High School and college students from different schools in Metro Manila gathered to learn about the challenges and opportunities for the young generation in the field of nuclear science in the First Nuclear Youth Summit held last December 7, 2015 at the Diamond Hotel, Manila.
One of the highlights of the Third Philippine Nuclear Congress, the youth summit provided a forum to share nuclear information and scientific knowledge among the youth as potential leaders and scientists.
The Nuclear Congress is organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI).
In his inspirational message, Hon. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told participants that imagination and a high degree of technical competence are vital in the field.
“Some applications of nuclear technology might surprise you,” he said.
He revealed that IAEA has helped authorities in Nepal in determining the extent of damage in buildings and structures after the big earthquake using non-destructive testing techniques like radiography which he likened to taking an x-ray of a structure.
He also mentioned that IAEA provided a nuclear-derived technology to Africa during the Ebola outbreak which can diagnose the disease in four hours instead of four days using other diagnostic methods. Such time difference is vital in saving lives and preventing the further spread of the disease, Amano emphasized.
He also commended the Philippines for being a very active member of the IAEA since 1958, adding that more than 300 Philippine nationals have worked under the IAEA Cooperation Program, sharing their knowledge and experience with other developing countries.
Nuclear science and technology will give them the opportunity to contribute to the prosperity of their own country and others, Amano told the students.
Woman leader and scientist
Meanwhile Dr. Alumanda dela Rosa, current PNRI director, shared how she originally wanted to be a teacher but ended up as a government worker/researcher at the then Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (now PNRI) and eventually rose from the ranks. She has been involved in the development of products from polymers using nuclear technology.
Though it enabled her to see the world, she cautioned that the work is not a bed of roses.
Nuclear medicine: not just about nuclear accidents
Dr. Teofilo San Luis Jr., a medical doctor set on going into gastroenterology, had a change of heart when he was offered a scholarship in nuclear medicine at the University of Bonn. He took the opportunity.
“Nuclear medicine is a very encompassing field,” he said. “Mention any specialty in medicine and nuclear technology is in it.”
Dr. San Luis clarified that nuclear medicine is not at all about caring about those who had been involved in nuclear accidents, as those are very rare. Instead, nuclear medicine is used in diagnostics and also in the treatment of certain cancers such as thyroid cancer, lymphoma, and neuroblastoma which develops from immature nerve cells, among others.
Looking beyond, seeing in between
The youngest among the speakers, Anton Philippe T. Tanquitic, who recently bagged second place in the Nuclear Olympiad challenged the students to always “look beyond.”
“We know so much now, because we are standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “Last generation’s ‘beyond’ is today’s generation’s current state.”
The Ateneo de Manila graduate however reminded his audience to remember the ‘in between.’
“In trying to look beyond, don’t forget to pay attention to the present, to the ‘in between’. For the ‘in between’ is where opportunities may arise, he explained.
This was how he saw his life when he got the chance to join the Nuclear Olympiad, a contest which required participants to produce a video on the topic of nuclear techniques for global development.
Then an intern at PNRI, Tanquitic related that he only learned about the contest a few weeks before the deadline but still managed to get into the finals where he had to submit an essay and do an oral presentation about his topic. Joining the event led him to other opportunities, such as the chance to explore Europe when he visited the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria and CERN in Geneva, Switzerland all in one year. CERN stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or the European Council for Nuclear Research.
Held from Dec. 7-9, the Philippine Nuclear Congress serves as a valuable forum for discussing nuclear science and technology applications for technological development and inclusive growth. Other activities include technical sessions on the applications of nuclear science in food, industry, environment and nuclear safety; and the Philippine Nuclear National Quiz finals.