Physics Chair Dr. Nofel Lagrosas meets the Ateneo Physics Freshman Class during ORSEM 2012

Dr. Nofel Lagrosas

Dr. Nofel Lagrosas, Chair of the Department of Physics

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Last Saturday morning of 9 June 2012, during the Ateneo ORSEM (Orientation Seminar) week, Dr. Nofel Lagrosas, Chair of the Department of Physics, met with 21 freshmen students of Physics for the year 2012 at the Room 205 of the School of Management Building.  Dr. Lagrosas gave an overview of the Department of Physics, its programs, its research laboratories, and its alumni. Dr. Lagrosas also answered many questions from the students.  Below is an edited transcript of Dr. Lagrosas’s talk and his responses to the questions of the students in the open forum.

A. Materials Science Laboratory

In the department, by the time you reach third year, you start working in a lab. Sometimes we say in the department that the third year students are suppose to be slaves in the lab. You have these labs to work on depending on your course. You can choose these labs. Spend your time working on research topics. Don’t be afraid. If you are science student you should be eager to work on research.

For materials science lab, MSE students work in the MSE lab. Vacuum coating can handle MSE students also. There are research works here that collaborates with MSE and also with Photonics. If you are a pure physics, you can go to Photonics, Atmospherics, and Space Weather. There are also Theoretical Physics and Physics Education if you want to be in those fields. If you do your research in your third year in Material Science, it is easier to work on a similar topic for your second thesis in your fifth year. Have that idea in mind.

Whom do you approach in the Materials Science Laboratory? It is Dr. Benjamin Chan. When you enter Faura, it is the first room to your right. Just in case if you want to inquire, there are lots of facilities that you may be interested to play with, such as the electron microscope. Just approach Dr. Chan. Don’t tell him you wish to learn how to operate this equipment. Rather, tell him that you want to work with him and in the process you learn how the instrument works.

B. Vacuum Coating Laboratory

This is the Vacuum Coating Laboratory. The main person to ask would be Mr. Ivan Culaba. If you go to Faura, the Vacuum Lab is at the left side. The first room is the comfort room for girls, then for the guys. Next is the faculty room F-105. In the faculty room is Mr. Ivan Culaba and Dr. Jerrold Garcia. Dr. Garcia is one of our famous teachers in the department. You know why Dr. Garcia is famous? He is a good teacher. He teaches well. But he is also well-known for flunking students who are not doing their jobs. You will know a lot from him. He handles Classical Mechanics or Mathematical Physics. If he is going to be your teacher, make sure you do well.

The lab looks really wiry. Of course it should be the case and you cannot have a vacuum system that is small. It is suppose to be large. You can learn how to work the vacuum. You can bombard some surfaces with molecules. If there is air, it is harder for you to bombard, because the molecules that you evaporate won’t hit the glass substrate, but the air molecules instead.

This is one of the work done by a student in the vacuum lab. This is Jerome Unidad. He is now working for his Ph.D. In Italy. When he was a student here, he did a sputtering experiment using plasma and you can see the plasma here. It glows.

C. Atmospheric and Space Physics

You can also work on atmospheric science. There is me, Dr. Gemma Narisma, and Dr. James Simpas. We work on remote sensing, climate, and pollution studies.

We have NASA’s sun photometer for the AERONET (Aerosol Robotic Network) program. We also have DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy). We do work for PM (particulate matter) concentrations. We get data from satellites that observe the ground and from sun photometer that tracks the sun. Dr. Simpas and I accompanied a scientist from NASA to the Dongsha Island of Taiwan. We went there to take a look at their instruments as part of their program. Dr. Narisma does the meteorological modeling and Dr. Simpas does the aerosol density analysis. Why aerosols? They are important stuff you should know in relation to climate change. Dr. Narisma is working on simulations for climate studies. She wants to know what is the temperature ten years from now. So if you wish to work with her, you need to have good computer programming skills. Does anybody of you know how to work with Linux? You can work with Dr. Narisma. These are their simulation of rainfall maps. For example, in Tokyo there is a low pressure area. But you need to know where that low pressure is. Dr. Narisma has just won the NAST (National Academy of Science and Technology) Young Scientist Award. Thus, you are in good hands.

Part of the job is data processing. This would be a good application for Physics and ACS (Applied Computer Systems) students. This work was done by my students, Paolo Baylon. He worked with me. After his fourth year, he went to ICTP (International Center for Theoretical Physics) in Trieste, Italy. He is now in taking his Ph.D. in Physics in University of Washington.

