BS Physics-MSE student Aliena Miranda of AdMU receives award at MSE Summit 2018 research fair in UP Diliman

ateneophysicsnews_aliena_miranda_mse_summit_20180417

Aliena Mari P. Miranda (BS Applied Physics-Materials Science Engineering, 2nd from the left) during the awarding ceremonies at the Materials Science & Engineering Summit 2018 at University of the Philippines-Diliman

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Aliena Mari P. Miranda (5 BS Applied Physics with Materials Science Engineering) of Ateneo de Manila University was awarded Best in Oral Presentation (undergraduate cluster) at the Materials Science and Engineering Summit 2018 Research Fair held last 16-17 March 2018 at the Engineering Theater of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Miranda’s research was entitled, “Green synthesis of Fe2O3/graphene and MnO2/graphene nanocomposites for supercapacitor electrodes,” under the supervision of Dr. Erwin P. Enriquez of the Department of Chemistry of Ateneo de Manila University. Of the five participants in the Research Fair,  four are from Ateneo de Manila University. The two-day summit, with the theme “Sinagtala: A Focus on the Innovations of Philippine Materials,” has four events: Olympiad, ProdExpo, Career talks, and Research Fair.

Below is an interview with Aliena Mari P. Miranda by Ateneo Physics News:

1. How did you arrive at Ateneo de Manila University from high school?

I’m from Pasig City Science High School. I entered the Applied Physics/MSE program because I was interested in working on nanotechnology. Studying in a science high school helped cultivate my interest in the sciences, and luckily I was granted a scholarship to the Ateneo so I could pursue this interest.

2. What is the significance of your research?

With rampant pollution and limited resources, there is high interest in producing energy storage using environmentally-friendly methods and abundant materials. One device of interest is the supercapacitor, which, unlike the conventional dielectric capacitor, makes use of an electrolyte separated by a porous membrane. The electrodes have to be conductive, and have to have a high surface area to increase the energy it stores. Metal oxides such as iron oxide and manganese oxide have high specific capacitances but they suffer from low conductivity and low surface area. To address this, these metal oxides can be deposited in nanoparticle form onto graphene to increase their surface area and conductivity. The research shows that effective supercapacitor electrodes made of metal oxide-graphene nanocomposites can be created using green synthesis methods such as direct exfoliation and microwave-assisted hydrothermal synthesis, addressing the need to replace energy-intensive methods and toxic reagents. It also shows that iron oxide and manganese oxide increase the specific capacitance of graphene as the nanocomposites had higher specific capacitances compared to plain graphene.

3. Is this research a continuation of your BS Applied Physics thesis?

This research isn’t a continuation of my BS Applied Physics thesis, so the toughest part was getting used to the lab protocols for working in a chemistry laboratory. Working in a chemistry laboratory taught me to be more meticulous with my work especially since the reagents and tools we were using could be expensive.

I did my Applied Physics thesis under Dr. Christian Mahinay at the Vacuum Coating and Plasma laboratory where I worked on the characterization of DC-magnetron argon plasma using a Langmuir probe that I designed. I decided to start a different study for my MSE thesis because I was interested in Dr. Enriquez’s work on supercapacitors. Luckily, Mark Cabello, a previous graduate student, had been working on creating metal oxide graphene nanocomposites but they were designed for dye-sensitized solar cells, so Dr. Enriquez advised me to work from there to develop supercapacitor electrodes.

4. What motivated you to join the contest?

I was motivated to join the contest because my friends and I joined the quiz bee in the same summit two years ago. Our professor in an MSE class, Dr. Jose Mario A. Diaz, told us we’d get bonus points if we won the quiz bee. Unfortunately, we didn’t win then, so I kept my eye on the summit and decided my MSE thesis was good material for the research fair. A block mate, and an org mate joined the research fair as well so we cheered for each other during the oral presentations.

Students should be encouraged to talk about their work with others so that they can get feedback from people other than their peers and teachers in their school. We got to interact with students from different universities and learn about their work, and it helped build this sense of community knowing that science is alive and well all around the country, although it could be better if more support was given and more resources were shared. One of the professors commented that I could approach them to use their facilities since I was having difficulties with characterization. Events like this MSE Summit gives me hope that science can flourish as a field in the Philippines.

5. Were you able to make it to the BPI-DOST awards?

Yes, I am one of the two awardees from the Ateneo to the BPI-DOST Science Awards. They decided to cut the nominees from three last year down to just two this year so the competition was tougher. I thought I wouldn’t make it because one of the panelists commented he didn’t understand my methodology, but somehow it worked out in the end. The results have not been announced online but we were emailed letters last week. The other awardee is Kariz Bautista, a fourth year BS Chemistry/MSE student who worked on modified nanocellulose derived from hyacinths under Dr. Jose Mario Diaz. The awarding ceremony is on 5 June 2018.

6. What are your future plans in 5 years?

I’m currently waiting for the results of my application for the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. My blockmate and I have passed the second screening, which was under the university we’re applying to, and now we’re waiting for the results of the third screening under the Japanese Government. In the meantime, I plan to finish my reading list and pick up a few online classes. If I don’t get into the scholarship, I plan on working in the construction industry.

7. Was your paper already published?

No, my paper has not been published yet. I haven’t had the time to make my work suitable for publication, and there’s still a lot to do.

8. Any parting words?

Getting started seems tough but it’s a crucial step. Don’t let your inhibitions get the best of you. I started studying physics not really knowing what I got myself into, but I braced myself for the ride. I can’t say I’ve always been passionate for physics, but sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and work through it.

ateneophysicsnews_aliena_miranda_up_mse_summit_2018_award

Certificate of Recognition of Aliena Mari P. Miranda for winning the Best in Oral Presentation (Undergraduate Cluster) at the MSE Summit 2018 Research Fair in University of the Philippines-Diliman last 16-17 March 2018.

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About quirinosugonjr
Physics professor and corporate blogger

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