ChE board topnotcher: PH research game needs to step up

Jun 14, 2018 ...

"We have so many resources in the Philippines – some are over-utilized, but many are still under-utilized, such as biomass," said Peter Matthew Paul T. Fowler, who ranked first among passers of the 2018 Chemical Engineer Licensure Exam.

"It's because funds are very limited for research, so I'm hoping na ma-step up yung game ng research in the Philippines."

Fowler, who grew up in both Solsona and Laoag City, was taught by his mother, Filma Toribio, at an early age to have initiative and be independent.

"I grew up with... a single mother... She's very disciplinarian – back then, I didn't understand why, but now I know that she only wants the best," he said. His British father currently resides and works in Singapore.

Values of independence and self-discipline were further honed throughout Fowler's elementary and high school years, spent at the Northside Bible Baptist Academy (NBBA) in Laoag City, one of the few schools in the province using the School of Tomorrow (SOT) curriculum.

SOT is a modularized curriculum that focuses on individual mastery, learning at your own pace, accountability, and character-building.

"The most important thing I got from the character traits being taught here [NBBA] is how to deal with stress," Fowler shared. "When you deal with stress, you don't deal with it alone. You ask God for help... Instead of running away from the problem at hand, you tackle it head-on and with dependence on God."

It was in his second year of high school that he discovered his love for chemistry.

"Medyo advanced kasi ako sa PACEs [modules] noon, so instead of Chemistry being for third year, I already started Chemistry at the latter half of my second year," Fowler alluded to the curriculum, adding that the lack of laboratory facilities at school piqued his curiosity about witnessing chemical reactions firsthand.

When he began working on Physics PACEs, he concluded that pursuing chemical engineering would allow him to combine his three interests: chemistry, mathematics, and physics.

At Mapúa University, however, he was able to pursue two degrees simultaneously: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, and Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. He graduated as cum laude from both courses, and was immediately hired as a part-time instructor.

"Peter, top 1 ka"

He only began concentrating on his board exam review a month before, as he had initially allotted more time to prepare his lectures instead of reviewing and was only able to attend five sessions at the review center wherein he had enrolled.

Because of confusing questions in the exam, he admitted that afterwards, he and other takers had no idea how they did, hence his surprise a week later when a classmate texted him, "Peter, top 1 ka."

At the time, Fowler was in Singapore at his father's 60th birthday, together with all four of his paternal siblings, thus resulting in a double celebration.

Fowler will be starting his MS ChE (Master of Science in Chemical Engienering) with a scholarship from his alma mater this August. According to him, it comes with a "one is to one" policy, hence if it takes him two years to finish his graduate studies, he will also be working at least two years in the country.

After which, "I'm planning to go to Singapore, and then work... sometime, I will be taking a Ph.D [doctorate], but I have to earn for it, unless may scholarship ulit," he shared.

To his fellow youth

Being half-British but having been raised in Ilocos Norte, Fowler points out that his upbringing taught him the Ilocano trait of industriousness or kinagaget, explaining, "I get uneasy when I'm doing nothing. For example, when I'm commuting to school from home... Instead of sleeping or staring at the window, I bring books with me, or I download PDFs and I read while travelling."

He advises his fellow youth: "As students, your responsibility is to be a student – to perform well as a student. There will be a time for love life. I'm not saying na bawal, but ang issue kasi is priorities... and being teenagers, we still have this instability in our emotions.

"Wait until we are emotionally and mentally mature before entering a relationship – most probably, that would be after graduation na, when we're in a working environment."

He also added, "Choose one [a course or degree program] that you know you'll love – you'll only know that if you've done research, so alamin mo muna yung course na kukunin mo. That way, the hardships you encounter will not be so much of a burden, and it will be very fulfilling in the end.

"Sa study habits, take time to rest. We are human. We tend to get tired, especially our minds. So take time to rest – parang ire-reset mo yung sistema mo, ire-refresh mo, and that would be more effective. But not too much rest – dapat balanced pa rin."


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