arrays of microscopic objects and cells simultaneously. From 2004, he established a research group at the University of the Philippines to work on ultrafast lasers in combination with spatial light encoding for multi-beam optical tweezers combined with non-linear optical processes. Such technique was applied to fs-laser surgery and manipulation of cells and 3D holographic micro-fabrication via photopolymerization. In 2007, he joined the physics department at the Australian National University (ANU) where they initially designed a unique microscope capable of probing living cells and neurons in the brain. In 2010, Dr. Daria moved his laboratory to the John Curtin School of Medical Research to fully engage their collaboration with neuroscientists and apply their holographic two-photon microscope for simultaneous photostimulation of synapses and multi-site Ca2+ imaging of neuronal networks in living brain tissue. The success of this venture enabled the group’s expansion where they continuously received highly competitive funding from the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. He is currently the group leader of the Neurophotonics Laboratory at the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience at ANU. He continues to teach optics and laser courses as well as maintain collaborations with researchers from the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU.

Marienette Morales Vega, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor, Physics Department
Materials Science Laboratory
Head, NanoSpectroscopy Group
Ateneo de Manila University
Faura Hall 318

Beyond the Storm: a children’s book about Dr. Gemma Narisma


Dr. Ma. Mercedes Rodrigo (left) and Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma (right) together with a poster showing the book covers of the Women of Science Series published by Bookmark.

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma, Associate Professor of the Physics Department of Ateneo de Manila University and Associate Director for Research at Manila Observatory, was featured in a children’s book, Beyond the Storm, which is part of the Women of Science series written by Dr. Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo, a Professor of the Department of Information Science and Computer Systems (DISCS) of Ateneo de Manila University. The Women of Science series was published by Bookmark, Inc. and was launched at the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University last 20 May 2017.

Illustrated in color by George Vincent Bien, a graduate of BS in Digital Illustration and Animation from Ateneo de Naga University, the 20-page children’s book tells the story of Dr. Narisma and her adventures in Naga City. Doing regional climate projections computer simulations is easy for her; making ordinary people understand the significance of her work to their daily lives as farmers is more difficult. A computer bug can be found. But finding the right weather conditions that led to the loss of entire rice fields due to the sudden rise of black bugs is not as straightforward. As Dr. Didith Rodrigo wrote in her book, Beyond the Storm:

“Putting down the phone, Gemma thought about the road ahead. Helping this community would be difficult. She needed the help of other scientists, other researchers. She needed to reach out to local government, communities, and the organizations that worked with them. She needed to train the younger researchers to help her, to make sure the research continues and grows. She took a deep breath. Her work has just begun.”

The book’s cover shows a woman in blue dress wielding a shield and a sword, facing the billowing and bellowing clouds trying to blow her away in a storm. But there she still stood: slender as her steel blade, strong as her shield. And we wonder who this woman was. What distant place and time did she come from? Can she calm the sea and the storm?

“You look so pretty, courageous, and ready for battle, anak,” Gemma’s mother told her after seeing the book’s cover.

Gemma smiled, as she narrated her mom’s words in strong Visayan accent during her response at the launch of the Women of Science series at Rizal Library. Gemma is from Davao and she speaks Visayan or Cebuano.

“I am so grateful to Didith who gave my mom such happiness,” Gemma said. “Thank you Didith for featuring my story–our work on climate disaster risk.” She glanced at Dr. Didith Rodrigo on her left, sitting with other featured women scientists before a long table covered with white cloth. Across them was a crowd of students, staff, faculty, and friends sitting on white monoblock chairs. Behind the audience was the entrance to the venue flanked by Bookmark’s registration booth to the right and a shelf of children’s books further to the left. Near the shelf was a glass wall, a window to a gloomy gray world drenched with rain.

“The planet is not well,” Gemma continued. “As most of you know well, the climate is changing worse than expected. In a sense, we look for the planet’s vital signs as what we do when we have fever. How bad is it going to be? Will Mindanao have a higher temperature than Luzon? Will some parts of the Philippines be dehydrated or inundated? To see these effects in detail, we use climate models. We don’t make rampa. Rather, we use computers to translate equations into figures to allow us to see how the changing climate will affect our country.

“We are very vulnerable. We have to act in a way that is guided by scientific information to protect ourselves from climate change. It is important to know the right dosage of medicine given. Without scientific data, we might not adapt in a very good way. The dosage may not be right–we may overdose or underdose. So we do the number crunching, run our models, and look at observation data.

“I like the title, Beyond the Storm. We have to look beyond the storm and work hard. We have to be inspired, hopeful, and engaged. This series of books is such a source of inspiration to do scientific work. We need collective solutions and science plays a big role. For Didith to write a children’s book to inspire future climate scientists is amazing. I really thank her for featuring my story–our story–the story of all the women featured in this collection. I hope these books inspire a more women to do science in the Philippines.”

Beyond the Storm: a Story about Gemma Narisma written by Dr. Didith Rodrigo is now available at Loyola Schools Bookstore for Php 120.