Jerome Unidad of University of Naples: Polymer Rheology, Molecular Modeling, and the Orpheus group

Christine Querebillo, Jerome Unidad, and Kristine Mae Gotera

Christine Querebillo, Jerome Unidad, and Kristine Mae Gotera

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Jerome Unidad, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering student at the Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, gave a talk yesterday on Polymer rheology at Schmitt Hall, Room 109, 4:30-6:00 p.m.  The talk was attended mainly by students from the class of  Dr. Soma Chakraborty of the Chemistry Department.  Jerome finished his BS Physics (2008) and B.S. in Materials Science Engineering (2009) at the Ateneo de Manila University.  Below is an interview with Jerome by the Ateneo Physics News:

1.  When did you arrive in the country?

October 21.  I’ll be staying until December 10, then go back to Italy.

2.  What is your dissertation topic?

Molecular rheology of entangled polymers.  But that would be the same as five other people who are part of the European project Dynacop (Dynamics of Architecturally Complex Polymers).  It is like a consortium of different institutions in Europe and two industry partners. The project is funded by Marie Curie foundation.  I hope to finish my Ph.D. studies next year between April and May.  The length of my Ph.D. is about 3.5 years.

3.  Are you planning to go back to work in the Philippines?

Professionally, as of now I would wish to continue taking postdoctorates in science to increase my research breadth.  Then if I feel happy with the research capacity that I have, I will think whether to go back or not.

4.  How were you able to study in Italy?

I just found by looking for programs that would bring me closer to soft matter physics.  Little did I know that it would lead to chemical engineering–the land of soap factories and fuel burning.  They do a lot of soft matter stuff which is physically stimulating for me as a physics undergrad with materials science engineering.  I am happy with what I am doing.

My adviser is Prof. Giovanni Ianniruberto.  We did a Skype interview.  I don’t know why he picked me out of most people.  I did play around with molecular models before, some Monte Carlo simulations.  And then we got an SPP poster out of it.  That was me and David So.  I put that work as part of my application. That is the closest thing.  When I went there, the first thing I did was to open a book on soft matter physics.  Learning is not so difficult.  Everything was in terms of Brownian motion expressed in terms of scaling.    This fancy math suffices.  For example, the relaxation time of polymer molecular is proportional to a power of its molecular weight.  De Gennes won the Nobel Prize for soft matter for his pioneering work in the growth of soft matter physics.  His power relations are the foundations of the models that we are using .  They are simple if we understand scaling.

5.  Did you take courses?

It is largely research based, but you take courses just for information.  It’s a salad course: smart materials, nanotechnology, etc.  They helped to extend the breadth of your knowledge.  I took courses  like computational rheology and safety issues in hydrogen economy.  They are in extended seminar formats.  There is no very rigorous exam in the end.  You simply fill out the certain number of units.  Course work is mostly research.  In some sense I am a polymer scientist.  I did not take courses on how to make soap factories or their chemical design.  But now of course it is a renewed understanding–from blood rheology to basic physics of turbulence to tissue engineering.  You engineer some material which behave in a living tissue in a certain way.  These are biopolymers.  They are the tissues that will make the organ.

I cannot associate myself with chemical engineering per se.  It would be a misrepresentation.  I am not a chemist.  I am just a polymer scientist.  But I do want to branch out to other areas where polymer physics might be useful like biophysics or nanostructured polymer materials.  The future is not on polyethylene or plastics.

6.  Can you tell me about the Orpheus Facebook group?

Orpheus is a Facebook group that caters to all Filipino students and professionals who are staying right now in Europe, such as Nath Hermosa who is taking his postdoctoral studies.  Orpheus includes poepole who are going in the same career track that push the boundaries of knowledge.  We are trying a virtual-based environment where people can share common interest and find common ground.  We help each other through chances for meet-ups, sharing of resources, tips how to navigate one’s visa in various countries, and other travel advice.

Orpheus started this February.  I asked three random people who did not know I am asking also other people as well.  They said it was a great idea.  I was sot of bored without people to talk to.  I started with 17 original members, with Christine Querebillo as one of them.  Now we have 220 members in less than a year.

Mr. Joel Maquiling was there for the first general assembly at a Carnival in Venice.  We only wore masks like everyone.  That is one big celebration of Orpheus.  There was Chingay Vega from Chemistry, David So from Chemistry and Physics, Joseph Unsay from Chemistry, David Peralta, Nathaniel Hermosa from Physics, Angelique Lusuan from Physics, Paolo Bugarin in Math, Christian Chan, Omar Choa from Archaelogy and Chinese studies, Joanna Mae Indias from Physics.   Ian and Monette Vega from Physics are also there.  They were from the US.  They are now in Trieste.  Ian is in SISSA and Moe is in Universidad de Trieste.  There is also from UP–Myra Luna Yao, Miguel de Jesus in Math.  There is no one from Environmental Science.

7.  What was the most difficult moment in your life there?

The most difficult moment I had to go through was during my second year.  I was in a house that I shared with other flatmates.  And we were all good friends and chums.  But a year after, the land lady cound not find anymore tenants, so I had to live alone in a house of four.  The house was empty.  I miss my other friends.  It makes research tough.  That was the reason why I created Orpheus.  I was lonely. I need a support group.

8.  Any parting words?

One thing I would have done in my undergraduate years to do better in research is to master a programming language, i.e. practice programming everyday.  I think in my experience in theory/computational research, the progress in simulations is determined by the quality of programming I could do, especially graphics programming.  And I would also continue reading literature–what interested me when I went to polymer physics is reading papers.  I am happy where I am now and that is a good thing.

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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