PHYSICS  IN  THE  PHILIPPINES  TODAY

MANILA,
October 24, 2004 (STAR) STAR SCIENCE By Caesar Saloma, Ph.D. - (First of two parts) The Philippines is a country with a population of 82.3 million in 2003 that is growing at an annual growth rate of about 2.34 percent. Its unemployment rate was 11 percent in January 2004. Of the total population, 12.98 percent is concentrated in the National Capital Region. The literacy rate is 92.28 percent among household population 10 years and above, and the GDP per person in 2001 was $1,050. In terms of the human development index, the country occupied the 77th position in 2000 (rank in GDP per person: 97).

Registered earnings from merchandise exports for the year ending February 2003 reached $2.72 billion. Receipts from electronic components accounted for 53.7 percent of the aggregate export revenue, representing an increase of 4.5 percent to $1.464 billion from $1.4 billion in the previous year. In 2003, the industry sector (manufacturing and construction) contributed 31.5 percent to the Gross National Product.

College life begins at age 16 or 17 after four years of high school and six to seven years of elementary education. Schooling at any level may be obtained from a state or private institution; there are at least 65 universities in the Philippines today. The medium of university instruction in the natural sciences and engineering is English and the academic year starts in June of each year and ends in May of the following year.

An undergraduate degree in physics or applied physics may be obtained from one of 18 schools, 10 of which are state institutions. Four physics departments are classified by the Commission on Higher Education as centers of excellence (Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Iligan Institute of Technology in the Mindanao State University, and National Institute of Physics in UP Diliman). Another four are classified as centers of development (Silliman University, University of San Carlos, Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics in UP Los Baños, and UP Baguio). Regular undergraduate programs in physics or applied physics take four years to accomplish, except at the National Institute of Physics (NIP) in UP Diliman where it is a five-year course.

In the second semester of the academic year 2002-2003, the undergraduate physics/applied physics population in the CoEs and CoDs was 876 which is distributed as follows: Ateneo (120), De La Salle (100), Iligan Institute (72), NIP (350), Silliman (19), San Carlos (69), UP Los Baños (120) and UP Baguio (26).

The gender ratio in the undergraduate population is close to unity. A good source of promising physics students is the Philippine Science High School System which has seven campuses all over the country. The system is operated by the Department of Science and Technology which also provides college scholarships for physics and applied physics students. The University of the Philippines administers a number of academic scholarships to physics students. Recently, Intel Philippines has also provided a number of scholarships to NIP graduate students.

There are less than 80 Ph.D. degree holders in physics in the Philippines, more than half of whom are with the academe – 26 are with the NIP. The physics departments of the privately owned Ateneo and De La Salle have about 10 Ph.D. faculty members each. Each center of excellence offers an M.S. degree program in physics, with Ateneo, De La Salle and the NIP also offering Ph.D. degree programs. The average graduate population is 127 [Ateneo (20), De La Salle (20), Iligan Institute (25) and the NIP (62)]. About 90 percent of NIP graduate students study full-time. A publication in an ISI-abstracted science journal is a minimum requirement for graduation in the NIP’s Ph.D. program.

The number of publications by Philippine-based physicists in journals abstracted by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) authors had grown steadily from 2000 (16) to 2002 (33). In 2003, the number of ISI publications dropped to 15. Between 1995 and 2003, about 83 percent of the ISI publications were authored by researchers who were or had been affiliated with the NIP. Of the ISI publications of the NIP, 53 percent were in optics, signal processing and complex systems. It is worth mentioning that researchers from the privately owned Research Center for Theoretical Physics in Jagna, Bohol, have also produced a number of ISI publications in mathematical physics over the years. The number of ISI publications generated by non-NIP researchers has increased notably since 2001.

Most physicists who have remained active in research are members of the Samahang Pisika ng Pilipinas (SPP) which was founded in 1979. The SPP, which had 250 members in 2002, holds a scientific conference each year where researchers from all over the country meet to present their latest findings. All papers for presentation are peer-reviewed before acceptance in the conference. All approved presentations are published as full papers in the conference proceedings.

The Society has experienced continuous growth in the number of conference presentations from 101 in 2000, 119 in 2001, to 133 in 2002. The research areas covered in past conferences were in condensed matter physics, superconductivity, lasers and its applications, optics and photonics, image and signal processing, plasma physics, liquid crystals, statistical physics, field theory, complex systems, and physics education. The number of presentations by NIP researchers has remained at 60 percent of the total in each of the conferences in the last three years. This implies an increasing number of technical contributions from other Philippine schools.

The basic salary range of a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) is $5,438 to $6,752 (US$ = P53.52) per annum before tax which is at 30 percent of gross income. A regular faculty member has a workload of 12 units – one unit is equivalent to one lecture-hour a week. A Ph.D. faculty member at the NIP can also apply for a three-unit research load credit. The basic salary of a professor at the privately owned Ateneo de Manila is higher with a regular teaching load of 30 units per academic year. The student tuition in Ateneo is almost five times higher than UP’s.

UP also awards research grants to qualified faculty members in the amount equivalent to their annual salary. Since 1998, a cash award of $1,000 is given to a publication in an ISI-abstracted journal, which is divided equally among the authors – only those who use the affiliation of UP in their papers qualify for the awards. Similar incentive schemes for ISI publications are also implemented at the Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle. Recent Ph.D. graduates of the NIP can also avail themselves of postdoctoral fellowships from the UP System that allow them to do research at foreign laboratories for a period of one year. (To be concluded)

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Caesar Saloma is a professor of physics at the National Institute of Physics, University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City (http://www.nip.upd.edu.ph). He is the director of the institute until 2006. E-mail at csaloma@nip.upd.edu.ph, or fax at +632 928 0296.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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