Ateneo SOSE honors distinguished Physics students of 2017


The School of Science and Engineering (SOSE) of Ateneo de Manila University held a Recognition Program for Distinguished Students last 24 May 2017, 10:00 a.m., at the Leong Hall Auditorium. According to Dean Evangeline P. Bautista, PhD, the program was made to recognize the students who truly personifies the spirit of magis in the diverse fields of academics, research, leadership, competition, and sports. She hoped that these group of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers would be successful in their fields, so that they can help the country appreciate the value of science and engineering. Jaren Ryan M. Rex, BS Applied Physics with Applied Computer Systems and Magna Cum Laude, gave the response for Honor Students.

Below is the list of awardees from the Physics Department.


Paul Ivan B. Ceralde

  • BS Applied Physics with Materials Science and Engineering
  • EAGE Student Awardee, European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE), Barcelona, Spain, September 2016
  • 3rd Place, Ateneo Team, national Collegiate Olympiad 2017, Materials Science and Engineering SUMMIT 2017, University of the Philippines

Jansen Keith L. Domoguen

  • BS Applied Physics with Materials Science and Engineering
  • APS Distinguished Student Awardee, American Physical Society (APS), Salt Lake City, Utah, April 2016
  • 3rd Place, Ateneo Team, national Collegiate Olympiad 2017, Materials Science and Engineering SUMMIT 2017, University of the Philippines

Jaren Ryan Rex

  • BS Applied Physics/BS Applied Computer Systems
  • Champion, Team Mobiuchsia
  • UP ACP Algolympics 2017 competitive programming contest, 11 February 2017 at UP Diliman
  • 1st Place, Team Mobius Trips, HPE Code Wars programming competition, 27 February 2017, HP Enterprise office, Eton Centris

Socorro Margarita T. Rodrigo

  • BS Physics
  • Best Student Oral Presentation/Best Student Paper award, 13th Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS) National Symposium on Marine Science, General Santos City, 22-24 October 2015
  • 2nd Prize, Undergraduate Basic Research
  • SOSE Outstanding Student Research awards, 2015-2016
  • Youth Delegate, Philippine Delegation, 21st Conference of the Parties (COP2), Paris, France, 30 November to 12 December 2017


Jomel U. Maroma

  • BS Physics
  • Vice President for Organization Strategies and Research, Executive Board (2016-2017)


League of Physicists

Paulo Gonda

  • BS Physics
  • Tesla House Head (2016-2017)
  • AVP for Human Resources (2013-2014)

Joseph Thomas Miclat

  • BS Physics
  • VP for Internal Affairs (2015-2016)
  • VP for Finance (2013-2014)

Kira Lok

  • BS Physics
  • VP for Marketing (2013-2014)

James Hernandez

  • BS Physics
  • VP for Academic Affairs (2014-2016)
  • AVP for Organizational Development (2013-2014)

Jaren Ryan M. Rex

  • BS Applied Physics/BS Applied Computer Systems
  • AVP for Academic Affairs, Services Manager (2013-2014)

Carlex Jose II

  • BS Physics
  • AVP for Internal Special Projects (2013-2014)

Christabel Bucao

  • BS Physics
  • AVP for Academic Affairs, Project Overseer (2013-2014)


Magna Cum Laude

Jaren Ryan M. Rex

  • BS Applied Physics/BS Applied Computer Systems

Cum Laude

Paul Ivan B. Ceralde

  • BS Applied Physics with Materials Science and Engineering

Jomel U. Maroma

  • BS Physics

Jansen Keith L. Domoguen

  • BS Applied Physics with Materials Science and Engineering


Department of Physics

Jaren Ryan M. Rex

  • BS Applied Physics

Delay tolerant network front-end application for disaster risk reduction by Jherrielloyd Yao and Carlex Jose (BS APS-ACS)


Carlex Randolph Jose and Jherrielloyd Lourrenz Yao (BS APS-ACS) at Interlinks 13.0 last May 5, 2017. Their poster is entitled, “Design and implementation of a delay tolerant network front-end application for disaster risk reduction.”

by Ellice Dane Ancheta, Sunshine Indias, and Quirino Sugon Jr

Last 5 May 2017, BS Applied Physics / Applied Computer Systems students Jherrielloyd Lourrenz Yao and Carlex Randolph Jose presented a poster at Interlinks 13.0 on their research entitled, “Design and implementation of a delay tolerant network front-end application for disaster risk reduction,” which is one of the disaster-related projects of the Ateneo Innovation Center. In his Physics thesis last year, Yao worked on interpolation methods for rainfall data in Metro Manila under Dr. James Simpas, while Jose worked on volume holographic reconstruction of Bessel beams at multiple wavelengths under Dr. Raphael Guerrero.

Below is an interview with Jherrielloyd Yao and Carlex Jose by Ateneo Physics News.

1. How did you arrive in Ateneo?

Yao: I graduated from Philippine Science Central Visayas Campus in Cebu. I chose Ateneo because it is a top school. My choices were Ateneo and UP. I passed UPCAT but I had no course in UP. My chosen course there was Materials Engineering. My first choice of course in the Ateneo is also BS APS MSE (BS in Applied Physics / Material Science and Engineering). It was in second year that I chose ACS. So I shifted. I am more interested in programming and electronics. I felt that MSE is too heavy with Chemistry, which is not exactly my favorite.  I was inclined to take science courses. I had three choices, some of the major branches of science: biology, chemistry and physics. I chose physics because it is more general, with more applications. I think it offers more choices in the future in terms of jobs. Also there are more grad school courses I can pursue given a physics background.

Jose: I graduated from Philippine Science Eastern Visayas campus in Leyte. I took both the UP and Ateneo entrance exams. For both universities, I chose physics. I actually couldn’t decide confidently between UP and Ateneo. But Ateneo offered a 100% scholarship. So nothing against UP, but Ateneo is a better choice financially. That is why I am here. On physics, one of the factors is that the coolest people I look up to are our physics professors. So I had appreciation for physics already. Also, the topic seems more interesting by how rudimentary the whole thing is compared to the other sciences.

