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[Y-SPACE] Into the Unknown: Choosing a career in physics

By John Paul Bustillo

Science was never my first choice. I did not dream about becoming a scientist. Back when I was a child, I considered becoming a businessman or even becoming a priest. But now, I am exploring the world of science and technology, specifically, physics. I enjoyed science back in high school. It is just that I did not see my future in it.

Taking a physics degree in college opened a whole new world to me. I was undecided about what course to take in college. That is why I blindly chose random courses in various university application forms from a business-related degree to information technology. I got admitted to the University of the Philippines Manila. While preparing some documents for enrollment, I stumbled on the physics degree almost by accident. Ejae, my high-school senior, informed me that I can apply for an interview to the new BS Applied Physics major in Health Physics program of UP Manila. This stirred my curiosity. What opportunities can I get after taking this program? This was my main question back then. I decided to apply for their interview, having doubts about even entering this program with many applicants from science schools. Luckily, I got accepted and decided to try pursuing this science degree. I was literally entering into the unknown. To my surprise, I found out that I like it.

At first, I struggled with physics jargon and mathematics. It demands great effort to understand and solve a variety of problems. After some years of understanding higher physics concepts, I started to get fascinated. One of the appealing things in this field is how we were able to explain complex physical phenomena using simple and elegant theories. I fell in love with Physics. Thus, after getting my BS degree, I decided to apply for a master’s degree in Medical Physics with the help of the Department of Science and Technology scholarship. This specialization in my field caught my interest as to how we can connect Physics and Medicine since Medical Physics uses the principles and methods in Physics for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of human diseases. This field enables us to use physics to save lives.

I am now teaching physics at the university for about 4 years. With my few years in academe, I now understand what Richard Feynman said, “If you want to master something, teach it.” In the complex world of Physics, the challenge is explaining something simply. This will test how you really understand it enough. This is true as well during this time of pandemic for the public to have a better understanding of viruses and vaccines. In Medical Physics, we are involved in a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, engineers, and scientists wherein physics plays a significant role. These experiences, studying and working in Physics, made me realize that the meaning behind complex equations is the most important thing. Our approaches on how to diagnose and treat diseases using radiation are mainly based on how we understand the meaning behind our complex mathematical expressions. That is why as an assistant professor, I encourage my students to always look beyond the physics equations.

Going into the unknown can be frightening. But maybe what you really wanted lies in something you are not familiar with. Same with science, it requires curiosity to explore things beyond our current understanding. I still believe that there is no such thing as a perfect formula in life. We just need to continue walking even during times of challenges and uncertainties.

John Paul Bustillo is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of the Philippines Manila. He graduated as Cum Laude in his Bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics (Health Physics) at the University of the Philippines Manila in 2015. He completed his Master’s degree in Applied Physics (Medical Physics) as Magna Cum Laude at the University of Santo Tomas last 2017. Currently, he is an incoming PhD student major in Physics at the University of Wollongong Australia- Center for Medical Radiation Physics. He aspires to share his passion for science and technology through medical physics research and practice.

YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.

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