Ateneo Physics Department welcomes back Dr. Minella Alarcon from UNESCO: Inquiry-Based Science Teaching (IBST) training of Ateneo de Manila High School teachers

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Dr. Minella Alarcon and Mr. Ivan Culaba with the Ateneo de Manila High School teachers

Dr. Minella Alarcon (first from the left) and Mr. Ivan Culaba (third from the left) with the Ateneo de Manila High School teachers

After working for more than a decade at UNESCO as Programme Specialist responsible for the basic sciences, particularly, physics and mathematics, and science education, and being cited last August 2010 by SPIE for her founding and heading the successful project ALOP (Active Learning in Optics and Photonics), Dr. Minella Alarcon has retired from UNESCO and returns to her roots at the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Physics.

Dr. Minella Alarcon got her PhD degree in Physics from UP Diliman back in 1987 and did her experimental research at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. It was in 1987 that she started the Laser Laboratory in the department with experiments in Applied Laser Spectroscopy and set up in 1996 the Mie Lidar System at the Manila Observatory. Dr. Nofel Lagrosas, the present Chair of the department of physics, was among those who worked with her.

A lidar is a laser radar: instead of radiowaves with wavelengths of several kilometers, you have laser beams with wavelengths less than the width of your hair. Lidar systems are used for measuring pollutants in the atmosphere, such as soot and aerosols, through their light backscattering properties.

At present, Dr. Alarcon teaches Quantum Mechanics at the Department of Physics.

Quantum Mechanics is the physics behind the atom where electrons cease to become particles but blur into now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t quantities governed by Schrodinger’s equation. When electrons jump to different energy states, light is emitted or absorbed at particular frequencies. When electrons of different atoms jump down at the same time, the light emitted is very well behaved as in a laser beam.

But physics education beckons. Together with Mr. Ivan Culaba and Mr. Joel Maquiling from the Physics Department, two of the international team of ALOP facilitators, Dr. Alarcon is seen once again organizing workshops in physics education. Project ALOP is an international endeavor under which more than 400 teachers in developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America have been trained in 13 workshops since 2004. For 2011, the ALOP team, which includes Dr. Alarcon, Mr. Culaba and Mr. Maquiling, won the SPIE Educator Award. This time the workshop venue is the Ateneo de Manila High School and the participants are the Ateneo High School teachers in physics and other sciences. They are using the inquiry-based science teaching (IBST) approach, emphasizing hands-on activities, making observations from direct experience, asking questions, making predictions, designing investigations, analyzing data and supporting claims with evidence. It’s a 16-week training course, 4 hours per week, covering the topics of mechanics, electromagnetism, and optics. It is no longer an ordinary classroom: it is science in action.

Welcome back Dr. Alarcon!

Mr. Ivan Culaba reads a manual while a group prepares an experiment

So it was written, so it shall be done

Dr. Minella Alarcon checks her computer while the class gazes at another direction

Do you see what I see?

A group conducts a linear motion experiment via a cart and a distance sensor

Thus far shall you come but no farther

A clock ticking above the table of elements

A few good men

A lady in black

Who is the girl at the window pane?

E pur si muove--And yet it moves

E pur si muove--And yet it moves


About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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