Month: December 2015

“As you begin your journey to rule the world, never forget that I’ll be waiting. Well start from the beginning, then home we’ll go. Be ready, be strong and hold on to what you got. One day it’ll all come full circle like a boomerang and we’ll join hands to sing it all away. When it’s time, climb out the window, down the California trees and know you’re gonna be alright. Remember your heart is a weapon and no matter who and where you are, we got love for you. So join us and we’ll walk off the earth together.”

 

Walk Off The Earth’s album art format is brilliant.

Vacation goals

Since my last semester in college is finally over, I was able to go back to my hometown earlier today. I’m well aware that this is going to be my last time-flexible vacation before I enter the workforce, so my tendency to be an overachiever is at its peak. I plan to commit myself to a lot of personal projects (while waiting for college documents to be processed) and be productive, which gives me good vibes. 🙂

As soon as I got home, I enrolled myself in several online courses with the financial assistance of my mom. For every course I finish, I shall make a post of the noteworthy things I learned so that others may benefit from my experience as well (also as practice for summarizing things).

My passive goal during these few weeks of freedom is to read philosophy books (I might write about them if I find the time). Aside from these, I also plan to study deeper game theory and sin tax in the Philippine context (in case my mentor would request assistance for one of his upcoming papers), review lessons in statistics, learn how to code in Visual Basic and R, impart random useful knowledge to my favorite brother, and if I have spare mental energy, study basic Korean and continue my review for Exam FM (which I unfortunately had to put off due to my attention-hungry thesis project). Anyway, this is supposed to be a vacation so I think having fun (albeit by developing new skills and in-depth learning in fields unrelated to actuarial) is justified. 🙂 What I really look forward to is getting to (passively, introvertly) spend time with my family again, since I rarely get to go home to see them (and I expect my schedule to get even tighter once I start working).

TL;DR: Busy month ahead. Will post updates on my progress with my checklist soon!

Thesis it!

I just passed my final submissions. Oh my god I can’t believe it. After one fruitless and one productive semester and 5 thesis topic revisions, I’m finally going to graduate! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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I’m honestly not used to the idea. My very last semester in college is about to end, and there’s something inside me that yearns to be sentimental but I just can’t outwardly express. But I take comfort in knowing that I have minimal regrets. 🙂

 

Young Researcher Days, Part II

Every Sunday, my 10 year-old brother and I tune in to Pinoy Scientist, a radio program hosted by active scientists Dr. Custer, Dr. Guido, and Dr. JD wherein health and environmental issues are discussed and scientific news are tailored for public consumption. I myself love breaking down science for curious little kids, so we usually have a short discussion after the program. Today’s episode especially contained a lot of scientific jargon but I was able to make my brother understand the main topic because… it was exactly the kind of research I worked on in my final year of high school!

Basically, my S&T research groupmates and I made filters out of the nanocomposite of Montmorillonite (MMT), a highly absorptive clay mineral which happens to be abundant in the Philippines, and a biodegradable plastic called Polycaprolactone (PCL). The idea was that adding MMT would make a better heavy metal filter in terms of absorptive power and durability, and of course we had to test that. Here’s our methodology in a nutshell:

  • Varying concentrations of MMT (0%, 5%, 10%) were mixed with PCL, dissolved in dichloromethane, and sonicated.
  • Fibers were made through electrospinning, a process in which both the polymer solution and a spinning metal collector are charged using high voltage electricity so that the solution evenly collects on the surface due to the electric field and dries up to form nanofibers.
  • Small strips were cut from the resulting nanofiber mat and subjected to tensile tests using the Universal Testing Machine
  • Surface morphology was observed using a scanning electron microscope at DLSU (no wonder the guest scientist of today’s episode works there) and their chemical composition were studied through Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. All data were compared across the different concentrations of MMT, of course.
  • Lastly, DotA break after a productive day XD

I started this project as an intern under the University of the Philippines – Diliman’s Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Material Engineering. Thanks to their time and support, I learned some things about mining issues and materials science, I got the chance to contribute to their research, and I was able to conduct mine for free. 😀

STRPoster

I used to be intimidated by such a daunting task, but the S&T research course made me realize that writing scientific papers is actually pretty enjoyable (except for the pressing deadlines, haha). The best part was successfully explaining the project to the judges during the PSHS Research Fair, and unexpectedly garnering the 4th grand award. 😀

Needless to say, that PS episode brought back lots of good memories. 🙂

Young researcher days, part I

As part of the PSHS curriculum, we had to undergo courses in science and technology research in our third and fourth year, in which we were tasked to work on real S&T projects. It was something akin to the “investigative projects” I saw in grade school science fairs but a lot more demanding in terms of paper-writing and, well, actual research.

