UP’s Reginald Bernardo to receive PHL’s 1st gravitational physics doctorate

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Reginald Bernardo gravitational physics graduate
Reggie Bernardo successfully defends his dissertation in the first UP NIP online defense. Screengrab from YouTube thesis defense video.

The University of the Philippines (UP) is giving the country its 1st Ph.D. graduate in gravitational physics as Reginald Christian Bernardo of the UP National Institue of Physics (NIP) passed his dissertation defense held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UP social media announced the NIP’s approval of Bernardo’s doctorate dissertation on alternative theories of gravity “unofficially marking Bernardo as the country’s first homegrown gravitational physicist.”

Bernardo successfully defended his dissertation “Compact Objects, Cosmologies, and Gravitational Perturbations in Scalar-Tensor Theories of Gravity” seen on live streaming on Zoom and YouTube on May 22, 2020, in the first online defense conducted by the UP NIP.

“It’s a proud moment for everyone. [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,” Bernardo’s advisor Dr. Ian Vega said in a report by Scientia, the official student publication of the UP Diliman College of Science.

“Finally, the proud intellectual tradition [of gravitational physics] from Newton and Einstein…now also branches through the Philippines too,” Vega declared.

Reginald Bernardo received his Bachelor’s Degree in Physics Magna Cum laude from UP Diliman in 2015 and finished his Master’s Degree in Physics as the UP College of Science’s Most Outstanding MS Student in 2017.

Bernardo’s dissertation dealt with theories of gravity alternative to Einstein’s celebrated general theory of relativity (GR).

Bernardo studied black holes and expanding universes in scalar-tensor theory, which he says is the “simplest alternative gravity [theory], to understand how gravity is modified by dark energy — a mysterious entity causing the universe’s accelerated expansion.”

Reginald Bernardo’s dissertation panel included known names in the Filipino physics scene:

  • Dr. Jose Perico Esguerra, principal investigator (PI) of NIP’s Theoretical Physics Group (Theory) with specialization in statistical physics
  • Dr. Eric Galapon, PI in Theory working on quantum and mathematical physics
  • Dr. Reinabelle Reyes, Filipina astrophysicist-turned-data scientist
  • Dr. Cristine Villagonzalo, PI in NIP’s Structure and Dynamics Group studying theoretical solid state physics
  • Dr. Ian Vega, PI in Theory who leads the most active gravitational physics group in the country

Bernardo is scheduled to take his postdoctoral work at the Asia-Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics in Korea.

“The biggest hurdle to obtaining a PhD in the Philippines is the lack of scientists capable of mentoring PhDs for various specializations. I know that I’ll eventually return to our country [to mentor] local talents,” Bernardo said.

WATCH the historic UP National Institute of Physics dissertation defense by Reginald Bernardo in this link and SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to the UP community for producing its first gravitational physics Ph.D. graduate.

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.