Ateneo’s Chemistry Department Chair

By Mark Adam Ferry

jmdJose Mario M. Diaz is appointed chair of the Ateneo de Manila chemistry department, a diverse academic unit dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in research and teaching. Diaz pleased and excited on this opportunity, is looking forward to continue Ateneo’s research tradition and to further the conversation on issues germane to teaching and research.

“Faculty staff in foreign universities has less teaching hour responsibilities, and more time to do research.” Diaz, lamented. Managing teaching and research on top of a boat load of paperwork, limited research materials and equipment seemed to be on a collision course to his targeted goals –but nothing that an engineer cannot handgrip.

Diaz completed his master’s degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of the Philippines (Diliman) and his doctorate degree in Materials Engineering from Tokyo University. His core focus areas on material science include research on plasma processing and composite. “We utilize the fourth state of matter in modifying surfaces of materials to make new materials”. An example is the enhancement of polymer-based surfaces using plasma for better surface adhesion. At present, Diaz is looking at a new direction into composites by utilizing various fibers as reinforcement. For instance, naturally-procured fibers derived from pineapple leaves were modified to have flame-retardant properties. He is collaborating with Dr. Erwin Enriquez in a PICARI (Philippines-California Advanced Research Institute) research project on modifying raw materials via plasma processing in sensitized photovoltaic cells. “At various fabrication stages of the cells, we are trying to include plasma processing to clean surfaces and to improve performance,” Diaz added.

The chemistry department has clearly begun bracing the expected difficulties and challenges that lies ahead from the K-12 implementation. “I hope to see a smoother transition from secondary to tertiary education, but I expect it’s going to be turbulent. We’ll see mismatches with the expectations of the tertiary level with what the secondary education is producing.” Diaz added.

Like most newbie administrators, he is optimistic to see changes in the educational system including a smoother transition from the academe to the industry and a clearer career paths for chemistry majors. Diaz is pleased that Ateneo has a mechanism to support financially, faculty who are just starting to setup their research. He is optimistic to see more faculty involved in research and less on teaching or administrative work.

On occasions when his conscious and subconscious mind is not occupied with the fourth state of matter, Diaz loves being a plain dad and spends time with his wife and three kids.

Academician and Professor Emeritus Fortunato Sevilla, III: Sketches from ‘España’

by Carlos P. Garcia

Miles Davis’ 1960 landmark album Sketches from Spain, one of his most enduring composition, evoked an aspiration of music in vibrant flamenco colors that conceptually, one’s prospect of painting that music narrative, would not seemed possible. Fortunato Sevilla’s forty five-year tenure at Santo Tomas was widely recognized for his scholarship and commitment to the advancement of chemistry. Several dispatch carried the news of his conferment. But all of these is a matter of unrestricted communal knowledge. Since then, I have not read a more personal sketch in the many public tribute to him for, as with the complexity of Davis’ music narrative, I am not sure it is possible.

Without doubt Sevilla deserves tributes from those who had the privilege of either having been his students or his colleagues in the chemistry profession. Perhaps never been made, I will disclose a more thoughtful narrative of how the teacher and the mentor evolved against the backdrop of this University from this end of España Boulevard.

Almost fifty summers ago, when a young Fortunato Sevilla, III decided to enter Santo Tomas to take up chemistry, nobody expected, Sevilla least of all, that someday the University will acknowledge his leading role and contribution to the development of research and education at Santo Tomas. Yet, Professor Sevilla was for many decades one of the most celebrated teaching figures here at Santo Tomas. This recognition of his distinguished career, not only in this university which regards him to be among its most valued assets, but in the chemistry profession as a whole. Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., Rector of the University of Santo Tomas declared no one is more deserving of today’s recognition than Professor Sevilla. “His selfless dedication to the University is nothing short of legendary,” A litany of achievement follows:

Fortunato Sevilla, III

“Whereas, he has displayed sustained excellence in teaching, rendered distinguished administrative service and played an active role in promoting the growth of research in the University;
Whereas, he has made significant contributions as a researcher in the field of chemical sensors and biosensors,
Whereas, he has maintained a productive interest in the improvement of chemistry education in the country and
Whereas, he has rendered exemplary service contributing his expertise to the development of higher education and research in the field of chemistry in the country.”

Sevilla, the Restrained Teacher

Just as Sevilla’s students did more than forty years ago, Cynthia Uriquia-Talens and Corazon Sacdalan (Chemistry, 1981) also praised his boundless charm. Sacdalan quips, “(Sevilla) inspires all who come into his presence to stand taller—that is, to be their very best.” Talens who is presently in the doctoral program, added that even a short conversation with him consulting about the feasibility of a dissertation topic would snow balled into a full blown collaboration; a testament to his perpetual curiosity on matters of research inquiry.

