School of Science and Engineering's new dean shares his vision

June 03, 2021
By: 
Jaime Dominique Marco

Dr. Raphael Guerrero brings with him over two decades of experience as a scientist and educator as he leads the way for Ateneo's School of Science and Engineering.

Dr. Raphael "Paeng" A. Guerrero is chosen to lead the School of Science and Engineering (SOSE) of the Loyola Schools as its new dean, according to a memorandum released by University President Fr. Roberto C. Yap SJ on 25 March 2021.
 
"I feel very blessed to be given this opportunity," said Dr. Guerrero of his new leadership role. "I will do my best in this new position, and I will work very hard to continue the legacy of excellence of the School of Science and Engineering."
 
Prior to his deanship, Dr. Guerrero served as a Professor at the Department of Physics, where he has taught since 2000. In addition, he held various administrative roles such as Acting Dean of SOSE (January-May 2019) and Coordinator of the Ateneo Photonics Laboratory (2001-present). The former president of the Physics Society of the Philippines (2011-2012), Dr. Guerrero is currently an active member of the Photonics Technical Panel of the Philippines Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development.

A scientist, educator, and now one of the top administrators of the Loyola Schools, Dr. Guerrero takes the reins as SOSE Dean with a passion for excellence and service.

 
"In my wildest dreams as a young faculty member, I dreamt of becoming the Dean of SOSE someday. But [through the years], as I became more engaged in becoming a teacher and department chair and upon realizing the challenges faced by administrators, I became more hesitant for this level of leadership position," said Dr. Guerrero on his journey as an Ateneo faculty member. "I've been with Ateneo for the past 21 years… and I am very happy with where I ended up."
 
Dr. Guerrero is the third of four children of two notable scientists from Laguna. He is the son of Dr. Rafael Dineros Guerrero III, known for his Tilapia Sex Reversal Technology, which significantly increased aquaculture productivity. "My father is my hero [even though] I always get teased for being the 'other' Dr. Guerrero because he is more well-known than I am in the Philippine setting," he shared.

Dr. Guerrero with his parents after being awarded Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology.

 
After finishing his primary and secondary education in Laguna, Dr. Guerrero moved to Quezon City for his undergraduate degree in Physics (1998) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, where he also obtained his MS (2000) and Ph.D. (2005). He specializes in lasers and photonics, volume holography, and elastomeric optics. Recognized as an Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 2013, he has held the Fr. Heyden SJ Professorial Chair in Physics from 2010-2021.

Dr. Guerrero presented his work on volume holography at the SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference in 2015.

 
"It always comes as a surprise that it has been 21 years because it does not seem that long, but being the head of SOSE now makes me realize that it has [indeed] been 21 years with Ateneo," he reminisced.
 
Dr. Guerrero's three-year term as the new SOSE Dean took effect on 1 April 2021 during the second semester of SY 2021-2022. "Right now, I am still trying to catch my breath to make sure that there is continuity with my term and that of Dr. Evangeline Bautista, who laid out new frameworks for many mechanisms," he explained.
 
"As I take this leadership role, my main guide will be the university's vision for SOSE—to become a globally recognized leader in STEM education and multidimensional research through which we hope to serve the Philippine society while engaging with the world," Dr. Guerrero stated.
 
In terms of programs and projects, Dr. Guerrero plans to prioritize improving SOSE's research output by institutionalizing current research units, implementing better graduate programs in line with research priorities, and maintaining the quality of online education provided by SOSE.
 
By working with the Ateneo Research Institute of Science and Engineering, we will make sure that our faculty members and researchers are focused on our priority areas, such as disaster science and resilience, public health, the environment, science and math education, and emerging technologies to drive sustainable and inclusive national development," he added.
 
"While we focus on research, our main mission as a school is to teach and educate our next generation of scientists and engineers for SOSE majors and to increase the appreciation for science and engineering among non-SOSE majors," he explained. "This is why we would like to improve our graduate programs and ensure that the quality of SOSE education in this online setting will continue to be at the level of excellence that we have grown accustomed to."
 
Aside from these priority programs, the new dean expressed his intention to improve the mechanisms in place for recruiting SOSE faculty members: "I hope to have more faculty members who can teach, perform research, and conduct outreach services for our school.”
 
In terms of challenges currently faced by SOSE, Dr. Guerrero believes that the inability to access laboratories, the limitations of online delivery of classes, and the lower general well-being of students, faculty members, and staff are the most pressing issues.
 
"Our students deserve hands-on laboratory experience, and so far, their work in laboratories is minimal due to the campus lockdown. We are in the process of obtaining appropriate permissions from relevant authorities to try, in a limited fashion, to bring students back to the laboratories starting with our graduate students," he said.
 
"In terms of online learning, we are also looking at effective assessment schemes since there is an issue as to whether or not the exams reflect student performance in our courses at the moment. So we continue to look at how to implement our online courses better,” he added.

Dr. Guerrero with students in the laboratory working with a new laser before the pandemic hit.

 
"For the general well-being of our students, faculty members, and staff, we have had initial attempts to improve well-being through our meetings and kumustahan sessions. We hear the concerns of our constituents, and we are open to any suggestions and recommendations from our community.”
 
As the new SOSE Dean, Dr. Guerrero promises to make SOSE a better community for all its sectors. He encourages everyone to foster open communication with the Dean's Office.
 
"I would like to express my gratitude to the SOSE community for their trust in me and for all the support they have provided so far, even at this early stage of my deanship. I realize that this is a serious responsibility, and I promise to exert every effort to make sure that the School of Science and Engineering will continue its legacy of excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement," Dr. Guerrero concluded.

 
Photos courtesy of Dr. Raphael Guerrero