For my third year, I had to design a mock project with two other students. If I remember correctly, it was our prerogative as a group how far we would take it, but the design had to be elaborate. We were introduced to different methods of statistical analysis and project planning in class, as well as how to write and present papers. Being interested in blue roses (my favorite flower, for it symbolizes rarity and being out of someone’s league, haha) at that time for their color, I raised the possibility of focusing on it for our research topic.

bluerose

The pigmentation may be artificial, but seeing or being given this flower makes me happy (just like the ongoing relationships in my mind, haha)

Here it is, in a nutshell: Delphinidin, the anthocyanidin (plant pigment) that gives a blue rose its alluring and vibrant color, is a potent source of antioxidants. Previous researches have found that antioxidants may reduce the rate of angiogenesis (blood vessel formation) that feed malignant tumors. Since the skin of an eggplant (Solanum melongena) is an easily available source of delphinidin, we thought of extracting it from eggplants with the deepest violet color (standardized using hexadecimal color codes), testing it on lab mice introduced with skin cancer as a bioassay, and measuring its effectiveness as an angiogenesis-inhibitor. Our problem was that all we could do was design the project due to a lack of resources. We couldn’t contact some agency and ask them to allow three clueless kids to do experiments that deal with pigment extraction and cancer cells; the farthest we got was a consultation from a professor in UP Bio department, if my memory serves me right.

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Who would’ve thought that a flower I love and a vegetable I hate would have something in awesome in common?

So for my final year, I made sure to do a project with a much better design and acquire the necessary resources to bring it to fruition. After all, it would be the culmination of my high school life — the legacy I leave as a PSHS student.

No game, no life.

As fate would have it, the story of my life can be told by chronicling my relationship with games and strategy.

Age 7: My dad bought a book of classic board games, and I played against my family to the point of mastery. I associated games on a regular deck of cards with gambling, which they warned was bad, so I never played them.

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Age 10: I was to represent my school in a sci-damath competition, so my dad painted a sci-damath board on my study table and trained me. It was my first time to play competitively, and I remember being fascinated with each strategy I discover.

Standard_Damath_Board

This was also the age I started designing board games of my own and bringing them to school for my classmates’ enjoyment. I don’t have them anymore, but I remember them being akin to monopoly (which I haven’t even played yet! haha).

Age 11: Every summer since 2005, I’ve been part of an international math competition training pool. The other trainees liked to play cards during breaks, so I ended up learning a few games from them, which I of course brought to my school.

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That year, I designed cards for an improved game of UNO, with characters from my comic book universe, which garnered positive feedback from my classmates. 😀

Age 12:  In spite of my busy schedule I was sent to compete in chess. My dad trained me rigorously, to the point of believing I had it all figured out (how naive of me, haha). I was the champion in the district level and won third place in the next level.

That was also the year I was to graduate, so I spent the last few weeks of my grade school life playing cards with my classmates. It was a super fun way to end 7 years of forced companionship. 😀

Age 14: In high school, I befriended a bunch of geeks who were very passionate about the game Defense of the Ancients. That sparked my interest so I immersed myself in the rules and gameplay. The problem was that I couldn’t practice well due to lack of gaming support so I never considered myself a decent player. But since females interested in gaming were rare at that time, I earned a reputation for being DotA girl, haha.

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My favorite hero

Age 15: This was when I encountered the three pieces of literature that changed my life: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (a manual for all types of mass conflict situations), Machiavelli’s The Prince (which inspired me to keep a pragmatic attitude in managing and dealing with people), and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (which taught me how to live a stress-free life, but the lessons are kinda hard to employ nowadays since I’m aware that I’m more of a dictate-the-flow than a go-with-the-flow type of person). The most enjoyable of the three was The Art of War, and it instilled an even greater love for strategy in me. It taught me that real-life games can be won even before they start. And that once they do, there is always a way to minimize the loss and maximize the gain.

mulan

Whenever I think of ancient Chinese wars I am reminded of Mulan, arguably the most badass of the Disney princesses.

