Dr. Marivic Carpio-Bernido, SPP Fellow

The Samahang Pisika ng Pilipinas mourns the passing of an esteemed fellow, mentor, colleague and friend in the field of physics research and education. SPP honors the life of Dr. Maria Victoria “Marivic” Carpio-Bernido for serving the Philippine physics community in numerous ways. She was a former officer of the Samahang Pisika ng Pilipinas, a beloved teacher and research mentor at the National Institute of Physics (NIP), Mindanao State University–Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), University of San Carlos (USC) and Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) Research Center for Theoretical Physics, and an educational innovator, especially at the secondary level.

A lively discussion of Dr. Maria Victoria “Marivic” Carpio-Bernido about her work on path-integral approach and its applications during the Physics Conference in 2016 when she and Dr. Christopher Bernido accepted their SPP Fellowship. Photo credit: Dr. Ronald S. Banzon

Many of the students of Dr. Marivic mentored under the Method and Applications of Path Summation group in the National Institute of Physics during the 1990’s went on to play significant roles in the physics community in the Philippines and abroad. She co-organized a series of Jagna International Workshops, which provides a venue for scientists and aspiring scientists from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to interact with leading physicists from around the world. The educational innovations she pioneered in the Central Visayan Institute Foundation, together with Dr. Christopher Bernido, have reached many hundred schools representing 14 regions of the Philippines through the Learning Physics as One Nation Project (a project initiated by the Fund for Assistance to Private Education with a special grant from the Department of Education, and additional support from Meralco Development Center, SMART, and the Provincial Government of Bohol).

Dr. Marivic served as Secretary-General of the Samahan. She received numerous awards as head of the Central Visayan Institute Foundation and as senior researcher in the Research Center for Theoretical Physics. Her efforts to enhance education at the high school level are well-recognized, meriting the National Research Council of the Philippines Achievement Award, the Gawad Haydee Yorac Award (given by MERALCO and the University of the Philippines), the Many Faces of the Teacher Award (given by the Bato Balani Foundation), and the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (given by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation).

Dr. Marivic Carpio-Bernido was honored as an SPP Fellow in 2016. The SPP Fellowship is conferred by SPP to an eminent Regular Member who has received national or international distinction in pure and applied physics or has rendered outstanding service to the Samahan. Her passing leaves a void in physics research and education especially in the Philippines. Dr. Marivic will be dearly missed but her contributions will endure.

Padayon, Ma’am Marivic!

Members and Friends of the Samahan are invited to share their own online tributes to Ma’am Marivic through the link below. Posts on this wall will be accessible to the public.

[With contributions from Jose Perico Esguerra]

A message from former student Madelynn Nayga

I have always been fascinated by math and science and when I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a scientist. SCIENTIST. A highly intellectual person dressed in white lab gown doing experiments with fancy machines – that was how I naively pictured a scientist. I did not know anyone in my family, relatives, or community who practiced science as a career. As I grew a little bit older, that dream sounded like an unreasonable, unrealistic, unreachable one.

That changed when I learned that there were scientists, physicists to be exact, running a high school in my home town and that was the very reason why I insisted to my parents that I should study at Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF). Their school has an unconventional way of teaching – the dynamic learning program – developed to address the problem of not having enough learning resources including qualified teachers, to provide good quality education accessible to those in the lower socio-economic class, and to help young people build character and discipline which will always be useful no matter what career path they take. They emphasized that being scientists helped them develop this strategic learning method. How exactly?

It took years before I finally got to read and understand some of their remarkable works in physics. “Path integral quantization of certain noncentral systems with dynamical symmetries,” author: Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido, published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics in 1991 – one of the earlier works of Ma’am Marivic. It contains a lot of long equations and strange phenomena we do not encounter every day and nothing about teaching or learning or high school education. Allow me to share something about scientists. They have a peculiar way of thinking because of what they do. First they formulate a problem carefully – ask relevant questions, consider all variables needed, and read and learn previously solved problems related to what they are working. Then they try not one but hundreds of methods to solve the problem. If they are lucky, they manage to find all the answers. But that rarely happens. Sometimes, they find answers that lead to even more difficult questions. Most of the time, they try again and again until they see loopholes along the way, until they understand why certain methods do not work, until they realize that they have been asking the wrong questions. That is how they always think outside the box. Equipped with scientific skills and driven by passion for the country and its people, Ma’am Marivic, together with Sir Chris, chose to find solutions to problems beyond physics – problems rooted from grave social inequalities of this nation.

