Jaren Ryan Rex (BS APS/ACS): Magna Cum Laude and Physics Program Awardee for 2017

ateneophysicsnews_jaren_ryan_rex_sose_award_20170524

From left to right: VP for Loyola Schools Dr. Maria Luz P. Vilches, Physics Department Chair Dr. Raphel Guerrero, SOSE Awardee Jaren Ryan Rex, and SOSE Dean Dr. Evangeline Bautista at the SOSE Recognition Program for Distinguished Students held at Leong Hall Auditorium last 24 May 2017, 10:00 a.m.

by Ellice Dane Ancheta and Quirino Sugon Jr

BS Applied Physics with Applied Computer Systems student Jaren Ryan Rex is one of the students recognized by School of Science and Engineering (SOSE) of Ateneo de Manila University in a Recognition Program for Distinguished Students held in Leong Hall Auditorium last 24 May 2017, 10:00 a.m. Jaren finished Magna Cum Laude and was chosen as the Program Awardee of the Department of Physics. He finished his elementary at Multiple Intelligence International School and his high school at Philippine Science High School Main Campus where he graduated with Highest Honors. Upon entering Ateneo de Manila University for his undergraduate studies, Jaren was given the Fr. Thomas B. Steinbugler, SJ Academic Scholarship, a 100% tuition and fees scholarship for valedictorians from Jesuit and science high schools.

Below is an interview with Jaren Ryan Rex by Ateneo Physics News.

1. Why did you choose Ateneo in college?

It is an interesting piece of information. I was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s syndrome, which means my social and physical skills were underdeveloped. So when deciding where to study for college, my parents and I were discussing whether I would go to UP or Ateneo. We weighed the pros and cons, and we decided that Ateneo would be a more friendly and nurturing environment to help me overcome my challenges better. And I think it did. And also, my choice of a double major course, BS Applied Physics/ BS Applied Computer Systems is only offered here.

2. What was your BS Applied Physics thesis?

In my undergraduate thesis, I simulated typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) several times using the weather model called WRF, short for Weather Research and Forecasting model. The WRF model has many different physical parameters that represent physical assumptions made by the model, such as the amount of air that flows between atmospheric columns, the mixing ratios of different states of water in clouds, and the interaction between the air and the ocean. These are just a few parameters that can be varied in the WRF mode. In my thesis I tried varying all of these to see which parameters caused Haiyan to be most intense. I hoped we would be able to understand more the physics of how Haiyan became so destructive.

For each of these parameters there are different schemes that we set for the parameters, and each parameter affected a different part of the simulation. Some parameters affected the typhoon’s track. Some affected the minimum sea level pressure. Some affected the wind speed. For each parameter, there were settings that produced the most intense typhoon in the simulation: that’s what I assumed to be closest to the actual state of the atmosphere and the ocean during the typhoon. Some settings would make the track very accurate, but the sea level pressure would be too high. It would not be as intense as observed—in fact, very far away from observed intensity. On the other hand, there were settings of the same parameters that made Haiayan more intense but also caused it to deviate far away from its observed track. The model itself could use some improvements.

3. What was your BS Applied Computer Systems thesis?

I got concrete blocks and dropped weights on them so they would crack. I dropped the weight repeatedly and took a picture of the block after I dropped the weight. A new crack would form, and would appear in the picture. I would then have a series of pictures that show how the crack propagates after each impact. Then I would run different image processing operations on the pictures to analyze the properties such as the length and the branching patterns of the cracks. For image processing, I used OpenCV (CV stands for Computer Vision) for Python, which I learned on my own. I did not simulate. All the experiments were actual physical experiments.

I had experiments where I varied the height from which I dropped the weight, to measure the rate at which the crack propagates in relation to the energy of impact. I have another set of experiments where I had different compositions of the concrete. They are mixtures of cement and sand. I varied the ratio of cement to sand by volume. For the experiments where I varied the mixture, I found that pure cement is much weaker compared to mixtures of cement and sand, meaning it cracks with much fewer impacts. The cement-sand mixtures crack after about three times as many impacts as pure cement. But on the other hand, for the cement-sand mixtures, it does not seem to matter how much sand is there. The strength of the block is relatively constant with respect to the amount of sand. For the experiments where I varied the height, I got the obvious results. The blocks crack faster when the weight is dropped from a higher distance, since more energy is input into the block for each impact. And also actually what is interesting is, for the higher impact distance, the crack forms more branches than with lower heights.

