Balik-PhD, EIDR lauded at 4th President’s Toast

The Balik-PhD Faculty and Research, Extension and Professional Staff Recruitment (Balik-Phd) and the Emerging Interdisciplinary Research (EIDR) programs of the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) were celebrated at the 4th President’s Toast, an event that recognizes outstanding UP initiatives, on October 28 at Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman (UPD).

In his speech, UP President Alfredo Pascual recalled how these programs were implemented in the early years of his administration. These were part of his strategic thrust to make UP a research-intensive university. Pascual, whose term ends on February 9, 2017, hoped that the next UP leader continues these initiatives “to bring back our talents which are being utilized by other countries.”

UP President Alfredo Pascual recounts how the EIDR and Balik-PhD programs were among the earliest initiatives implemented during his administration. Photo by Misael Bacani
UP President Alfredo Pascual recounts how the EIDR and Balik-PhD programs were among the earliest initiatives implemented during his administration. Photo by Misael Bacani

VPAA Gisela Concepcion, who gave an overview of the programs, said that EIDR, established in 2011, aims to “enable its researchers and creators to produce high-quality publications and other academic output quickly [and] regularly; lay the groundwork to establish research culture in UP through mentoring; promote interdisciplinary and inter-campus research activity; and support the creation of value networks from basic to applied research.” She also said that “as much as P2.5 million per project or P10 million per program for 4 projects per year can be awarded, renewable for another two years.”

Concepcion reported that, in seven cycles, the OVPAA implemented 62 EIDR programs and projects across different fields and in different campuses. Thirty-two of these were from UPD, 18 from UP Los Baños (UPLB), six from UP Manila (UPM), four from UP Baguio (UPB), one from UP Mindanao (UPMin), and one from the UP Open University. She added that, in the current or eighth cycle, her office received 42 proposals.

Balik-PhD, meanwhile, was established in 2012, “to recruit Filipinos and foreign nationals with a PhD or post-doctoral training from leading foreign universities to become part of the UP faculty and contribute significantly to mentoring PhD students and developing a culture of research, innovation, creativity, and public service in UP,” according to Concepcion. The grant includes: a relocation package of P500,000; startup research funding of P2.5 million, based on the research proposal; and a startup foreign research collaboration funding of P1 million, also based on the research proposal.

Concepcion said that there were 44 Balik-PhD grantees to date: 25 from UPD, seven from UPLB, four from UPM, four from UP Visayas, three from UPMin, and one from the UP System through the Philippine Genome Center.

Three projects under each program were presented by the project leaders as part of the event.

For the EIDR program, UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development-Institute for Governance and Rural Development Professor Agnes Rola, and UPB Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Institute of Management Professor Corazon Abansi presented “Towards Good Water Governance for Development: A Multi-Case Analysis.” It dealt with the problem of water scarcity and related issues like inequity in access, quality, resource management, among others.

UPD College of Science-Marine Science Institute Professor Maria Helena Yap then presented “Onecosystem,” based on the project, “Social-Ecological Resilience on Different Spatial and Temporal Scales.” Conducted in Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro, the study focused on environmental sustainability and livelihood.

The third EIDR project presented was “Drug Use Behavioral Health among Adolescents in Metro Manila” by UPM College of Arts and Sciences Dean and Department of Behavioral Sciences Professor Leonardo Estacio Jr. He said that he chose to study the subject because it was not “well-explored and well-explained” in the country.

For the Balik-PhD program, the first presentation was “Quantum entanglement of low-dimensional systems” by UPD College of Science-National Institute of Physics Professor Francis Paraan. He said that the study of entanglements was “valuable to quantum computing” and that measuring the quantities of these entanglements could be done through regular experiments that look at fluctuations. “If [we] want to develop real computers, we need to control the fluctuations and entanglements,” Paraan said.

Presented next was “Charged particle system development for modification of polymeric surfaces,” a study focused on plasma by UPD College of Engineering-Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering Chair Magdaleno Vasquez Jr. “Why plasma? Because we can’t get along without computer chips and mobile devices,” he explained.

The final presentation for Balik-PhD was “Exploring transcriptome dynamics in marine organisms in response to environmental challenges” by UPD College of Science-Marine Science Institute Professor Cecilia Conaco. Her research focused on sponges, which, she said, were “important to reef ecosystem, yet we know nothing about them.”

Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Undersecretary Rommel Garcia, in his response after the presentations, commended the research projects. The study on drug use, in particular, was something that the DDB, a policymaking body, needed he said. He explained that the Board was in need of relevant data that would guide policy formulation. Garcia encouraged the University to continue to pursue research for national development.

The President’s Toast was organized by the Center for Integrative Studies (CIDS). VP for Public Affairs and CIDS Executive Director Edna Co announced during the event that at least two more installments of the President’s Toast will be held during Pascual’s term.

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