2. What was your physics thesis about?

Yao: My study was about interpolation methods for rainfall data in Metro Manila under Dr. James Simpas. The usual setup involves weather stations with rain gauges measuring rainfall in specific points on the map every five minutes. However, the dense network of weather station has a minimum radius of 5 km across stations, which leaves the points in between stations with no data. Interpolation methods aim to address the lack of data for a given study area by generating estimates at points with no weather station. Multiple studies have been conducted involving interpolation methods for other areas or countries with different conditions, climate, topography, etc. All of them conclude different results: no interpolation method will work well for all cases. I have assessed a few of the common interpolation methods for my thesis – Nearest Neighbor, Cubic, and Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW) – and I have evaluated the results through correlation and root mean squared errors. I have also developed an interpolation method which worked better than the ones mentioned earlier. It is a hybrid method combining IDW and Successive Over relaxation (SOR). SOR is an iterative approach commonly used to solve potentials in electromagnetics. With some modifications and integration with the IDW, it has been used to generate rainfall values on a map of Metro Manila.  

Jose: I worked with Bessel beams with the Photonics lab under Dr. Raphael Guerrero. My thesis is entitled “Volume Holographic Reconstruction of Bessel Beams at Multiple Wavelengths” Basically, what I did was I would store Bessel beams at  a specific wavelength in a Lithium Niobate Crystal. Lithium Niobate Crystal (LiNbO3:Fe) is a photorefractive crystal in nature. I have the holographic data stored using red light at 633 nm wavelength, while reconstruction was performed using three different wavelengths: 633, 612, and 604 nm. I have not published my paper yet. The big deal about Bessel beams is that it is an interesting topic. Bessel light beams have a property of being non-diffractive over a certain distance, unlike plane waves (which are also non-diffracting) and Gaussian waves that spread out. An ideal Bessel beam possesses a well-defined central spot surrounded by concentric ring. It should be non-diffractive over infinity, which means that the central core would remain the same, without expanding, over an infinite distance. A true Bessel beam is impossible to create, what we work instead with are beams that are Bessel-like, these beams possess Bessel properties over a distance. They are called Bessel-like beams because their central core barely widens over a particular distance. With that, they have a property of self-healing even with obstruction partially covering the beam. The beam has the capability restore itself. Using photorefractive crystals like LiNbO3 crystal is another way of storing memory. An advantage of using the LiNbO3 crystal is that it is capable of storing 100 bits/um^2. Unlike conventional optical and magnetic data where information is processed serially (bit by bit), holographic data is processed in parallel (by blocks of data) with the capability to cache and retrieve multiple information blocks simultaneously.

3. What was your Applied Computer Systems thesis?

For this project, we were operating under possible conditions of the aftermath of a disaster. There might be limited resources due to damaged infrastructure, cut power lines, and downtime of basic telecommunication services. Given this backdrop, what we did is to develop a system to enable responders to communicate effectively under these limitations of a disaster scenario (no 3G, internet, or signal). Our main goal is to enable efficient and reliable communication systems even without the infrastructures we usually rely on for this purpose. We want to make it possible for responders to have a communication system which can assist them in sending images, audio clips, text messages, among other features that speed up the process of sending necessary information they might need in responding to the situation. That is the gist of the problem.

What we developed is an application that would implement the DTN (Delay tolerant network) system. Basically, DTN is a bundle transmission system where you do not have to wait for a secure line to send the message across. There is no end-to-end communication that is required. This transmission is unlike phone calls, wherein the phone call actually starts only if both ends have to acknowledge that they are ready to take the call. For the DTN, you are just sending information out whenever you have a chance and hope it gets to its destination. This is good in disaster scenarios because responders are moving dynamically and conducting operations always. It could be messy. For example, 20 people moving independently from one another are contained in a zone as in a protocol during disaster. With each DTN, each one of those 20 people can take information or data from their phones, and contact other responders when needed. Information is gathered in each device and bumping will occur as two phones meet. The exchange of information happens by mere proximity, by using their adhoc wifi capability. Most smartphones have the capability to set up its own network or “hotspot”. If the phones are close enough, they share information they gathered. For example, information can go from my phone to your phone and on to other phones until it reaches the phone that collects all the data in the zone. The phone that collects all the data in the zone is called an aggregator. Over time, as enough information is collected, a passing data ferry (VHub or UAV) along the zone can take that information and transmit it further. Its eventual destination will be in mission control, where decisions and instructions can be sent out to responders.

The mission control is the backbone wherein all information is sent and processed to assess disaster management, the other team–Dane Ancheta’s team–is working on this. Our work is more focused on those responders in the field. The responders then will be working with an application for communication and information sharing without the use of internet, but using the adhoc wifi instead.

4. What programming languages did you use?

For this project we used Android Java. The Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) part is the starting point and the foundation of our work. We started with IBR-DTN (developed by Institut für Betriebssysteme und Rechnerverbund), an existing application which we used for this purpose. What we did is we started from this application and modified it to suit our needs. Originally, what the application can do was send audio messages. We added several capabilities and functions to this, such as image sending, text messages, and appending text information to the image in Exif (Exchangeable image file format) file. Metadata such as GPS and notes are stored in this Exif file. Local face detection was also added on the app. This local face detection lessens the delay and work of the mission control group. This is possible because images taken on the field is immediately processed by the face detection capability, therefore, it does not have to spend time being sent and processed by mission control. Other functions include GPS and radio frequency module capability because the data ferry (the UAV) would pass by the zone, and get the information from the aggregator node. The communication is done in the 760MHz bandwidth, however we are exploring using 915 MHz. The team also wants to explore using LoRa (long range) communication for this purpose because this allows for the transmission of information farther distance in the kilometers range. However the trade-off for reaching a farther distance is that it will have a weaker transmission rate.

