Ateneo Physics Student and BPI-DOST Science Awardee Sarah Jaye C. Oliva wins First Place in the video contest of Optical Society of America

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

After receiving the BPI-DOST Science Award Last 4 March 2013 at Escaler Hall in Ateneo de Manila University for her work on “Optical wavelength tuning using a fluidic grating” under Dr. Raphael Guerrero, BS Physics with Materials Science Student Sarah Jaye C. Oliva won again another award this year. Sarah won First Place in the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest for the Students Category by the Optical Society of America (OSA). According to PRWeb:

Sarah Jaye Oliva, a graduate student at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, clinched first place in the student contest for her video “Black and White,” which describes the simple, but ingenious product enabled by optics—the laser barcode scanner. The video describes how the technology uses optics and the science of colors to do its valuable job.

Below is an interview with Sarah Oliva by the Ateneo Physics News. The interview on the BPI-DOST Science Award was held last March 20, 2013, while that on the OAS Award was done last November 22, 2013.

Ateneo Physics student Sarah Jaye Oliva during the awarding ceremony for the BPI-DOST Science Award at the Escaler Hall, Ateneo de Manila University, last March 4, 2013.

Ateneo Physics student Sarah Jaye Oliva during the awarding ceremony for the BPI-DOST Science Award at the Escaler Hall, Ateneo de Manila University, last March 4, 2013.


Date of interview: November 22, 2013

1. Can you describe what your work is all about?

A grating is an optical element—it is like what you find on the back side of your CD. You notice that when you move the CD around, you see colors around it. That is how the diffraction grating works. The white light is bent at different angles for different colors so you see a rainbow. Our fluidic grating is made of a polymer chamber and inside it is filled with water, in contrast to hard lenses which are made of glass. Our setup allows us to change the properties of the grating by controlling the volume of the water inside. By injecting more liquid into it, the grating gets stretched and effectively changing the grating spacing and how the colors are bent.

Optical wavelength is in the range of hundreds of nanometers. Tuning means I can control what wavelength of light I want as an output. In a sense, it is like tuning a radio: you change the frequency you want to listen to. But in our work, we changed the water volume to change the wavelength output. The wavelength and frequency are inversely related to each other with the speed of light as proportionality constant.

2. Is this idea new?

To the best of our knowledge, tuning using fluidic grating is novel research. There are other studies in related literature using fluidic lenses. There are also others with grating and lens setups, but we haven’t come across research that has a grating and lens in one element. A part of our work was already published in Applied Optics 2012, but only the first part–the variable diffraction part. In this set of experiments, we also use the fluidic grating. We used monochromatic lasers and a white light source for our tuning experiments.

BPI-DOST Science Awardees for 2013. From left to right: Nikita P. Bacalzo, Jr. (BS/MS Chemistry), Sarah Jaye C. Oliva (BS Physics with Materials Science and Engineering), and Napoleon Salvador B. Antonio (BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering)

BPI-DOST Science Awardees for 2013. From left to right: Nikita P. Bacalzo, Jr. (BS/MS Chemistry), Sarah Jaye C. Oliva (BS Physics with Materials Science and Engineering), and Napoleon Salvador B. Antonio (BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering)

3. How were you chosen as BPI awardee?

It started when my adviser told me to fill up some forms and prepare a write-up of what I have done so far. This was about October last year. And then as the semester ended, we were called for an oral presentation in front of a panel of judges from different Ateneo departments. By then they had narrowed down the list to six finalists. There were six of us who did the oral presentation. After that the judges and the SOSE (School of Science and Engineering) dean narrowed down the list further and chose the three finalists of the Ateneo. Each school from the ten partner schools of the DOST chooses three finalists. From this pool of 30 students, BPI-DOST shortlists six who shall compete for the project of the year award; the 30 of them already get the BPI-DOST awards. The six do another oral presentation for the project of the year award in in addition to the science award. I did not make it to the topi 6. It was Napoleon Salvador Antonio of Chemistry who made it to the Top 6.

4. Is it true that you only shifted to physics?

I started college as a BS in Applied Mathematical Major in Mathematical Finance (AMF). After a year of discerning, I decided to shift to physics. Even though I love math, I am not into business related things and essentially that is where AMF seems to be directed to. i decided that i want to pursue science. It is a childhood thing. All the science books and discovery shows sparked my interest as a kid. And out of the different sciences it was physics that I really got interested the most because of my physics high school teacher who taught it well. I am from St. Joseph’s School in Naga City in Bicol. It is a small Filipino-Chinese school. My physics teacher is Mr. Jodel Maomay. And so I shifted. By second year, i was officially a physics student.

5. You met some Ateneo Physics department before you shifted?

I met my physics teachers after I already shifted. I talked to Dr. Benjamin Chan. But before that I talked to upper class physics majors for some of them are my org mates. They were encouraging. They wanted me to get in.

6. I see that your mother came all the way here. How long does it take to go here from Bicol?

It is only an hour by plane and about eight hours on the road—sometimes extended a little bit to ten hours. I am the eldest of three girls.

