Three Filipino students became a nigh-unstoppable force at the 49th International Physics Olympiad (IPhO), taking the country closer to gold than it has ever been at the annual worldwide competition.
Steven Reyes, who hails from St. Jude Catholic School (SJSC), bagged a silver medal for the Philippines. Meanwhile, 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.
Dr. Josette Biyo, Director of the Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), congratulated the team for placing 34th 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 triumph of our IPhO Team is nothing short of remarkable. Our latest S&T HRD Stat Updates reveal that the number of physicists in the country decreased significantly, yet technological advances are fueled by physics-based researches. We hope they will continue their interest in the field and soon pursue a career in physics. I cannot emphasize enough the need for skilled physicists and their innovative application of physics to enable our economy to move forward swiftly,” said Biyo.
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.
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.
Accompanied by team co-leaders Prof. Perry Esguerra and Prof. Ian Vega (both from the UP National Institute of Physics), the team competed in Lisbon, Portugal last July 21 to 29.
To prepare for the competition, Reyes, Torio, and Bartolo underwent intensive training under Prof. Esguerra, Prof. 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. They also received training and guidance from coaches Russel Odi (SJSC), Vinni Dajac (PSHS-MC), Rex Forteza (PSHS-CLC), and Lemuel Pelagio Jr. (PSHS-CLC).
The team competed in the 2018 IPhO with generous support from the Unilab Foundation, the Philippine Science High School Foundation, Inc. (PSHSFI), PSHS-MC, PSHS-CLC, SJCS, and individual donors from the physics community. Dr. Reina Reyes, IPhO Team co-leader, expressed hope for the team to gain more institutional and funding support.
The Philippine team plans to send another delegation to the 2019 IPhO, which will be held in Tel Aviv, Israel.