5. How did you choose your topic?

This project was already initiated and worked upon before we came in the lab. There have been a lot of collaborations and planning with external groups outside Ateneo, such as Toyota InfoTech Japan and some sectors in the government, as far as we know. This thesis is a part of the bigger project of the Ateneo Innovations Center (AIC) which is the Multi-Platform ICT Decision Support System UAVs, Vehicle Hubs, Ubiquitous Computing for Disaster Risk Reduction. We are just contributing to this bigger project. While our team is working on communication for the field responders, Dane and her team are working on mission control, receiving and processing all the data aggregated to them. There is also another group working on data ferries, which makes use of the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). It is easier to use UAV for disaster scenarios as it is easier for it to go from place to place. There is also another group that works on flight simulation for the UAV flights.  

6. How are projects done in Ateneo Innovation Center?

There are many small tasks for all of the researchers. Working in the lab, especially in big active labs such as the Ateneo Innovations Center (AIC), requires a lot of collaboration and contribution from each one. A lot of our work intersects with the other group. Some results are based on their findings and the other way around. In a way, we are one big group, but each of us have our own focus. Other than the actual project itself, there were little side quests or tasks that we had to do. Eventually these small tasks would add up and contribute a great deal to the project.

7. What were some of the difficulties you encountered while working on your thesis?

Yao: It was difficult to shift from physics to communications. We had to learn by doing. There were expected outputs, and we had to learn how to do it on the spot. For example, we had to learn Android for our thesis which we started working on for the first semester. However, Android programming is offered in the second semester. We had to do a lot of research and reading. We try to understand and study existing apps because we could use some of the information for our thesis. We are given a shorter time for the ACS subjects and even the thesis is done in 2 semesters–part of which is our integration to the lab.

Jose: To be honest, the bulk of the work is programming, like we have to design the concept and  use-cases. My work there is objective: it involves coming up with a plan of action on how to solve it. We are designing a system and we have the available technology. We know what devices or software we want to use. The objective there is to make everything work together or how to make everything function properly–that is the aspect which is more physics-related. After that you, sit down and code for hours or days or months. Every time that here is something the team wishes to add, you have to adjust everything again.

8. Where do you go from here?

Jose: For our research in the Ateneo Innovations Center (AIC), we are sure that there will be people in AIC who will continue it, considering that there is a long term vision for this work. As for myself, I am not sure yet whether I will continue studying such as taking up a Master’s degree or PhD. But I  have also been looking at employment offers. I feel both are equally interesting. It is difficult to separate physics from the IT stuff.  You can think of it (IT) as being deeply in the physics realm as well. Unless it is hardcore programming, but even then, it is fun for me or challenging enough for me. So far I had taken an exam and an interview for work. There is no transaction yet.

Yao: I am really not sure. Perhaps I will work for a while then study further. Regarding the study, I am interested in the Toyota Motor Philippines School of Technology (TMP Tech). They have a school and it is in house meaning you could live there. I find it interesting because I like to tinker with stuff. Although I have not explored cars, I actually don’t know anything about cars but I want to build stuff.  With that in mind, I am also interested in Aeronautics–if not, robotics, but it is heavy on engineering. I still lack the knowledge. Definitely I am sure I will do Masters.  I am not sure what course yet but it will have to be related to physics or ACS.

9. How do you feel about being the last ACS batch?*

Jose: I shifted from pure physics to applied physics with computer systems. The department should rethink freezing ACS and bring it back because there might be students, like me, who will want to shift into the course.

Yao: I think the ACS track is a good course. It is a good combination because it incorporates programming, engineering and communications to complement our background in physics. I don’t know why they removed it. We shifted to ACS from other courses in physics.

*(Note: Though the Physics Department has not offered the BS APS/ACS program for two years, it still exists in Registrar’s records. The Physics and Chemistry Departments may revive the ACS program soon. BS APS/ACS is a rebranding of the BS Physics with Computer Engineering (BS PS/CE) which started in 1985.)

10. Do you have any parting words or advice?

Jose: Well as for advice, I feel like it would be reckless if I speak and I invoke my 5th amendment right (“right to remain silent”). All I can say is, “You do you.” Do what you think is best. There is no one course of action in or after college. I have seen people prosper in doing things I would advice otherwise. I don’t doubt my decisions but I might take it back at some point. Well, let’s see. It is difficult to advice because you can’t really say if it is going to be a success story. It might be too early to speak.

Yao: Pursue your dreams. We are proud to have earned our degrees because it is a proof of what we have learned in college for the last five years. It means that we are out to start a new phase in life. 


In a disaster area, the DTN responders are grouped by zones and are connected by the adhoc wifi network. For each zones (green areas) there are responders limited by proximity. The red circles are the data aggregators. The blue dots are the responders on the ground doing their task, linked to each other by the adhoc. Each zone will have a leader. The leader will make decisions on where to go and when to dispatch instructions to the team. In this context, the work assigned to the leader is to be the aggregator to collect information. The aggregator entails having the RF module connected to the android phone, which will collect information from phones and responders to pass it on to incoming data ferries (UAV). Through this process of receiving and sending information, there will be links to other DTN groups in other zones, and lastly the information on the group through the bumping of data, will eventually reach mission control.

Genie Lorenzo’s talk during the Ateneo Physics Department’s 50th Anniversary

Genie Lorenzo

Genie Lorenzo (BS Physics 1998 and BS Electronics Engineering 2010) giving a talk during the 50th Anniversary of the Department of Physics last October 10, 2015 at Faber Hall . Photo by Johannes Añonuevo.

by Quirino Sugon Jr

During the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Department of Physics last October 10, 2015, one of the alumni who shared her memories of the department is Genevieve Rose H. Lorenzo. She finished her BS Physics in 1998 and her MS in Electronics Engineering in 2010–both from Ateneo de Manila University. Since 2002, Genie has worked as a research staff in the Urban Air Quality Dynamics/Instrumentation Technology program of Manila Observatory.