Professor Rosalito De Guzman’s (BS Gen, 1970; Psychology, 1971) first encounter with Sevilla was when he joined the College of Science as a junior teaching staff in 1971. “Many professors I recall fondly come from the chemistry department who taught us to think well, were themselves unforgettable personalities.” De Guzman was appointed administrative Secretary of the College of Science (1978-1984) upon the recommendation of then Psychology department chair Prof. Angelina Ramirez and Assistant Dean Trinidad Ames. At the time of his appointment, there was a full blown rift between the Dean’s administration and the chemistry professors, who felt stung by what they viewed as unfair College policies. De Guzman recalled that Sevilla was anything but restrained in those days, he was quite vocal on the issue. De Guzman saw this as an opportunity to take time to know more the chemistry staff some of whom became close colleagues; Lilian De Jesus-Sison (Chemistry, 1968), Miroan Sy (Chemistry, 1966), Lourdes Eustaquio, Lourdes Chavez, and Susan Jardiolin (Chemistry, 1969) to name a few.

Sevilla, the Analytical Chemist

Sevilla taught mainly Analytical chemistry at the UST Graduate School. However, his teaching repertoire is deeply entrenched in Physical and Organic chemistry. Teaching undergraduate physical chemistry can be traced from Dean Mariano Pangan and Professor Estrella Rivera who taught the course before him. De Guzman’s recollection of Rivera’s teaching style, was her competence to derive formulas and the absence to inject humor in her lectures. “The class was quite insipid.” De Guzman recalled.

Rivera’s sudden demise mid-semester of 1974, during Alice Aguinaldo’s physical chemistry lecture class, left a gaping hole in the teaching roster of the department. Sevilla picked up from where Rivera left and continued to teach the course until 1983 before he left for Manchester. The early eighties was a period when physical chem became one of the most dreaded courses to chemistry majors. The number of failing students at the end of each semester is short of horrific. But it was also an era in Sevilla’s teaching career that became one of his best, turning out many bright students, many of whom went into either teaching or research. This was no doubt due to the diligence of Sevilla as a teacher.

“Sevilla was one of two who represented Santo Tomas to attend the 1969 seminar on a Molecular Approach in the Teaching of Organic Chemistry organized by Prof. Clara Y. Lim-Sylianco.” Lilian Sison (Chemistry, 1968) recollected. The seminar was intended to assist organic chemistry teachers who are in transition of teaching the course from pure memory work to a molecular orbital approach in explaining reaction mechanisms -and thus began affection to teach Organic chemistry. This incursion with organic chemistry similarly took Sevilla to teach Organic Analysis to chemistry majors. The design of the laboratory component for this coursework is purely his own. It was at this stage when organic spectroscopy, then a sprouting new field, was assimilated in the curriculum.

The Organic Chemistry Teacher’s Association (OCTA) sprout out of this 1969 seminar. Sevilla was one of the original co-founders of the organization and his contributions to OCTA, then a fledging organization have been wide and deep. From assisting in the founding of an organization that afforded teachers a venue to regularly update themselves in organic chemistry, to building a network component of chemistry educators to include Professors Lillian Sison, University of the Philippines’ Angelita Reyes and Far Eastern University’s Consorcia Mendoza-Empaynado (Chemistry, 1954), to name a few. These personalities will become key administrators in their respective universities in the years to come.

Sevilla, the Thomasian

Fortunato Sevilla, III (b. 1947) had his primary school to collegiate education at Santo Tomas, culminating with a degree in chemistry in 1968, Summa cum Laude.
A British Council scholarship afforded him to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Masters and doctoral degrees in Instrumentation and Analytical Science from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) was completed 1984 and 1987, respectively.

Unknown to most people, there is a tinge of Blue Eagle blood running in his veins. Shortly after graduation, in a chance visit at Ateneo, Sevilla was asked if he was interested to take the graduate entrance examinations, scheduled on that same day. He took the bait, and passed it, without fanfare.

In Ateneo, he established himself as one of the best students, completing all course requirements with high distinction. He did a semester of coursework before he decided to apply for a teaching stint back at Santo Tomas. He reminisced it was such a physically demanding effort considering the daily grind of traveling from Espana to Loyola Heights, whilst maintaining a regular teaching load at Santo Tomas. But all these was quite worth it, for he has high regards to the professors he was fortunate to meet: Modesto Chua, Amando Kapauan and Fr. William J. Schmidt, S.J., to namedrop a few. Short of completing the degree because of thesis research, he was particularly amused to recall his oral comprehensive examinations when his examiners ran out of questions for him and had to teasingly shoo him away.

Sevilla, the Administrator

To Sevilla’s colleagues, he had already established for himself a formidable reputation for being an effectual administrator (Assistant to the Rector for Research and Development, 2000-2002; Dean, College of Science, 2002-2008). His absolute commitment and competence with which he has unceasingly conducted every aspect of his administration, and his unflagging advocacy on behalf of the development of faculty members are hallmarks of his tenure.

“Failure to sketch him as a private persona is certainly due to the fact that he is quite reserved, even to his closest colleagues,” quips Alice Aguinaldo (Chemistry, 1976) to whom I pointed out this observation. Aguinaldo knew nothing personal about him even after six years of working side by side with him as his assistant dean in the College of Science. She added, “…it appears it is always strictly business when you’re dealing with him (Sevilla), but I think, that is just his style. In the many years that I worked with him, I never, not even once, saw him lost his cool, or raised his voice to someone.” Aguinaldo was right.