And of course, I didn’t miss the chance to design a board game based on The Art of War. With the help of some classmates, a game inspired by the Indian epic Ramayana came to life (but we realized it was a bit too technical to enjoy :-/).

Age 16: First summer after high school, even without gaming support, I started playing League of Legends, a relatively new real-time strategy game that was growing in popularity. I played to the point of addiction, and I spent thousands on game-related stuff, but it gave excitement to my life so it was worth it. It gave me something to bond over with my brothers, and I got to travel to different places to be in competitions. By the time I quit (in 3 years’ time), I had a pretty extensive gaming network, ranging from the people I first played with to the best players in the Philippines.

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And of course, I had to express my love for LoL in an artistic way. 🙂

Age 17: By this point I had 3 geeky friends from high school who happen to be in neighboring institutes with me so we got to meet regularly and kinda stuck together. They introduced me to D&D and the Ace Attorney fandom, which I carry to this day. I remember playing as a chaotic good rogue with a dark ISTJ backstory, and finishing an entire game of AA in french. 😀

Victory

Atty. Edgeworth (2nd form the right) is one of my major fictional role models.

Age 18: My circle of gamer geeks grew and a casual bond was fostered by the many games we played together. The one I enjoyed the most was MonoDeal, not for the game itself, but how we constantly sought to improve it as a group. It was where I got close with Chris (one of my best friends) and met Kwez Zurbito, who amazed me by showing the purest love for games that I’ve ever seen. He deliberated over the balance of the rulesets, thought up sound strategies even without much of a mathematical background, but played for the sake of fun. At times when we don’t have any cards or gaming equipment, he would come up with mental games just to save us from boredom. A real MVP.

That was also the year I signed up for chess class and met my first few friends outside of my gaming circle.

I didn’t learn much about the gameplay, but I gained experience playing against high-ELO people and learned that it takes years of practice and a solid and adaptive mindset to win. There were a few unforgettable moments as well, such as the time I won 6 bullet games in a row, and the time I lead my team to victory in a 20-move game against a grandmaster.

Age 19: Due to unfortunate drama-filled circumstances, I left my gaming circles and had to build a new set of friends starting with Lance (a video game geek outside my circle), Chris, and my chess friends. My pessimistic side knew that I’d be socially-doomed due to my reclusive tendencies and high introversion, but eventually I met a few new people and bonded with them through similar interests, and of course, card games. And as my new immediate social network grew, so did my card game collection.

bridge

I also tried my hand at bridge for some time. But who could last in the competitive scene without a constant reliable partner?

Since I quit League of Legends, I feared having less to talk about with my brothers so I invested in a PS3 console and bought several good games. I don’t always get to play with them but I hope that at least made me more likeable as a sister, haha.

Age 20: This year I had enough luck (and possibly skill) to be able to take part in an internship program under the MBPS actuarial division. I had to work alongside 7 other interns, and idle time interaction was a little awkward at first. But since I know fully well the power of games as icebreakers, I brought a MonoDeal deck the first time we had lunch by ourselves. Since then we played every working day after having lunch, and pretty soon I was able to introduce them to my entire card game collection. The awkwardness diminished for sure, but we also kinda built petty enmities, haha. Pretty soon I got attached to them enough to acquire Cards Against Humanity, a card game that is meant to be played with a lot of friends, which I’m pretty sure I won’t have enough to play with after the internship ends. The only time I ever played it was during our teambuilding night, and the funniest experiences and strengthened bond we shared assured me that the purchase was worth it. (I wonder when I’ll have a big enough squad to be able to play it again.)

2015 was also the year I enrolled in an official game theory class and started working on my game theory-related thesis. So far I’ve only read books that tackled the subject intuitively, so a mathematical approach was refreshing. We had many class tournaments, some of which my teams and I dominated. I guess it didn’t show much but I really enjoyed the lectures and game analyses, especially that of poker (this explains the pokerbabe pipe dream, haha). It was the most fun math class I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. 🙂

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And of course, since I now fully recognize my passion for game theory, even if I’m done with my undergraduate thesis, I plan to take it to the next level and keep studying for the hell of it, i.e., self-actualization. 🙂