One of Genie’s tasks at Manila Observatory is maintenance of MO’s 42 Automated Weather Stations: 28 in Metro Manila, 8 in Rizal,  1 in Cavite, and 5 in Mindanao. An Automated Weather Station automatically measures rainfall rate, accumulated rainfall, temperature, wind direction, and air pressure–something similar to Fr. Angelo’s Secchi, SJ’s Universal Meteorograph in 1867 which Manila Observatory acquired during its foundation at the time of Fr. Federico Faura, SJ.  The only difference is that the data are not anymore recorded by pen on paper but electronically and transmitted to Manila Observatory via the Internet. Genie writes scripts in Python or PHP to format the data from the automated weather stations to serve as input for forecasting typhoon tracks and rain volume and also for modeling climate change risks. Many of the weather reports published by the observatory were co-authored by Genie.

Genie’s other task at Manila Observatory is maintenance of air samplers used for air quality research. These machines suck in air and let them pass through a filter. The filter is then weighed and chemically analyzed in MO’s UAQ/ITD lab to determine whether the soot comes from cars, industrial exhausts, etc. The difference in the blackness of the filters can be considerable, e.g. comparing the air in EDSA with that of Antipolo. Genie also joins in the Manila Observatory’s annual air quality monitoring during New Year’s Eve. An example of this is the Urban Air Quality Report of 2014.

Below is a copy of the speech of Ms. Genie Lorenzo during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Department of Physics.


by Genie Lorenzo

In 1986 Halley’s Comet was in the sky, and somehow my papa and I were able to watch that together.  That was maybe my first stark memory of being amazed by the night sky.  Then in high school I was intrigued by the metric system, how a camera worked, and an experiment in physics class with candles and lenses and inverted images, and my high school Physics teacher, Ms. Alcid, was so clear and coherent with her lessons that I, perhaps without knowing any better, bravely ticked the BS Physics CE program in my college entrance application to the Ateneo.  My neighbor Thryza kept on convincing me to go to the Ateneo, where she too was enrolled, and so when I found out that my good friend from high school, Anne, was going to Ateneo to enroll in the undergraduate double degree Physics and Computer Engineering program, I decided to come to Ateneo and enroll in that program too in 1994.  (Eventually I finished only the BS Physics program, and pursued the MS Electronics Engineering degree later.)

A. Demonstrations

I remember it must have been the first day of our freshman Physics 31 class or lab, and our teacher, Dr. Simpas (he must have been in his early thirties then) had me stand on a measured particular spot in the room,  while he swung a metal ball tied to a string toward me in order to demonstrate the pendulum.   There was also a spring demonstration shown to us during our tour in Faura Hall in freshman year, among other things there like the “resonance” demonstration.  For me the spring set-up in Faura merely looked like a slinky that one found in toy stores on display, and like many of the concepts taught in class, I think they call people like me a slow learner, it took me a while to appreciate why that spring, waves, and sine waves were so important and fundamental in our everyday lives and the universe.  Most of the demonstration set-ups then, they say, were made by Mr. Tecson, so our block was both very excited and a bit worried to have Mr. Tecson as our first EM teacher as we heard about his unique, effective and yet frightening style of teaching and giving oral exams for each class meeting.  We began some classes with Mr. Tecson, but then he got sick, and so he couldn’t be our teacher, and then some semesters after he was again supposedly going to be our teacher, but then he passed on.  Then there was Mr. Montuno, and the Millikan Oil Drop experiment in the Advanced Physics lab, and oral exams about the Twin Paradox.  And so for my 18th birthday by blockmates gave me a white puppy, whom we named Tipler, after the author of the Modern Physics book that guided us through countless overnight review and problem set solving sessions.

B. Manila Observatory

For senior year, I signed up for thesis work at the Manila Observatory, which for us then, maybe until now (?),  was a relatively unknown faraway location on campus.  I do not remember now if it was before or after the thesis but at some point after I had trekked over to that part of campus I was able to pay a visit to Fr.Dan in his brown room (the furniture was all brown, and ancient, and he had so many books that must have been classics on the bookshelf) and when I asked him what I could do there, he simply replied, “water vapor.”  “It is important to study water vapor especially here in the tropics,” was what he said. The topic assigned to me for my thesis was on clouds and optical depth, and Dr. Alarcon was my adviser and we communicated via email as she was sent to Rose-Hulman in the US then.  And I don’t think I did much… but Dr. Alarcon was gracious to me and, maybe because of her absence, she took it easy on me, but I remember being so amazed and engaged by the new things I was reading about on clouds and radiation in the journals.  And there was no google then, only the beginnings of alta vista search, so we had to manually look through all the journals, and even visit the PAGASA library in Quezon Avenue, and correspond with the authors of the journals via email and await the copy via snail mail— and to open an envelope with a journal from an author for me then was already a big thing.

C. Personal Care

Mr. Bennett was our teacher too and our friend, once after college I was recounting to him the story of how I  found myself somehow in the UP NIP laboratories looking for a research assistantship.  I told him how there seemed to be no other openings except in the Theory Department, and how I had knocked on their door and met some people, and asked them if I could work there, and after which they asked me which problem of those posted on the wall I knew something about, to which I honestly answered, none but I that I was willing to learn.  And then one of them at the Theory Lab, a tall guy, asked me if I knew the story of Alice in Wonderland?  Let me lift a line from the text of Lewis Carroll from which the tall guy drew his conversation piece, “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”  That tall guy left me then, and they gave me an email address to contact, I think it was Perry Esguerra’s email address.   And Mr. Bennett has asked me, in our a few short but always memorable chance encounters, so where are you going?  And for that I am grateful.

Somehow I found myself back at the Manila Observatory in 2002, and have been in the institution doing a variety of things from air sampling, to weather monitoring to stargazing since then.  In 2012, because the Manila Observatory is interested in science that will help ease the suffering of our people, I was able to visit a town in Davao Oriental, devastated by the Typhoon Pablo.

There I was able to witness the human spirit that prevails and that is sustained in the worst of circumstances.  And there the WHY of our workings, and on a personal note– everything that I had been through and that led me to that point… became clear.


Genie Lorenzo of the Manila Observatory explains to the youth of St. Francis Xavier in Sigaboy, Davao Oriental how the Automated Weather Station functions. (Photo: John Frances C. Fuentes). Photo and caption credit: CBCP News.