“The only opportunity we (sort of) had a peek into his personal life was when he invited me and Prof. Alice Maranon, who was then the department Chair, to drive by his home in Quezon City.” It was the night right after they visited the wake of the son of Asst. Prof. Carmen Gaerlan-Morales (Chemistry, 1962). “It was so unexpected. He appeared to be very accommodating and even showed us his bedroom…the inner Sanctum. I guess, everyone in the department was in a reflective mood, if not dazed with the unexpected demise of Morales’ son, and that could be his way to vent out his sentiments.” Aguinaldo remembered.

Sevilla, the Researcher

Sevilla’s early roots in research is attributed to his high regards for his mentors. His undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Estella Zamora (Chemistry, 1954) came to mind as he fondly remembers her. “She returned to UST with a doctoral degree from Germany. She was immensely confident and did her thing very competently”. Nevertheless, he lamented that in those days, there is scarcity of role model teachers to lure students to pursue graduate degrees. Perhaps this is the same rabbit hole he fell into and that is why it took him sixteen years to seriously take a study leave to pursue doctoral degree.

His early foray as an undergraduate thesis advisor dealt with topics that sprung out of serendipitous observations in the laboratory. Leah Tolosa (Chemistry, 1981), presently the Assistant Director for the Center for Advanced Sensor Technology Research (CAST) of the University of Maryland (Baltimore), did her undergraduate thesis with Sevilla. They examined the kinetic solvent effects on the reaction of 2,4-dinitrochlorobenzene with N-methylaniline, revealing Sevilla’s initial interest in organic chemistry. “Fortune (Sevilla) has been one of the most influential mentors in my life. The topic of my undergrad thesis still reflects on my current projects, 35 years later! It’s simply amazing.” Tolosa added. Deeply engaged, at times critical, Sevilla influenced many students which to date, amounted to roughly close to a hundred research articles collaborations.

He returned to Santo Tomas in 1986 to begin a then-unconventional life as a teacher, researcher and administrator—and in a scientific realm when Santo Tomas was hardly being treated seriously by the three rival universities. As Director of the Research Center for the Natural Sciences (1987-2000), he distinguished himself to having an eyeball on a single prize, make UST known in the national research circle. This poised to be a difficult exploit as, in those days, Santo Tomas is a bit reserved in joining national research conferences, even though there exist a confident research practice particularly in Natural Products within the campus.

Then commence a period of full participation in oral and poster presentation in national professional conferences together with a stream of co-sponsored international seminars. It was a decision that was unprecedented, which opened up university research to be known elsewhere. He delivered his promise and did not disappoint his researchers.

Much is owed to this Academician, mentor and gracious colleague who has made myriad contributions to the conservancy of our university’s great heritage in teaching and research. Professor Sevilla’s distinguished contributions to the institution he has loved and served and his “perpetual curiosity and engagement” with the world around him is forever etched in our collective imagination.

Starting Chemistry at a Young Age

By Rafael Espiritu

Each year, millions Filipino youth commit to higher education with a prime goal of ultimately being part of the professional work force and slowly carve a brighter future for them and their families. In a third world country with an emerging economy like the Philippines, it is both understandable and unfortunate that only a small fraction of these college students pursue college degrees in natural sciences. For instance in 2011-2012, barely 1.3% or roughly 40,000 from 3 million incoming college freshmen enrolled in natural sciences courses, including mathematics. To circumvent this undesirable statistics of disinterests in the sciences the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies (PFCS) holds annual on-the-spot poster making contest for elementary school students to instill interest in Chemistry and the natural sciences in general, at an early age.

The PFCS is the umbrella organization of five professional Chemistry societies in the country: Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas (KKP), Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP), Organic Chemistry Teachers Association (OCTA), Philippine Association of Chemistry Teachers (PACT), and the Philippine Association of Chemistry Students (PACS). PFCS aims to upturn the students’ awareness in chemistry and advocate national and social issues to improve the country’s competence in Chemistry. To achieve these goals, PFCS reaches out to the different sectors of society, specifically targeting the youth and their inquisitive mind for science.

The Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest was first staged on December 8, 2011 in the University of Santo Tomas spearheaded by Dr. Fortunato Sevilla, III. This activity was co-sponsored by UNESCO and conducted celebrate the 2011 International Year of Chemistry. A brief primer explaining the contest’s theme proceeded the poster-making session proper. With the successful outcome and positive feedback coming from the participants, other tertiary institutions expressed their desire to participate in this event in promoting Chemistry and the natural sciences. In the following year, the contest, was held on February 13, 2012, and saw the inclusion of De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines, with the University Santo Tomas, as simultaneous venues for the contest and encouraged more schools to participate. Each of the four universities were asked to invite school-participants from designated regions in and around NCR. By the third year, the host schools expanded to nine institutions including two each from the Visayas (Silliman University and University of San Carlos) and Mindanao (Ateneo de Davao University and Xavier University), making the event truly a national one. Another institute from Mindanao, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, participated in the recently-concluded 4th edition of the contest, bringing to ten the number of institutions to host this event simultaneously. To allow for more students to show their creativity and artistic skills, the organizers are hoping to partner with more host universities for the forthcoming staging of the event during the first quarter of 2015.