Actually I was supposed to predict quantitatively how cracks propagate but my thesis was submitted in a somewhat unfinished state based on the results I was able to produce. My plan was to use the image processing techniques to get a measure of the crack length, crack area and even the speed of propagation. But what I ended up doing was trying so many image processing techniques to isolate the crack in the image. It was hard to find a good algorithm because usually there was a lot of black noise in the image background, making it hard to see the cracks.

I eventually found an image processing technique that makes the crack stands out from the background much more compared to the other image processing technique. It is called bottom-hat filter. I just put in the recommendations that the results of applying the bottom-hat filter can then be analyzed further to extract those quantitative parameters, such as crack length and area. There were a lot of previous studies about image processing of cracks where I found out about the suitability of this kind of image processing. I did not exactly base it on quality control. The intent of this thesis was more of studying how cracks propagate for computational fracture mechanics. I deduce the theory from what is observed.

4. Do you have extra-curricular activities?

I was part of the Ateneo programming varsity team. We competed in programming contests like the ACM-ICPC (Association for Computing Machinery – International Collegiate Programming Contest) among other various local contests. There is also a programming contest hosted by UP Diliman called Algolympics. There are many contests with a similar nature. In programming contest we are usually given problems that have a certain specification and given input. We need to do some computations and process data in some way to produce a certain output. Our goal is to write programs to solve those problems such that whenever you input anything into the program, it will produce the correct output. Most of the time the programming languages we use are limited to C++ and Java.

This semester, I have won two champion titles. One of them is the UP ACM Algolympics. This is by team. (We usually compete in teams.) The other contest was the HP Code Wars. It was hosted by HP (Hewlett-Packard), the company. The way we’re teamed up depends on the circumstances. Most of the time we have the same team for most of our contests, but in some circumstances some members are not available, so teams are shuffled a bit. Sometimes, some members are ineligible, e.g. the HP Code Wars was only for graduating students. So instead of my usual team I was teamed up with other graduating students in the Programming Varisity. The members of the programming varsity are mostly Computer Science majors. I was the only Physics major there. At some point there were two physics majors there, but one of them shifted to Computer Science as well. He was also from my course, BS Applied Physics with BS Applied Computer Systems.

5. Do you have a blog?

I write for leisure but I don’t write regularly for any organizations or school publications. I have a blog on Blogspot, entitled Overcoming. I’ve been posting on this blog since 4th year high school. I’ve written over one hundred posts–mostly just personal reflections.

6. What can you say being in the last batch taking BS APS/ACS program? (Note: the program is still listed in the Registrar and may be offered again.)

I would say it is a little sad. I met freshmen who said this is their dream course. It would have been the course they would take if it was still offered. I believe it was mistake on the part of the Registrar or so I heard. Since last semester, when Dr. Guerrero talked to our batch, he mentioned something about making curriculum for something that could be a replacement for this course. I hope it would be similar or even better.

7. What are your plans after graduation?

One thing I really enjoyed doing apart from studying physics itself is tutoring physics. I have given a lot of tutorials for my block mates in Physics and Math that I have lost count. I even tutored other students in Ateneo who have asked for help in Physics and Math. The tutoring has helped me understand the topics even more and deepened my appreciation for them. Because of this experience in tutorials, I planned to someday return to Ateneo and teach Physics.

After Ateneo, I may take a vacation for a year before working here in RCS (Regional Climate Systems Program of Manila Observatory) where I did my thesis. I have talked to Dr. Gemma Narisma about this already. I shall work there for maybe one or two years to have good working experience. After this, I shall go to graduate school either in Europe or Japan because I want to specialize in Particle Physics. My dream is work with CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). I don’t know how many years I would spend there, but I plan to return to Ateneo to teach physics.

8. Any parting words?

Maybe I would say if anyone asked us for advice about how to being in a Physics major, I think the best I can say is to keep reading not just the lessons you are taking up, but anything that interests you within physics, because that’s how you keep yourself motivated. Practice makes perfect. You develop an intuition on how to solve or approach problems even if you have never seen the problem before.