D. Humility

What has being a Physics student- which I think I am for life, I am a Physics student for life–what has it taught me?

I am gratefully, joyfully, gracefully, blessedly humbled by all the learnings that being a Physics student has taught me.  And I think it is through this humility that I was led to wonder (through childhood experiences with nature and the Physics Demonstrations), meaning (through my personal search, and the Manila Observatory), and connectedness (through God’s graces, and Personal Care), even with my own inadequacies, doubts, and failures, so that I could be of some use and help to others.

My father often asks me, because he knows how much difficulty I have had with academics and all, what is it exactly that I do.   I try to describe it to him the air samplers, and the weather stations and the data we have and the maps we make at the Manila Observatory whenever there is an impending storm, but am not sure he understands exactly.  Little does he know how much an effect that one evening, we spent together under the night sky many years ago, had on me.

We are now with some of your MS Atmospheric Science Graduate students and BS Physics Undergraduate students working on the data of the weather stations which we have set up around Metro Manila.  It makes me excited because we have never actually studied our local weather as in depth as we are doing now, and I am also at the time same nervous because our work is also a responsibility and so we have to be thorough because there are many who will be affected by our findings.

E. Congratulations

Congratulations to the Physics Department on its 50 years. Thank you for of introducing us to the wonders and rhythms of everyday life in the classroom and in the laboratory, for leading me and others to our working institutions like the Manila Observatory, and for your personal care and concern for us students.  May you continue to mold students to become the best that they can be through their science in order that they can continue to be of service to others.

This 50th year celebration is also in tune with the global celebration of 100 years of the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity this year, and 150 years, also this year, of the Manila Observatory, from where the department traces its roots, and after whose first director, Padre Federico Faura, SJ, the building which houses the Physics department on Campus was named.

F. Prayer

What about that Cheshire Cat and the fork in the road, what do I say when he asks again, what do you want?  I respond in prayer:

Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended, through Christ our Lord. AMEN

Plenary speech of Dr. John Burtkenly Ong during the 50th Anniversary of the Physics Department


Dr. John Burtkenly Ong giving a speech during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Department of Physics at Leong Hall Roofdeck last October 10, 2015.

by Quirino Sugon Jr

The Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University celebrated its 50th anniversary last October 10, 2015 with theme, “One Big Bang”. After the dinner, Dr. John Burtkenly Ong gave plenary speech to the alumni and friends of the Department of Physics. Dr. John Ong finished his BS Physics in Ateneo de Manila in 1991 and received his Ph.D. in in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (specialization in hydrogeology) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010. Below is an Introduction of the Speaker by Dr. James Bernard Simpas, Chair of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University, followed by the speech of Dr. John Ong.


by Dr. James Bernard Simpas

John graduated from these hallowed halls way back in 1991 with a BS in Physics. His academic career took him through an MS in Geology from UP, a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (specialization in hydrogeology) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and subsequent post-doctoral work with the US Geological Survey at the University of Connecticut. But the above credentials, impressive as they are, are only a part of what makes John inspiring. His unique passion to apply science for community service and development work moved him from Physics into hydrogeology. This was manifest in his early work on developing instrumentation to study rivers and flooding, to geological surveys and mapping, to research on groundwater and landslides for the benefit of poor communities and indigenous peoples. The citation for the Xavier-Kuangchi Exemplary Alumni Award he was given in 2007 states, “He is considered a modern ‘technical’ missionary who does not evangelize in the traditional sense, but is significantly transforming lives of indigenous peoples while preserving their cultural heritage for future generations.” For his work, he was also recognized as one of the TOYM for Community Service in 2003—the only Physics major to have received this award so far. John’s career path is a classic example of Ignatian discernment—seeking one’s vocation by finding where one’s greatest gifts meet the world’s greatest need.


Fr. Dan, Fr. Jett, Dr. Simpas, Dr. Alarcon, Dr. Mary-Jo Ruiz, fellow alumni, students, and friends,

Happy 50th anniversary to the Ateneo Physics Department! Wow. Days are long and years are short. I studied physics at the time when our role model was McGyver. Now they are Sheldon and Leonard from the Big Bang Theory.

A few weeks ago James asked me if I could share my experiences as an alumnus of the department and I said yes. Days later I received a formal letter from the department inviting me as a keynote speaker to talk about my insights on the department’s history and its future possibilities. My knees wobbled as I read the email and I told myself, “What more can I share to these people who know more physics than I do?” So I emailed James and asked if I could simply share how I was formed or influenced by the Ateneo physics program, and he kindly agreed.

I divided my sharing into four parts so that you’ll feel better when I reach close to the fourth part.


Dr. john Ong at the dinner table with friends. Counterclockwise from the right are Dr. Evangeline Bautista, Dr. Mari-jo Ruiz, Dr. John Paul Vergara, Dr. John Ong, Dr. Minella Alarcon, and Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza.

1. Wonderment

In my 2nd year in Ateneo, I was unable to balance the balance sheet during our final exam in accounting. I realized it was time for me to leave Management Engineering. I wandered through the Chemistry and Math Departments before literally moving up to the Physics Department–ME and Math were on the 2nd floor of Faura Hall while the Physics Department was on the 3rd floor.

I was fascinated by how things work.  I was captivated by the setting sun, the magic of fluid pressure, the gigantic momentum of a ship as it slowly docks, the invisible power of electricity and magnetism, etc. I stood in awe and wonderment at the world through the lens of physics. I built a series of pulleys and motor switches to tip a bucket of water hung on our ceiling to wake me up in the morning  when I was always late for my 7:30 am philosophy class. Curious to see how a fluorescent lamp works, I cut the glass off a fluorescent lamp, connected its ends to a current regulator I built in high school and watched in amazement as the filament glowed red hot before it exploded. I built an electronic mosquito repellant and gave it to my sponsor, the Guevarra Realty Corporation, through the Office of Admission and Aid—sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet and thank them for my Ateneo education.