Contestants and organizers during the 2nd Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest at De La Salle University.

Contestants and organizers during the 2nd Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest at the De La Salle University.

3rd Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest. From Left-to-Right: A participant in action at the event hosted by UP-Diliman; students with their work from Silliman University; and organizers, teachers and students from the Ateneo de Davao event.

3rd Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest. From Left-to-Right: A participant in action at the event hosted by UP-Diliman; students with their work from Silliman University; and organizers, teachers and students from the Ateneo de Davao event.

4th Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest National Winners. From Left-to-Right: Daniel Lucban (Bambang Elementary School) – 1st Place, Carlos Lacson (Ambray Elementary School) – 2nd Place and Ainer Padrigo (Philippine Tiong Se Academy) – 3rd Place.

4th Children on-the-spot Poster Making Contest National Winners. From Left-to-Right: Daniel Lucban (Bambang Elementary School) – 1st Place, Carlos Lacson (Ambray Elementary School) – 2nd Place and Ainer Padrigo (Philippine Tiong Se Academy) – 3rd Place.

The Poster Making Contest is open to Grades IV to VII students from both private and public schools all over the country. With a maximum of two contestants per school, each participant is given two and a half hours to prepare their poster based on their own interpretation of the event’s theme using art materials provided by the organizers. Three posters are chosen from the submitted entries coming from each of the host universities which will then qualify for the three national awards. The national winners are selected by a pool of respected artists and representatives from the PFCS. The awarding ceremony is held during the Philippine Chemistry Congress. This event is made possible thru the generous support of various sponsors throughout the years specifically CHEMREZ Technologies, Boysen, Shell, C&E Publishing, and Dow.

Focus: Ateneo de Davao

By Michael Casas

The Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) is a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University founded in 1946. Through the years, ADDU went through institutional, academic, and structural expansions guided by its mission to become a leader in educational reform in the Southern Philippines.

The commitment of this university to excel in instruction, research, relevant community extension, and formation of men and women rooted in the Ignatian values, merited the numerous recognitions it received. Among the distinctions of ADDU include the PAASCU Level III Accreditation and Autonomous Status from CHED. Just recently, the university is included in the Top 300 Schools in Asia, 5th in the Philippines, and the only university based in Mindanao, that reached the QS Ranking of Academic institutions in Asia. All these validated the pursuit of the university to provide excellent academic programs and services in all its departments.

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The ADDU Chemistry Department under the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Cluster of the School of Arts and Sciences offers the bachelor (established in 1969) and masteral (established in the early 1990s) programs in Chemistry. The board exam passing rate of the undergraduates has always been above the national mean and recently consistent at 100%. Several of its alumni received the BPI-DOST Science awards, topped the licensure examinations, as well as the University Graduation Awards. The recent increase in enrolment in the MS Chemistry program is notable due to the continuous upgrading of the department’s faculty profile and facilities.

The department was a Commission on Higher Education – Center of Development (CHED-COD) in 2004 and is presently granted the Level III Accreditation by PAASCU. The department continues to build strategic partnerships with various organizations including CHED, DOST, RHRDC, PITAHC and ICP. The department’s competent faculty teaching undergraduate and graduate courses are holding master’s and doctorate degrees and are sent for trainings within the country and abroad. The faculty’s expertise and research interest are on Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, and Natural Products with many of their research outputs published in ISI-indexed journals. Faculty received research grants and awards from DOST, CHED, RHRDC, and the ADDU University Research Council.

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The department also maintains the ADDU-Chemistry Analytical and Research Laboratory (CARL) to serve as a service laboratory for third party analysis and a research and advanced chemistry laboratory for undergraduate and graduate students. ADDU-CARL houses state-of-the-art instruments including a Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS), High Performance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC), UV-Visible Spectrophotometers (UV-Vis), Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrophotometer (FTIR), Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS), Electrochemical instruments, UDK Distillation unit, polarimeter, refractometer and bomb calorimeter.

The Northern Mindanao Laboratory Consortium (NorMin LABCON)

By Sylvia A. Khu

With the financial assistance from the Department of Science and Technology Regional Office (DOST-X), some 26 analytical laboratories from seventeen academic institutions, government agencies, and food and industrial companies located at the Cagayan-Iligan Corridor formed the Northern Mindanao Laboratory Consortium, Inc. now famously known as NorMin LABCON.

NorMin LABCON is composed of analytical laboratories coming from academic institutions: Central Mindanao University, Mindanao State University-Naawan, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, and Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan; government agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Department of Science and Technology; and private laboratories: Asia Brewery, Inc., Busco Sugar Milling Co., Inc., Cagayan de Oro Water District, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., Del Monte Philippines, Inc., Nestle Philippines, Inc., Pilipinas Kao, Inc., Philippine Sinter Corporation, and RI Chemicals, Inc.

