For the longest time, mankind has pondered upon the circumstances of our world. The answering of these questions through the use of systematic methodological processes—scientific research—has led to the rapid advancement of science, technology, and human living conditions.
Last November, Engineering professors Dr. Aaron Don Africa, Dr. Kathleen Aviso, and Dr. Raymond Tan and Psychology professor Dr. Allan Bernardo were listed as some of the most-cited researchers worldwide in 2019, based on a database by Stanford physician-scientist and statistician Dr. John Ioannidis and his team.
Recognized for their work in the fields of environmental science and energy, the DLSU-based scholars discuss their research projects in an interview with The LaSallian.
A green future
Climate change—recognized today as an existential threat to humanity—had not always been part of headline news. Despite this, Tan recalls his early fascination and concern with the environment and climate at a young age. Following this passion, he is now recognized for his works on carbon emissions and climate change.
Currently a University Fellow and DLSU’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, he recently worked on the use of computer models to predict changes in the world’s climate in order to highlight potential measures to control it. These computer models can be used by other scientists for further application. He refers to his projects as “building blocks” that can be used by future scientists in conjunction with better technology.
Aviso, who also belongs to the Chemical Engineering Department, shares the same agenda of using data-driven models to improve the environment. “Essentially, what I do is build mathematical models to try and model different types of systems,” she explains. Formulating new designs based on hybrid renewable energy systems that are feasible—in terms of both environmental and economical aspects—are among the kinds of projects that Aviso had worked on throughout 2019.
Specializing in optimizing systems and artificial intelligence, Africa, who hails from the Electronics and Communications Engineering Department, explains that the goal of optimization engineering is to “achieve the ‘best’ design relative to a set of prioritized criteria or constraints”. Simply put, optimization is determining the best possible choice in any system or problem in a wide variety of different fields.
Health, waste management, and aquacultures are some of Africa’s research interests: he uses computer programs that optimize various systems in these different fields. Some of these include algorithms that can aid autonomous underwater vehicles in cleaning the oceans of pollution and the use of an artificial intelligence system that can help diagnose cardiovascular diseases.
He is also recognized for his use of artificial neural networks (ANN). He takes it to be the basis for artificial intelligence and says that they are able to “solve problems which are impossible or difficult to solve by human or mathematical standards”. He further explains that an ANN is capable of optimizing data that all fields of study utilize to some degree, demonstrating the flexibility of optimization engineering and its wide-reaching implications.
A cultural perspective
Stumbling upon the novelty of the intergroup relations and cross-cultural personality in the Philippine context is what distinguishes the work of Bernardo, also a University Fellow and a faculty member of the Psychology Department. His specialty is on polyculturalism, where he examines varied yet interconnected attitudes to produce positive outcomes, such as “how we view migrants, how we interact with, let’s say, co-workers from a different country.”
Bernardo’s research also describes learning motivations by analyzing the behaviors of Filipino students. High achieving countries, he found, are motivated by achievement and mastery but with the “Asian focus”, the Philippines is consistent with its social aspects. He also highlights that some students’ choice of college major is influenced by their families because “students are studying for their family.” While Bernardo maintains that this is not wrong or harmful, he argues that this may translate to a lack of “emphasis” on achievement. Cognitive psychology remains to be a discipline in development, but success lies in the creation of supportive spaces and an environment “that sustains you.”
The prolific work of these faculty members is no small step in the research culture of DLSU—particularly the disciplines of science, technology, and the liberal arts. Their achievement highlights not only the research potential of the University but also that of the nation. As these researchers continue to innovate in their respective fields, they inspire students to take a leading role in nation-building and to transform the foundations that guide public policy.