D. Ionospheric and Space Physics

If you are interested ionosphere and space physics, there is Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. He coordinates the ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) Subcenter at Manila Observatory, in collaboration with ICSWSE in Kyushu University. ICSWSE has more than 60 ground-based MAGDAS/CPMN (Magnetic Data Acquisition System/Circumpan Pacific Network) stations around the world and 6 of them are in the Philippines: Tuguegarao, Muntinlupa, Legazpi, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. This is the worldwide map of the MAGDAS/CPMN stations. Notice these dots. These are positions of instruments. ICSWSE also has 3 FMCW (Frequency Modulated Continous Wave) radars and one of them is installed in the Subcenter. The radar is used for generating ionograms used for studying the distribution of the electrons in the ionosphere. The radar is also used to measure the vertical motion of the charges in the ionosphere, which can be used to deduce the strength of the ionospheric electric field.

E. Photonics Laboratory

In the Photonics Laboratory, the main person is Dr. Raphael Guerrero. He works with holograms for storing information. If you will be working in his lab, you will have a chance to work with holograms. If you are dealing with optics, you have to be careful. Everything must be aligned properly. One false move and you won’t get what you want to have. He is also working on florescence. Flourescence happens when light strikes on a material which then emits light in a different wavelength.. You can measure that emission. Why is flourescence necessary? If you scoop a water from the sea, you can measure its chlorophyll content which is dependent on the intensity light flourescence of water. You will also be looking at gratings. This is the work done by Stein Baluyot. When he was still an undergraduate student, he already have ISI publications. He worked with Dr. Nathaniel Hermosa before on bored helical phases of optical beams.

F. Theoretical Physics

For Theoretical Physics, there is Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. They work on the Geometric Algebra and Space Weather. One of their students was Javier Jalandoni who worked with the orbits of Trojan asteroids using perturbation theory .Javy was an SOSE awardee for his undergraduate thesis. Dr. Sugon went to the ISWI (International Space Weather Conference) in Egypt before because of his collaboration with the MAGDAS/CPMN project with Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto of ICSWSE, Kyushu University. There is also a chance for you to travel abroad. Your generation have lots of opportunities if you just work hard.

G. Physics Education

Physics education research is led by Dr. Minella Alarcon. She was one of the chairpersons in the department before She was also my adviser. In Ateneo High School, the Asst. Principal for Academic Affairs is Dr. Alarcon’s daughter. We are working with the High School Science Department. Recently, Dr. Alarcon and her ALOP (Active Learning in Optics and Photonics) team received the SPIE award for optics education. She was organizer of the Optics and Photonics Education worshops. Her team travels to remote places such as Africa. This is Dr. Alarcon with her ALOP team members Mr. Maquiling and Mr. Ivan Culaba. We are employing their expertise to help our country in education. These are their collaborators from ICTP.

ICTP. If you are the theoretical physicist, ICTP is the International Center for Theoretical Physics founded by Abdus Salam. He is a Pakistani who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in weak forces. When he won the award, he donated his money and established the ICTP through the United Nations. Italy won the bid to host the place.

H. Alumni

We have some students who went abroad because of their work. That is Paolo Baylon. He is now in Washington University. That is Mariel Dee. She went to France for her Junior Term Abroad (JTA). You can spend a semester there to study and, of course, to have fun. Armelle Remedio is also our graduate. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Max Planck Institute. Karl Jamandre is our student working on his Masters in Atmospheric Science under Dr. Narisma. Jude Salinas is my student who just graduated last year. He is going to Taiwan for his Masters in Remote Sensing. Joseph Angan graduated as MSE. Those three will be going to Singapore to present a paper in AOGS (Asia Oceania Geosciences Society). Some of the third year students are also going to Singapore to present part of their work. That will ok. This is going to be demanding part of your life. I hope you respond well to the demands of research work. And before I forget, that is Cheska Siongco. She graduated from Philippine Science. She is working on her Masters in ICTP. Hopefully, she gets accepted in Max Planck Institute in Germany.

What does this tell you? There are lots of things we can work out here. Our job as teachers is to help you succeed. We need also something from your side. I need you to be conscious that you must be industrious in your academic work.

H. Open Forum

Dr. Nofel Lagrosas and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr with the physics freshman class of 2012

Dr. Nofel Lagrosas (left) and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr (right) with the physics freshman class of 2012

1. Can an MSE student go to Astrophysics?

In depends on the astrophysics field. As long as there is anything material about it, there should be no problem.