The consortium established with a mission to make it a venue for the continuous growth and development of member laboratories. It is committed to provide and implement quality services through continuous upgrading of facilities and capabilities of each member and help maintain a healthy environment for the Filipino people and for future generations through waste minimization, recycling of chemicals and proper waste disposal.

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Furthermore, the consortium has a vision of creating an internationally competent testing and metrological laboratories geared towards sustainable development. With this vision in mind, since 1998, NorMin LABCON has sponsored a number of training-workshops, seminars and various activities.

NorMin LABCON started with a seminar on ISO Guide 25 in 1998. One year after, the consortium produced a brochure of the founding members which featured the capabilities of the member laboratories. This brochure was very helpful because it provided a network of connection among member institutions on the conduct of various physical and chemical analyses.

In 2001, the consortium became a foundation when it was officially registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and was then officially named as Northern Mindanao Laboratory Consortium Foundation, Inc. In the same year, a seminar-workshop on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) was organized which was well participated by laboratories in Northern Mindanao, even those which were not members. Four years after, a seminar-workshop on Method Validation and Measurement Uncertainty, in conformance with PNS ISO/IEC 17025:2000, was successfully organized. This actually gave laboratories in the region the knowledge in preparation for their application for laboratory accreditation. This is the same year that the Regional Standards and Testing Laboratories (RSTL) of DOST-X was granted the PNS ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for chemical and microbiological testing, the first in the region and the first among DOST regional laboratories. By 2006, the consortium continued giving seminar-workshop, this time on Calibration.

The NorMin LABCON family expanded as it accepted new members in 2008, Liceo de Cagayan University and Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc. Having Rio Verde as a new member, an educational tour was conducted at its Water Treatment Plant in Baungon, Bukidnon. The year 2009 was a productive year for the consortium. It started with a three-day training-workshop which covered calibration of laboratory balances and volumetric ware, measurement uncertainty, laboratory safety and the preparation of Material Safety Data Sheet. This training-workshop actually had experts from the Department of Science and Technology Region 7 as resource speakers.

Few months later, a seminar on Introduction to ISO Accreditation was conducted which was co-sponsored by DOST-X and was funded by DOST-Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI). NorMin LABCON also prepared and submitted a proposal to DOST-Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development (PCIERD) on the preparation of reference material and organizing a proficiency testing for inter-laboratory comparison among testing laboratories in the region. Although the proposal was denied, the consortium took it as a challenge to come up with more milestone activities to enhance competitiveness of its member laboratories.

The consortium became dormant for several years, but it did make a big come back in 2013 when it brought an expert from Eurachem to the Philippines. With the help of Admer Rey C. Dablio, a licensed chemist, an on-the-job trainee at DOST-X in 2009 and was a volunteer of the consortium in the same year, and a close contact of Lorens Peter Sibbesen of Eurachem, the training-workshops on Measurement Uncertainty of Analytical Results and Internal Quality Control in the Analytical Laboratory were fully materialized. Sibbesen is the current Chairman of the Method Validation Working Group within Eurachem, Secretary of EUROLAB Denmark, and owner of Denmark’s LAB Quality International. Sibbesen and Dablio were contacts since 2012.

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The training-workshops, which were both held at Cagayan de Oro City, were the first training-workshops organized by NorMin LABCON which welcomed participants not only coming from Mindanao, but from various laboratories in the country. In his message, DOST-10 regional director Alfonso Alamban said that the activity aims at improving the capacities of testing and analytical laboratories in the Philippines. “Our country wants to be ready for ASEAN economic integration come 2015. We want to see a more competent science and technology services and in tackling issues on compliance to worldwide product standard and product safety,” Alamban stressed. Sibbesen said that it was the first time that training-workshops with a speaker from Eurachem were organized in the Philippines and even in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, he shared that he has conducted hundreds of training-workshops all over the world and he has noted that the one conducted in Cagayan de Oro City was the most organized. He was also amazed at the Filipino culture and hospitality. It was his first time to visit the Philippines.

Just recently, during the 25th year anniversary celebration of Eurachem on 19-21 May 2014 at Lisbon, Portugal, wherein the Philippines sent chemist representatives coming from DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI), Sibbesen still acknowledged the big success of the training-workshops held at Cagayan de Oro City and he looks forward to more in the Philippines. Also, in the recent communication of Dablio with Sibbesen and Bertil Magnusson, the current President of Eurachem, they are looking forward to another set of training in the country for 2014 and 2015.

For the year 2014, NorMin LABCON continued its service to laboratories in the country as it organized a training-workshop on Chemical Safety and Security on 12-14 May 2014. This was a well-participated and very productive training-workshop as participants were able to learn many inputs from resource persons who completed Chemical Safety and Security Officer training under the US Sandia National Laboratories of the Department of State. NorMin LABCON currently conducts survey on the training needs of analytical laboratories in the country. This survey, which will end by 31 May 2014, will give the consortium an idea of what will be the next set of training that NorMin LABCON will organize for 2014 and 2015, especially the training in partnership with experts from Eurachem.

