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.


About quirinosugonjr
Physics professor and corporate blogger

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