7. Any parting words?

Looking back, I remembered how scared I was to shift out of the AMF program and into a world of the unknown. I knew a lot of people from AMF, but not in Physics. It was a new thing to me, considering that I only met Physics in the last year of high school, unlike Math which I took since way back. But I am glad I took a leap of faith to pursue what I wanted. Physics is difficult. I knew this before I shifted, but I know I love it. I have the motivation to persevere in this field and do my best here despite the challenge.

Congratulations to Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Oliva for winning the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest of the Optical Society of America for the Student Category.

Congratulations to Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Oliva for winning the 1st Annual Enabled by Optics Contest of the Optical Society of America for the Student Category.


Date of Interview: November 22, 2013

1. How did you know about the contest?

I am a member of the Optical Society of America. So I receive the member newsletter. That is where I read about it. There was another video contest a year ago which I also planned to join. Since I let it pass last year, I thought I might as well do it this time around. I made it happen.

2. Who thought about the concept?

Me. My boss (Dr. Raphael Guerrero) didn’t know about it until the results came out. It was Summer. He was out of the country that time. I did it on my own.

3. How did you know that you won?

They informed me by email, but I can’t remember when that was. I think that was about three months after the contest closed. At first, I was unbelieving, because I don’t know the email address. It could be anyone. They told me that they unanimously chose my entry. I was shocked. At that time I already forgot about it. I thought I didn’t win. And they told me to not share the news first. They wanted to announce it properly when the time came. So I didn’t tell anyone about it until they publicized it. That was when I told Sir Guerrero and that was when he learned about it.

4. Did you go to the US for the awarding?

I was not able to go. They invited me to come over for the awarding. But the awarding was right in the middle of the exam week first semester. So I told them I cant. There are also other problems: I don’t have a visa and stuff like that.

5. Is there a cash award?

There should be. I haven’t received it because just last week, I think, they had me answer some forms for the release of the check.

6. Can you summarize what you did in your work?

In my work, I can’t remember the actual phrasing of the theme. It is like how optics is at work in everyday life. And I chose to explain how a barcode scanner works. I explained it by relating it to what people know. So I related it to the common perception on clothes. How white clothes are cooler than darker colored clothes which I related to heat. And from there, it is quite a leap, I explained that the barcode scanner, at the very fundamental level, works in the same way as that. Light or heat (either way) is absorbed by dark colors and reflected by light colors, which forms a wave that is read by the computers. That is how the barcode information gets transferred to a computer. That is pretty much it. I think I won because I kept it simple. The other videos were too technical for me. I think that whole point of the video contest is to explain optics and science to non-science people. That is why I related it to what people experience.

Actually, the original instruction in the contest was to take apart a common item and explain how it works. But I don’t have a barcode scanner to take apart. That is why I did the drawing. At the end of the day, I also decided that drawing would appeal more to non-science people than to an actual video of something. In the video there there are many things going on. There is the background and there is you speaking . It is easier to direct people’s attention when you are drawing. And when I did that video, it was just my second stop motion video. The first one I did a week before. As you can see from the video. It is still a little rusty.

Ateneo Physics Student Sarah Jaye Oliva gives a lecture on her work on optical wavelength tuning with fluidic grating.  This work, which awarded for her the BPI-DOST Science Award, was published in Applied Optics 2012, a journal of the Optical Society of America (OSA).

7. What software did you use?

Software! I used Windows Live Movie Maker. Freeware. I used movie maker plus my video with my phone, an iPhone.

8. How long did it take you to make those videos?

I spent an afternoon drawing and taking the photos. And then an evening editing them. I actually did it fast. I did it in one run, one take in everything. I was lazy to take retakes. A day before the deadline, I already had the plan. I could see the plan and how I would do it in my head. I had a plan for several weeks already, but I executed it at the last minute.

9. You read a script or did you just explain as you go along?

By the script. I recorded it separately after I did the editing. I recorded the audio on top of it.

10. Are there other video contests you are planning to work on?

No. I haven’t heard of any other contests. I think I was just lucky that time because of the very rough editing and rough medium. It was lucky to have won that. I’ll try again next year.

11. Are you making more videos now?

No. I stopped there. I haven’t done other videos after that nor am I thinking of doing of something like that. It is actually challenging. It looks easy to do, but it is not, because I really thought of what device to explain and how I can relate that to people. And the easiest way is to visually explain it. There was a lot of planning into it in my head. It never materialized until the last moment.

12. Maybe you have a knack for teaching?

Actually, it got me to thinking when I finished. I always think of teaching as something we know. You teach when you relate it to something your students already know. I never really got to think of it more seriously until I did this video. For one, I appreciate teachers who were able to teach that way. And somehow I am thinking about maybe I can do that, too. I don’t know. Maybe.

13. Are you taking graduate school right now?

No, sir. Fifth year MSE (Materials Science Engineering).

14. How are your career plans?

Grad school. Not sure where. Abroad if I get a good scholarship. Hopefully.

15. Any parting thoughts?

Just go for it. I had that regret last year. I didn’t join the video contest that was held last year. When I saw the entries afterward, there were too few who joined. I was thinking: I can top that. I can do better than that. And then this year I was a little scared. When I submitted the video, I didn’t look at the other videos. I just submitted. I might lose faith. When the contest was over, I looked over the other entries. There were so many of them. What is my chance? And I am the only one who did the drawing. Everyone had real devices with them. So I really thought I did not have a chance. I think just go for it.


About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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