The activities conducted by the consortium are meters of NorMin LABCON’s mileage based on its mission and vision. The consortium is currently headed by Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc. as the President of the Board of Trustees, DOST-X as the Vice-President and Liceo de Cagayan University as the Treasurer. NorMin LABCON has also been strong since it was established through the dynamic teamwork by the Technical Working Group headed by Lina G. Kwong, Ph.D. of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan and composed of specialists from DOST-X: Engr. Romela N. Ratilla, D.P.A., Sylvia A. Khu, M.P.A. and Admer Rey C. Dablio.

In a speech by Engr. Joffrey E. Hapitan, NorMin LABCON’s President of the Board of Trustees and Senior Vice-President for operations of Rio Verde, he said that “Our desire to improve our capabilities is continually burning. At this stage, it is best to equip ourselves with knowledge on the general requirements for the competence to carry out tests and calibrations. NorMin LABCON will continue to achieve its mission and vision.”

On the Top of the Heap

As a young boy, Rob Jeremiah Gotengco Nuguid’s fascination with chemistry began by dabbling the rigors of an apprentice’s Alchemy, in his parent’s basement, mixing all sorts of things he could get hold of – water, palm oil, baby powder, petroleum jelly – well, you get the picture. So long before he even knew what chemistry is, he had known that he wanted to become a Chemist. Asking him now on what he wants to be, he stated that he would like to become a research scientist. However, he is still undecided as to which field of chemistry he would venture into because he loves every branch of Chemistry equally.

One moment, he’s got his eyes on…

Biochemistry.
(and 60 seconds later, a full-pledged Analytical Chemist)

Topping the chemist licensure exams, as he put it, is purely an offshoot of studying hard while having a tad fun along the way, and of course, prayers. Rob would take multiple-choice examinations after a hectic review each day. If he reached his target score, he would reward himself by watching a movie, slouching to watch a TV show or finish a chapter in the novel he was reading.

Devoutly attending novenas on Wednesdays to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Thursdays for St. Jude Thaddeus and Fridays for the Black Nazarene and Sunday masses that would not be missed kept his spiritual core calm.

Rob enrolled at an off-campus commercial review center in tandem with the in-house review offered at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. These review sessions gave a big boost to refresh his memory on basic concepts and helped him pinpoint the specific topics that need extra attention. For those aspiring to reach the top posts in the licensure exam, Rob suggests that you should design your own study regimen and timeline and set certain bounds critical to your review — which subject you should review first, how often you would review, etc. The following might be helpful:
• After graduation, take some time off to relax before facing the rigors of review. In my case, I declared the whole month of April as my rest month. I started reviewing in May.
• Start your review by mastering the basic concepts in General Chemistry to allow you to take on the more advanced topics. The next subject should be your Achilles’s heel (a.k.a., Physical Chemistry, in my case) so that you would have ample of time to learn its concepts before finally moving on to the advanced topics (e.g., harmonic oscillator, HSAB theory, etc.) as these may also be included in the exam.
• Read at least one textbook per subject and take notes. The rule of thumb is to use any book as long as you’re comfortable with it. Make sure that you understand all the things that you read.
• Try to solve numerical problems by directly inputting the data on your calculator instead of writing them first on a scratch — this is a great way to save time. Know every trick (e.g., the SHIFT-SOLVE method) that your calculator hides and use all of them to your advantage.
• Practice multiple-choice type questions. There is no clearer way to track your progress other than taking exams. There are many examinations available online. These are usually arranged by topic so you can immediately take an exam corresponding to the chapter that you’ve just studied. Additionally, you may also purchase practice exam books such as AP Chemistry, GRE Chemistry, GCSE Chemistry, etc. are available from Booksale at a discounted price. The board exam is in multiple-choice format so it’s best to practice with questions having the same format. I have compiled for your use some of the multiple-choice exams that I’ve answered online (Note: These links are case-sensitive):

General Chemistry: http://bit.ly/GENCHEM
Inorganic Chemistry: http://bit.ly/INORGCHEM (advanced)
Organic Chemistry: http://bit.ly/ORGCHEM
Biochemistry: http://bit.ly/BIOCHEM
Analytical Chemistry: http://bit.ly/ANALCHEM
Physical Chemistry: http://bit.ly/PHYSCHEM

• Relax and have fun. Sounds cliché but reviewing for the board exam really is stressful. You may even find yourself cramming during the final weeks before the actual exam (been there, done that). Celebrate every small victory (e.g., getting a perfect score on a chapter quiz) by rewarding yourself to do anything that you want — a movie or a trip to the mall perhaps — because these steps, however small, are not negligible and serve to indicate that you’re moving towards your goal.

And pray. After all, what can be impossible with Him?

“Taking the licensure exam is the pinnacle of undergraduate academic endeavors. Ergo, study hard and give everything that you can give because when you’ve done your best, you will feel fulfilled regardless of the results.”

Strategizing the Board Exam

Graduating college with honors doesn’t just mean one gets a special rope for your graduation robe. Completing a chemistry degree from the University of the Philippines (Diliman) in 2012, with no “laude” attached to it, did not somehow deter John Ephraim Esperas Torres to push his way to top 3 spot in the chemist licensure exam September 2012. A bit of an irony because John’s original plans did not have Chemistry in it.