2. Are we limited to the laboratories inside Ateneo? 

As chair, I am greedy. We prefer that you work with us. Why? It would contribute to research in the department. We don’t know the atmosphere outside Ateneo. So I don’t what to put you in that risk. But through your adviser we can form collaborations, usually with NIP (National Institute of Physics). It is suppose to be through the adviser. Stay as slave. As you grow old you will have chance to work with your own slaves also.

3. Do you do research on Cosmology?

We do work on space physics, but that only includes the ionosphere, magnetosphere, and solar wind. If you want to work on cosmology, you must talk to Dr. Jerrold Garcia. He is the only expert in Einstein’s General Relativity (GR) in the Department. He taught GR to Ian Vega. Ian later finished his Ph.D. in Physics in University of Florida and is now doing his postodoctorate work in University of Guelph. He worked with black holes. We also have another alumni, Reinabelle Reyes who finished her Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Princeton University and is now a postdoctoral fellow in University of Chicago. She became a celebrity when she verified Einstein’s General Relativity in cosmological scales.

4. After taking Masters and Ph.D, what are the job prospects?

The rule in life is the higher your degree, the higher you get paid. If you work in multinational companies, they employ Ph.D.s for the development of new technologies. That is where the big bucks are. You can also go to the academe. Our job as teachers is to inspire the younger generations to do science. That is another option. The third option is to go to government. DOST needs lots of credible Ph.D.s. You can also go to finance, but the cause of the financial collapse are few years ago are the physicists in Wall Street called the quants. Physicists do mathematical financial analysis. The differential equations they use are similar to those in physics.

You are not suppose to be without a job. Even as students, there is an opportunity for graduate school here or abroad. There are scholarships.

The Ateneo Innovation Center is the center for development of new technologies. You can always do projects there. Dr. Greg Tangonan heads the center. He is also a graduate of the department.

The Manila Observatory is where we work. The atmospheric people work there. You can do research with the research agenda that we have at the Manila observatory. You have to prove yourself. We prefer pure physics or ACS. We also have some students from MSE. Actually, Joseph Angan is an student working with me.

5. What is the average salary for physics graduates?

There is a wide range. We have a student who just graduated and he was offered Php 50,000 to work in Unilever.

6. Can we do particle physics?

We don’t offer particle physics. But there is one graduate student, Mike Andrews. He is working on particle physics under Dr. Sugon. He is going to Fermilab in Chicago this semester to do his research there. We don’t offer particle physics as a research track now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. We have the capability of sending you out. He was a Management Engineering graduate. But after graduation and working in a company, he went back to Ateneo and took up M.S. Physics.

7. What is the passing rate?

You will fail if you don’t do your job as a student. In terms of passing numbers, about 80 to 90 percent will pass.

In Physics 41, all of them passed. But sometimes, there are freshmen who were not asking help, even if they have problems with math. After some time, they folded up.. That is why, if you have problems with math and physics, always ask help.

8. Was there anyone injured in the laboratory?

So far, no one was seriously injured. If you start working in the lab, your job is to take precautions. You are not that clumsy. If you drop metal balls in lab, it shows that you are not suppose to be MSE.

9. Does a thesis have to be individual?

We prefer individual thesis, but there may be problems where there would be a chance for two to collaborate.

In the first week of July, there will be a general assembly on Wednesday. It will be a chance to meet other faculty doing research work. Don’t be ashamed to talk to them regarding research topics. But I shall advise you to enjoy your first and second years. In your third and fourth years, you will be doing serious research.

10. Are there competitions?

It depends on you. It need not be physics. Mariel Dee is a national Sudoku finalist. We prefer that you guys focus on your research.

11. Can we perform nuclear experiments?

You can perform nuclear experiments. But in terms as a research area, we don’t have nuclear physics. But we can collaborate. We can send faculty members to do their training in the Philippine Nuclear Resarch Institute, such as Ramon de los Santos. It depends on what these institutions can offer to us.

12. Can we do medical research?

You can do medicine related research. We have alumni who went abroad to study medical physics. There is Dr. Rhonald Lua, a postdoctoral fellow of the Lichtarge Computational Biology Lab of the Baylor College of Medicine. There is also Dr. Adrian Serohijos, a postdoctoral fellow of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. They both work with protein engineering and drug design.

13. Can we minor in Finance?

You have that option but you need to have a permission. If you have seen your course curriculum, there are are free electives. You can use that for finance.

Freshmen students during the ORSEM 2012

Freshmen students walking around the Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership during the ORSEM 2012. On the left is the entrance of Faura Hall.

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Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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