I entered the department at the time when Fr. Daniel Mcnamara, SJ was chair and the faculty was composed of Dr. Minella Alarcon, Fr. Su, Mr. Norberto Tecson, Jess Rivas, Sr. Kathlyn Duffy (who gave lectures on Teilhard de Chardin), Eddie Timmermans, and new graduates such as Nathaniel Libatique, Thomas Pe, John Sy, Victor Chua, Toto Oppus, Pierre Tagle, Niel Caranto, Bong Monje, Ivan Culaba, and the shop was ran by Mang Ipe, Mang Rudy, and Sonny. Fr. Jett was a scholastic at that time. I remember he gave a talk on building a huge capacitor for a laser, and how they played with a variable transformer, pumping up the voltage but not having sufficient current. Later the words “Voltage isn’t everything; we need amps” got stuck in my head. My fondest memories were the many times Mr. Tecson would pat my back and say, “May ipapakita ako sa iyo.” We would enter his room and he would joyfully show me his newest invention.  When i was working in the shop, he would ask me what I was doing and always gave insightful suggestions. Years later, Mr. Tecson told me how fascinating the field of Environmental Science was. He exclaimed, “The entire earth is your lab!” And that perhaps if he were born at a later time, he would have studied earth sciences instead of mechanical engineering.

Life in the Physics Department wouldn’t be complete without an experience with Fr. Dan. I can’t remember what the context was but one day in a physics class, Fr. Dan asked us, “What have you done to deserve the talents and gifts that you have?” And the answer was “nothing.” Thus, we do not own our talents and gifts; they were entrusted to us and we should share them with others. I remember being struck by this question and reflected upon it.


John Ong delivering a lecture to Mangyan high school students on how to read maps

2. Listening and the humbling of science

During my 5th year in Ateneo, I wanted to join the 8-day retreat for seniors. My family was financially struggling at that time. Although it was said that no one, for financial reasons, should be excluded from joining the retreat, I, being a Filipino-Chinese, was too embarrassed or perhaps too proud to tell Fr. Dan that I couldn’t afford the retreat (Intsik na, nagppapalibre pa). I ended going on my own solo retreat. I asked Fr. Dan for some guidance. He gave me a number of bible passages and reminded me that prayer is listening. I went to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, climbed up the barren mountains and alone sat in silence. I asked the Lord where he was calling me and what can I do with a degree in physics. I listened, and listened, and listened. By day 7, I was getting anxious because I haven’t heard anything save for the sounds of birds chirping, wind blowing and river flowing. Then on the 8th day, I heard something. What was it? Nothng. Yes that was what I heard. Nothing. And I was overjoyed. I realized I heard nothing because I lacked experience. And so I reasoned that the Lord was telling me to go out into the world, experience the world, then come back and reflect on my experience. It didn’t matter what job I chose at that time. I felt liberated and joined Fr. Walpole’s environmental group where I was very much inspired by its mission statement: science for social concern. I was tasked to evaluate the physical state of watersheds. As I went around the country, i repeatedly saw the problem of water. Too much water and there was flooding; too little water then there was drought. Years later I went on to pursue graduate studies in geology, hydrogeology, and a postdoctorate in hydrogeophysics.

Going back to my environmental research job in the early 90s, I remember attending a conference where I was deeply struck by what Dr. Uraivan, a sociologist from Chang Mai University, said. To paraphrase her, she said: “Let the mountains continue to erode, the forests get denuded, and the environment destroyed, for unless we deal with the social issues, the physical environment will continue to deteriorate.” True enough, man is the greatest agent of change. Solely solving environmental problems through physical, biological, and technological approaches are bound to fail because these problems are inextricably embedded within a social context.

In the mid 90s, I was assigned to Mindoro. As I climbed the mountains, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the hinterlands vis-a-vis the poverty of the Mangyans. As I listened to the Mangyans share their problems on how the lowlanders have encroached on their lands and displaced them–problems that are a matter of life and death–I was totally embarrassed by the petty problems in the office that often consumed me. I was tasked at that time to look into ways we can help the Mangyans secure their ancestral domain.  One day a Mangyan leader asked me if I can remain with them and teach them. That night I was kept awake in the little bahay kubo, not only by the giant gecko that threatened me with its loud tu-ko sound, but rather by reflecting on the invitation of the Mangyan for me to remain there and teach them. I left Manila and joined the mission in Mindoro. Being a man of science I thought how can I use my science to help the Mangyans. There I experienced what I would later call the humbling of science. Overwhelmed by the face of poverty and suffering, of sickly Mangyan friends succumb to TB, of kids dying from measles, I realized that the science I studied and the fascination I had for how things work appear so distant and may seemingly be only tangentially of any immediate use to their situation. Then I realized that the only time I can truly help them is when I am able to think and feel like one of them. Thus, I learned to speak, dress, think, and feel like one of them. I slowly learned and thought of ways on how the Mangyan themselves can create 3D maps of their area so they can identify their ancestral boundaries.


Dr. John Ong scanning the subsurface in search of a school buried by the landslide in Guinsaugon, Leyte (Manila Observatory – UP search-and-rescue team)

3. Science for social concern

In 1994 I attended a talk by Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, a Fil-Am geologist who passionately spoke against the corruption and danger posed by constructing the mega dikes to contain the lahars of Pinatubo. As I listened to this man, I realized that he knew his science and was using it for the betterment of society. After so many years, I found a person who embodied the mission statement of science for social concern. I was very much inspired by this man. Years later I would join him in monitoring lahar flows and the possibility of a crater lake break (which actually did happen).

Since 2003 I became more involved in disasters, investigating landslides in Southern Leyte, flash floods in Quezon, flooding in Pampanga, and siting safe drinking water in poor communities and in evacuation centers in Mindanao.