BS Accountancy and BS Chemical Engineering are the two courses John wrote in his UPCAT Application Form. Both courses are in-demand that time, causing him to not qualify though his UPCAT result is DPWS (degree program with available slot). He chose BS Chemistry instead and decided to stay put and finish the course and not shift course, along the way.

His original career path spells a keen interest in business. He quipped “I want to combine Chemistry and Business. My ultimate dream is to establish my own chemical manufacturing company. It may sound crazy but I’m serious. But of course, I have to work first and learn everything about the chemical industry, how manufacturing businesses work and operate, and then I will pursue my ultimate dream.

In December 2011, John prepared all his review materials including chemistry notebooks, books and college handouts. The original plan was to start reading chemistry books by January 2012 but failed because of the time he allotted to do his research thesis. In addition, he cannot study well in his dormitory because all they would do is talk, laugh and jam. For these reasons, after graduating last April 2012, he decided to rent a solo room and isolated himself to these distractions until board exam month.

His routines would include waking up early in the morning and study all day until dawn. Review class starts at 4:30 in the afternoon and he will continue to study even after the review classes has ceased. The only break time he would have is when he’d eat lunch, dinner or snacks or when stressheadaches start thumping its way to his head. This was his daily routine.

Certainly sounds exhausting, but John is bent to get used to it, after a while.

John would head back home on Saturdays and spend almost the whole day in his church on Sundays. Weekends and Mondays (Mondate, as he calls it) are his rest days. Enrolling in a review class helped him a lot in knowing his weaknesses, stimulating the actual exam pressures and answering techniques. Most importantly, he knew his rank in every mock board exam which had the over-all percentiles and per subject. That is apparently what he was after in a review center. However, one needs to work hard on your own and not just depend on the review center. He advised that if you want to top the boards, a review center is a big factor. These are John’s tips for the next batch of board takers:

Have a strategy: You need to manage your time. You cannot study everything in five months and you must be strong in all subjects, and so scheduling is vital. I used my phone’s calendar to make a monthly plan. The chapters I will study and the exercises I will answer for the day are noted in my calendar. In general, my plan is one subject for one month, so a total of 4 months which coincides with the schedule of subjects in the review program. The fifth (last) month is devoted for sample exams and exercises.

Three words- Practice, practice and practice: answer as many questions as possible (exercises and sample board exam questions); don’t focus on reading your book, too much reading will just waste your time. Analogous to body building, but reading stuffs about building muscles and not actually doing the physical exercises, is futile.

And, pray until something happens…

Gusto ko tagalog naman dito sa last part. Medyo korni ‘to. Minsan lang sa buhay ‘tong boards, sineryoso ko na talaga, binigay ko na lahat ng kaya ko para walag regrets pagkatapos. Mahirap yung magsisisi ka, “sana pala ginalingan ko o sana pala pinilit ko mag-top kaya ko pala.” Basta ibigay n’yo na lahat. Wag n’yong isipin na cool yung hindi masyadong nag-aaral tapos papasa pa rin sa boards. Careerin nyo nalang ‘tong boards kahit tawanan kayo ng iba nyong kaklase. Sa mga gustong mag-top, lahat gustong mag-top syempre sino bang may ayaw. Pero hindi lahat willing na mageffort ng todo. Hindi naman kailangan sobrang galing ka, hindi kailangan nerd. Hindi naman magpapasolve ng Schrodinger Equation dun. Ako nga as in hindi talaga marunong nun seryoso. Basic lang questions sa boards, yung kaya lang sagutan within 3 minutes. Mas kailangan ng common sense, diskarte at dedication syempre. To God be the Glory!

Speech of Dr. Coke Montaño in 2012 PRC Licensure Exams Oath-Taking

Hon.. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former senator; Commissioner Alfredo Po of PRC;; Dr. Adoracion P. Resureccion (Chairman, Board of Chemistry); Dr. Soledad S. Castañeda (Member, Board of Chemistry); Academician Dr. Fabian Dayrit and other officers of the ICP,  KKP and PACT; our honored guests; fellow chemists and mentors; ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, let me congratulate you for your achievement of passing the Chemistry Board Examinations. This feat is indeed a life’s milestone. Let me also greet your individual families for the moral, spiritual, and material support, and also your mentors who molded you to become achievers.  Passing the board exams is a major step in the pursuit towards our individual goals.

I am happy and honored for being given a chance to talk to you and for having this rare opportunity of establishing an intimate relation with each one of you in the audience. The chemists should understand what I am referring to. For the non-chemists: the molecules that I inhale and exhale goes to the air in the room, which in turn gets inhaled by each one of you. Isn’t that intimacy?

My talk is short, as the late Carlos P. Romulo likened a short speech to a bikini – scanty but enough to cover the vital parts.

I am here to talk to those of you who are planning to go into the academic track. In the academe, teaching and research are equally important. Preferably, one must get a graduate degree: MS, Ph.D., and preferably, a Post Doc. Of course , there are growing pains.

