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UP graduate now set to become Philippines’ first gravitational physicist

Heads up! We now have our own Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein in the making!

At least once in our lives, we have heard or learned of the names Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Galileo Galilei, and Stephen Hawking. These are world-famous who contributed so much to various disciplines in science such as physics, astronomy, and chemistry. They are synonymous to the said fields that their names and contributions have transcended generations.

However, we have rarely heard of Filipinos working in these fields—until now. Just a few days ago, the University of the Philippines National Institute of Physics (NIP) achieved a feat by approving Reginald Christian Bernardo’s dissertation.

Bernardo, a doctorate student, has successfully defended his dissertation entitled “Compact Objects, Cosmologies, and Gravitational Perturbations in Scalar-Tensor Theories of Gravity.” This (unofficially) makes him the country’s first homegrown gravitational physicist. (Read: Three female astronauts who’ll inspire you to go after your dreams)

UP graduate now set to become Philippines' first gravitational physicist - image ph-first-gravitational-physicist2 on https://www.mypope.com.ph
Professors, friends, and former students of Bernardo (topmost row, center) joined NIP’s inaugural online defense. Screenshot from the YouTube live stream / Medium

“It’s a proud moment for everyone,” says Dr. Ian Vega, Bernardo’s adviser, in an interview with Medium.com. “[We can all draw inspiration] from Reggie’s example, that it is possible to respectably engage the larger gravity community in spite of our well-known disadvantages and relative isolation,” he added.

Bernardo’s dissertation tackled theories of gravity that offer perspectives on gravity other than Einstein’s famous general theory of relativity. He says that although Einstein’s theory may be able to explain how gravity works in our solar system and galaxy, it may not be able to explain how it works in “extra-galactic scales.” (Look: NASA’s fascinating images taken on the day of these local idols’ birthdays)

The soon-to-be gravitational physicist explained that there are “small disturbances” that can affect how gravity works in other parts of the universe outside of our galaxy. These disturbances can range from dark matter to dark energy that still has to be completely understood by scientists. The scalar-sensor theory is, according to Bernardo, is the “simplest alternative gravity [theory].”

ph-first-gravitational-physicist
Video screenshot from Reggie Bernardo YouTube channel

Bernardo’s dissertation is now in three papers published in top Physics journals and another one is on the way.

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