In 2006 I co-lead a volunteer search-and-rescue team at Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte, organized by Toni Loyzaga and the Manila Observatory, where a landslide thrusted and transported a community more than half a kilometer downhill.  It was an intense and stressful moment. Like detectives working with limited time and resources we tried to locate the school where 250 children were buried by the landslide. Every search-and-rescue contingent was hoping to find even a single survivor, but the sole survivor after 7 days was a chicken, buried 2.5 feet deep. Although I took an active role and was in promptu assigned as the technical adviser for the search-and-rescue operation by the Philippine Army general, we came back home defeated.  The first thing I did when I returned to Ateneo was to visit the chapel. I entered during the Responsorial Psalm which read something like: “Lord in times of need I, I called out and you answered my prayer.” I wept knowing that the people’s prayers were left unanswered and they perished. It was as if I was hearing them cry out in prayer and I failed to help save even a single soul. As tears ran down my cheek, i heard an answer to their prayer which led me to the observatory. Rolly Choi (Ateneo Physics ‘__) was building weather stations at that time.  I told Rolly if he can fast track the development of telemetric rain gauges as early warning devices. I secured some funds from my Xavier high school batchmates to develop a prototype. Later, through the Manila Observatory, Oxfam and the American Women’s Club of the Philippines funded a number of rain gauges in Mindoro and Quezon. When we installed the rain gauges, I reminded the people that the rain gauges were there because of the sacrifice of thousands of lives in Guinsaugon–so that they may live.

A few years later I heard that the rain gauges that were painstakingly constructed and deployed in Mindoro were left unmaintained up in the mountains–another example showing that technological solutions alone cannot solve the problem.


Dr. John Ong investigating a large dug well, the drinking source of a community in Southern Philippines.

4. Science guided by the heart

When i was in grad school, two of my professors clashed each other.  Since I processed a lengthy data set, I promised Professor A that I’ll continue to work on the project even after graduate.  Months after I graduated, Professor B asked me about my status and I said I was processing the data of Professor A. This quickly annoyed him and he could not understand why I was willing to finish the project. I told him that if I do not work on the data set, then all investment would have gone to waste.  He understood that but still he couldn’t understand why I was willing to work with Professor A when others would rather avoid him. I was an outlier in the Gaussian curve and he demanded an answer. I then told him, “Professor B, if, as you’ve said, Professor A is the most difficult person to work with in your entire career–or if I may change a few words, if this person is the most difficult person to love–and I can work with this person–or I can love this person–then I can work with anyone in the world and I can love the entire world! Isn’t that wonderful?! He remained silent then remarked, “Patience, patience! I need more patience. Thank you for sharing with me your Christian love.”

I’d like to end with a story that burned in my heart the entire time I was in the US and until this day. In 2008 we visted a small community where in the previous year a local leader attended a meeting in mainland Mindanao. In that meeting people displaced by armed conflict didn’t know he was a Muslim warrior and shared with him how their dreams were shattered and how they suffered because of the war. Suddenly, it dawned upon him that the war was going nowhere and he felt a very deep desire for peace. Upon returning to his community, he ordered his men to remove the landmines that served as the protective fence around their community. Transformed into a warrior for peace, he thought of programs in health, water, and education to benefit his people and the lower caste group in their community. Thus, this was how we found ourselves visiting their community in search of clean drinking water. After surveying potential water sources and before we left, I told him that I’ve been thinking for quite some time when peace will come to Mindanao. Some build roads, schools, clinics, and water systems hoping that these infrastructures would bring peace; the military enforces peace by the use of arms; others try to organize communities; and yet I couldn’t find peace in this land. However, on that day I found peace in our midst, in the person of this leader. I realized that peace is attainable if one truly desires it, works at it, and guards it. I told him to vigilantly guard that peace for peace is a jealous taskmaster and can quickly disappear. We had plans to return and locate a potential water source using geophysical techniques. Unfortunately, later that year, conflict in that region intensified, leading to the withdrawal of our team. In silence, I continue to hear the suffering of the faceless people crying out to the Lord to listen to their prayers and for men and women of goodwill to respond to the call.

I return now to our Inang Bayan, a blurry-eyed middle-aged man close to the number of years we’re celebrating the Physics Department’s Anniversary today, realizing how time and strength quickly go by. With the limited time at hand, it is important to choose meaningful activities by allowing our science to be guided by the heart. We are faced with numerous problems: the continuing need for energy and water, a warming earth, rising sea level, intensified weather disturbances, a huge population with limited resources, contamination of our air, water and soils, an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and more. How important is the study of physics in the world and specifically in the Philippines? Let your heart guide you in finding the answers. Laudato Si’.

Thank you for listening and congratulations once again to the Ateneo Physics Department on its 50th anniversary.


Group picture of the students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni of the Department of Physics during the 50th Anniversary celebration last October 10, 2015. Dr. John Ong is at the fourth from the left of the front row.

Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Tanquintic wins second place in Nuclear Olympiad 2015


Winners in the Nuclear University Olympiad 2015: Anton Tanquintic (2nd place, third from the left) and Alice Cunha da Silva (1st Place, 3rd from the right) during the Awarding Ceremony at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna, Austria last 17 September 2015. (Photo by Alice Cunha da Silva)

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Philippe Tanquintic (BS PS-MSE 2015) won second place in the Nuclear Olympiad 2015 organized by the World Nuclear University, a worldwide network of 40 intergovernmental, academic, and industry institutions in 30 countries engaged the in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The awarding was held last 17 September 2015, 10:00-12:00 am, at the 7th floor of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

Anton Tanquintic learned about the contest about a week before the 9 June 2015 deadline. Anton then was just finishing his two-month internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. He wrote a one-paragraph essay and asked his sister, Antoinette, to make a 60-second video entitled, Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs. Last 19 Jun 2015, Anton was informed that their video was among the 10 shortlisted for the contest, which were posted by the World Nuclear University in You Tube. By 9 July 2015, WNU counted the number of You Tube likes of the videos and Anton’s video made it to the top 5. The finalists were then asked to submit a 5-page essay on the topic “Radioisotopes: how are they produced?” They presented their essay orally before a jury for 10 minutes last 17 September 2015 in the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The first prize went to Alice Cunha da Silva from Brazil. Her video was entitled, Nuclear Saves Lives.