When you get into the academic track, you become a part of the solution in terms of science and technology. Data taken in 2008 from the World Bank reveals that Singapore has 5,900 researchers per one million members of the population; Japan has 5,400, Thailand has 600, and the Philippines has 78. Kawawa ang Pilipinas.!

After graduate training ,you may also take the other tracks of the Chemistry profession such chemists in industry , business and in government.

On your way towards obtaining a Ph.D., there will be several distractions. They may be likened to flowers along the way – you may tend to pick them up, but be sure that you don’t get lost while pursuing the path towards your goals. Many students take consultancies and other jobs on the side while in graduate school. However, a number of these students did not finish their degrees.

Staying in this country or returning after training to eventually work in this country: we consider these as acts of heroism. Yes, it is true that the OFWs are keeping our economics up. However, we must also remember that Philippine education prepares us for life either locally or globally. With Filipinos in the sciences, in chemistry, and in other professions, we will be able to uplift our country’s economy, literacy, and well being.

Being a teacher in this country is like taking a vow of poverty. Academics may not be financially rewarding compared being in the industry and other business, but the rewards are nevertheless far-reaching and immeasurable.

Meanwhile, in conducting research, one must be careful with the experiment design so as not to commit errors. It is a good practice to examine results as a whole. More importantly, you must publish your results. Your research results give credibility to your teaching and work. In my experience, I have come to know that it is best to work on science and technology-related problems of our country. When you publish in journals with high impact factors, you can be immortalized in chemical abstracts and international databases. Also, sometimes, you can get mileage if you work with members of a different specialization or if you use chemistry in answering research questions under the other fields of science.

 To cite examples, many of the renowned Filipino chemists owe their claim to fame to their work on Philippine problems: NS Lourdes J. Cruz on conus, NS Banzon on coconut, Prof Dayrit on coconut oil and lagundi, NS  Ben Juliano on  rice, NS Clara Lim Sylianco on mutagenicity studies, Dr. Mae Mendoza on the biochemistry of Philippine fruits… the list goes on. My instant fame with the Seaweed Industry locally and international was because, I wrote about the properties of the PNG carrageenan a commodity which, during that time, is being produced only by the Philippines.

On a different note, in order to prevent occurrence of dishonesty in science, it is best that you practice the guide outlined in the Ethical Principles and Guidelines for Filipino Scientists by the National Academy of Science and Technology. You might also want to read the article “On Being a Scientist” by the National Academy of Science of US.

To end, I’d like to leave everyone of you with these pieces of advice:

Vladimir Prelog (23 July 1906 – 7January 1998) was the 1975 Nobel chemistry Prize winner for his work on making the absolute rule on handedness of the molecule. Together with Cahn and Ingold they devised the CIP sequence rules. He said:

“The world is chiral and clinical, enjoy the symmetry wherever you find it.”

Also, perhaps the most important advice he gave during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the Rectus and Sinister

“If you want to be happy for an hour, buy a bottle of wine,
If you want to be happy for a week, roast (slaughter) a pig,
If you want to be happy for a year, get married.
If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, love or enjoy your work.”

Finally, before I leave the stage, here is a story I usually tell my Natural Science I (Chemistry Portion) class:

One sunny day, Helium and Hydrogen atoms went strolling in the park. Hydrogen atom said “I lost an electron”.
Helium inquired, “Are you sure?”
Hydrogen replied “Yes, I am positive.”

Enjoy your celebrations and the tsug tsug music tonight.

Congratulations!!!

Thank you.

The Chemistry Department: Xavier University-Ateneo De Cagayan

Xavier University- (XU) Ateneo de Cagayan is a Jesuit institution situated in the city of bloom, blossom and boom—Cagayan de Oro City. Founded in 1933 by Fr. James T.G. Hayes, S.J., the first Bishop and Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, its measly population of 17 students ballooned to the present day enrolment of 16,000, an authentication of the Jesuit’s commitment to excellence in education. XU’s mission of forming men and women of competence, conscience and commitment has made this Jesuit academic institution to serve robustly and imaginatively the pressing needs of Mindanao.

 

The College of Arts and Science of XU is one of the few institutions in Mindanao which offers the BS Chemistry program under the Chemistry department since the year 1982. Just this year, the BS Chemistry program has been granted Level IV accreditation–the highest possible level from the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). With university becoming more competitive in terms of its faculty and facilities, XU’s Chemistry is coping with the trends and demands of the field of chemistry. Many of its faculty members are now masters and doctoral degree graduates from top schools in the country like the Ateneo de Manila University as well as universities overseas.

xu lab

The strength of the Department’s research effort is illustrated with the recent upgrades of its research facilities. The department has acquired the high-end instruments including Gas Chromatograph, High Performance Liquid Chromatograph, Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, UV-Vis Spectrophotometer and electrochemical instruments both for its undergraduate Chemistry program, faculty researches and for the external analyses accepted by the department through the CEARS – Center for Environmental and Analytical Research and Services.

xu aas best xu uv-vis

In addition to this recent instrumentation upgrade which offers undergraduate students a huge range of resources and facilities, XU Chemistry Department has an eye to be granted the Center of Development (COD) and eventually the Center of Excellence (COE) status in Chemistry in the very near future.