Pinoy students bring home awards in Physics Olympiad

THREE Filipino students delivered stellar performances in the recently concluded 49th International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) held in Lisbon, Portugal.

Steven Reyes, a student from Saint Jude Catholic School (SJSC), bagged a silver medal for the Philippines.  Mikhail Torio from the Philippine Science High School-Main Campus (PSHS-MC) and Charles Bartolo from the Philippine Science High School-Central Luzon Campus (PSHS-CLC) each brought home a bronze medal.

The Philippines finished 34th overall out of 87 delegations that participated in this year’s IPhO, achieving the best ranking in 13 years of participation. Reyes, Torio and Bartolo ranked in the 88th, 68th and 58th percentiles, respectively, out of a total of 396 student-delegates.

The Filipino Physics olympians were accompanied by team co-leaders Professors Perry Esguerra and Ian Vega, both from the UP National Institute of Physics.

Reyes, Torio and Bartolo underwent intensive training under Esguerra, and  Vega, and Michael Solis of the Theoretical Physics Group and team co-leader Prof. Nathaniel Hermosa of the Photonics Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Physics. The team also received additional training and guidance from coaches Russel Odi (SJSC), Vinni Dajac (PSHS-MC), Rex Forteza (PSHS-CLC) and Lemuel Pelagio Jr. (PSHS-CLC).

This year’s problems involved the detection of gravitational waves, the Atlas instrument at the Large Hadron Collider, and the physics of blood flow and tumor growth—for the theoretical exam—and paper transistors and the viscoelastic properties of a polymer thread for the experimental exam.

Each year, the IPhO gathers teams of secondary-school students from around the world to compete against each other in a set of individual theoretical and laboratory physics exams. The first-ever IPhO took place in 1967 in Warsaw, Poland, featuring delegates from five countries.

The Philippines joined the competition for the first time in 1993. “Lack of guaranteed institutional and funding support was a problem then, as it is now,” said team co-leader Dr. Reinabelle Reyes in a press statement. “But we are determined to turn things around, so students of the next generation can have the opportunities we missed.”

The Philippines got valuable support from the Unilab Foundation, the Philippine Science High School Foundation  Inc., PSHS-MC, PSHS-CLC, SJCS and individual donors from the physics community.

The Philippine team plans to send another delegation to the 2019 IPhO, to be held in Tel Aviv, Israel.


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Rizal Raoul S. Reyes has covered technology, science, business, property and special reports. He had working stints with the Business Star, Manila Bulletin and Independent Daily News.