Below is the winning video of Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic followed by an interview of Anton by Ateneo Physics News.


by Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic

Radiation applications. Despite negative stigma, the use of nuclear techniques is ubiquitous today. In Medicine Cobalt-60 sterilizes over half of medical supplies in modern hospitals. In industry, gamma rays are also used to detect defects in metal structures to avoid malfunctions. On a larger scale, radiation sources can be used to address global problems such as poverty and hunger. In food production, sterile insect technique operations have reduced the reproductive ability of pests, thus eradicating them from farmlands. Moreover, mutation breeding has improved harvests via radiation-induced hereditary changes in the plant’s DNA, whereby mutants with desirable traits are chosen and developed as new varieties. Going over into food storage, sufficient doses of radiation kill microorganisms and so radiation sources can extend the shelflife of food products by as much as a factor of two. Modern fridges around the world even use UV lights in vegetable compartments to keep the produce fresh as long as possible. The science of our times has shown use of radiation sources as safe and beneficial to mankind. Perhaps it’s time we got over our fear of the world “nuclear,” and gave radiation a rebranding.



Anton Tanquintic (2nd from the right) together with four other finalists of Nuclear Olympiad 2015 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by World Nuclear University, 17 September 2015)

1. How did you hear about the video contest? What motivated you to join?

I found out about the competition during my internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. My internship was during the period of April-May, and I had a friend who worked there (who was also my contact in applying there in the first place) who showed me an e-mail of the poster promoting the competition. I learned about it only a week or so before the deadline of submissions for Round 1, meaning that a bunch of other competitors had 1-2 month leads ahead of me in promoting.

2. Did you make the video on your own? Who helped you? 

My entry to the contest was a 1-minute animated video showing the peaceful applications of nuclear technology in our lives. I present examples of nuclear tech being used in Industry (to detect defects in metal structures) and Medicine (where radiation sterilizes medical equipment) before diving into my primary focus: how nuclear technology does address global problems such as poverty and hunger. I decided to use poverty and hunger as they are real and growing issues that we deal with today. I was inspired by Youtube video channels such as Minute Physics, and comics like in coming up with my entry. For the record, it was my sister, Antoinette, who did all the animations and video editing. I just came up with the script and told her what to draw for each scene.

3. Can you describe the procedure how they chose your video as one of the finalists? How tough is the competition?

I have no direct knowledge of how they chose the final 10 videos. I did get an email though saying that mine was the highest-scoring video for Round 1.

4. During the finals, did you take exams or were you interviewed by a jury? 

There were no such exams or interviews. The final round was simply a 6-minute oral presentation based on the essays we submitted earlier. The essay was on the topic, “Radioisotopes: How are they produced?” while the oral presentation was set to be a 6-minute speech based on the essay. I prepared by reading up on various technologies and journal articles. Since the topic for the essay was the same for all finalists, I did my best to add in more personal or entertaining segments to the essay so that any of the readers (and judges) would appreciate and enjoy my writing. For the presentation, I bore in mind that a significant percentage of the audience would be high school students and laymen not familiar with nuclear technology, so I made sure to make it is organized and consistently simple from the ground up. It’s a certain style of mine to explain complex concepts in the simplest but most accurate way possible; I like to think of myself as an effective science communicator. Thus said, I trimmed down my essay to appropriately fit the oral presentation, and rehearsed my essay-speech in front of friends in my physics laboratory at the Ateneo de Manila University. They all helped me improve upon it into its final shape. I then asked a skilled friend to edit my presentation into something more aesthetically pleasing and digestible; she did a wonderful job, and it helped make the delivery of my presentation as amazing as it was.

5. Was this the first time you went to you Europe? What was your prize? What are the places you went to? What’s your favorite food there?

Yes, this was my first time in Europe. The prize was simply prestige since the competition is still in its early years. In total, I went through Vienna, Geneva, and parts of France. I can’t really say I have a favorite food there; I pretty much eat anything and enjoy food as long as it tastes good. I did enjoy the healthy food lifestyle in Geneva though – there were lots of cheeses!

6. What are your five-year plans?

I am surely considering Nuclear Physics as a topic for further studies (i.e. PhD). Currently, I’ve just returned to Manila from a tour of IAEA and CERN, so I’m doing my best to decide what the best plan of action for me is. I will either take a job to gain experience, or go for a PhD if I can find a good program and scholarship.

7. Can you describe to us your career path from high school? Who motivated you to choose physics?

I was always interested in how the world worked. Physics and Biology were my favorite science subjects back when I was in Pisay (Philippine Science High School): physics because of how it tried to answer the fundamental mystery of why/how things exist, and biology because of how it delved into the very mystery of life itself. By the end of high school, I was stuck choosing between both fields. In the end, I went for physics because I wanted the challenge it presented. I am also very thankful that Pisay has wonderful physics teachers who’ve helped foster my interest in the subject.

8. Do you have any parting words to our physics majors?

Study well and grab opportunities! A life in physics is no easy task, but the rewards are worth it.


Anton Tanquintic at Mont Blanc, 3,842 m above sea level (26 September 2015)

Notes and References

  1. Linkedin profile of Anton Philippe Tanquintic
  2. Anton Tanquintic’s video: Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs (June 9, 2015).  
  3. GMA News: Teens’ video is lone Pinoy finalist in World Nuclear University Olympiad (June 30, 2015). 
  4. Rappler: Ateneo student makes it to World Nuclear University Olympiad (July 2, 2015)  Republished in Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI). 
  5. Rappler: Ateneo graduate wins second place at World Nuclear University Olympiad (Sep 20, 2015).  An excerpt of this was posted in AdMU website (Sep 20, 2015). 
  6. Philippine Star: 22-year old Filipino physicist triumphs in Vienna nuclear olympiad (Sep 30, 2015). 
  7. Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines: Young Filipino Physicist triumphs in World Nuclear Olympiad in Vienna (Sep 30, 2015)
  8. World Nuclear University: Nuclear Olympiad Finalists
  9. World Nuclear University: About the Nuclear Olympiad 2015.