My years in CVIF were some of the best that I had. I was lucky enough to be taught physics by Ma’am Marivic. Physics intimidates a lot of students but she taught it to us in such a way that we overcome any fear and any barrier to learn and actually enjoy the subject. I was even luckier that I had several personal encounters with her. Inspiring is an understatement but that was how she was to me and to every CVIF student. She made students see their potential and helped them open doors towards the realization of their dreams. I recall how once or twice, Ma’am Marivic handed me physics articles they wrote even before I pursued physics. Of course she didn’t expect me to understand anything but she probably just wanted me to see how physics articles look like. I gazed at those and wished that someday I’ll also have my name written below a strange-looking title. I knew how she and Sir Chris were so proud when I announced to them my very first physics article published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics and years later, my first article in the Physical Review Letters. I also remember how she and Sir Chris made me take the SAT, a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. It was for benchmarking purposes. As I walked home from school and held the SAT reviewer in my arms, I would always imagine how it would feel to live and study abroad. Ma’am Marivic and Sir Chris were also the first people to know when I got accepted for a post-graduate diploma program at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy and for a Ph.D. position at a joint program between the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids and the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany. They have truly inspired me to reach for a seemingly impossible dream.

I studied at the National Institute of Physics (NIP) in UP Diliman before studying abroad. This is where Ma’am Marivic and Sir Chris took their bachelor’s degrees and became professors. I met some of their former colleagues and students who also became my professors. It was there where I heard more stories about them as scientists and professors. “The Bernidos, the path integral experts!” This is what I would often hear at NIP.  A geometric picture of the path integral is the following: Say a particle starts at an initial position x1 at time t1 and ends at final position x2 at time t2. The path integral is the summation of all possible paths that goes from point (x1, t1) to point (x2, t2). This mathematical technique has been proven to be useful in a lot of areas in physics including quantum mechanics, high energy physics, and statistical physics. I recall how patient and precise Ma’am Marivic was as a teacher and I can imagine the same amount of patience and precision needed to calculate long path integral equations.  It will always be an honor to be one of the very few CVIF alumni who understand some of their remarkable works as physicists.

As I continue my journey in the academe, I have also asked, what does it take to become a good scientist? What legacy should one leave? I had a naïve answer back then and that is to have an equation named after yours and to win the Nobel prize. Sure, those people who left such legacies are undeniably brilliant and the scientific community will be forever indebted to them for having laid down the foundations and for having paved the way for greater science. I have met a lot of scientists – humble, arrogant, introverts, extroverts, serious, nonchalant – people representing every part of the human spectrum. But Ma’am Marivic will always stand out because of her insurmountable amount of passion and dedication. I never saw her wore a white lab gown and her only “fancy machines” were pen and paper. I have not yet known of any equation named after her and she can no longer win any Nobel prize because one criterion is to be physically alive. But she was a scientist – one who went beyond the boundaries of physics to solve even more difficult and relevant problems in the society, one whose contributions in physics and in education has made and will continue to make an impact to many generations, one who instilled in students that good character weighs heavier than mere talent, and one who truly loved God and believed that science and religion need not contradict each other. This is her legacy and it lives in every person whose life she has touched. She was a great scientist, an inspiring teacher, and a nurturing mother. I cannot be where I am, figuratively and literally, without Ma’am Marivic. I am forever grateful, forever inspired, and forever humbled by her life.


A message from former student Cristine Villagonzalo

During the 80’s when I can count with one hand the female physicists in the country, I was fortunate to be her student and thesis advisee. First, she was my teacher in Physics 131 and 132 – the dreaded electromagnetism courses. Despite the rigor required in solving the differential form of the Maxwell’s equations and applying the boundary conditions in a dielectric interface, she showed us the wonders of physics derived from these equations. There was never a day in class where she did not teach with passion. Her being a perfectionist in deriving equations and her thoroughness in teaching are one of the best things that I can remember of her.

Together with Sir Chris, they formed the research group called the MAPS — Methods and Applications of Path Summation, at NIP. They would welcome us in their home once a week so that we can discuss physics in a nurturing and more relaxed environment. As a research adviser, Ma’am Marivic instilled in us that one should learn and master the fundamentals before attempting to solve more complex problems. She expects perfection from her students not just in physics, but also in communicating your physics results. I could not count how many times I had to revise my thesis manuscript. Through all these, she was compassionate. She would consider her students’ well-being and she will give you a break when you are tired or when you have other exams to study. Though I may not reach her level of perfection, I try each day to live the values that she has taught me and to pass the same values to my students.

Ma’am Marivic and Sir Chris continued to be supportive of their students even after graduation and when we were already carving out our own careers. They eagerly participate in our organized conferences or seminars when their schedule permits.

Thank you Ma’am Marivic for unselfishly devoting your time and energy to us your students. We are
forever grateful.