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Research in Polar Regions is Big Science You Experience with Your Whole Body

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  • Registration Date : 2018-08-12
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Campus & Major

“Research in Polar Regions is Big Science You Experience with Your Whole Body”

UST- Korea Polar Research Institute Campus, Polar Science Major

Araon, a Korean icebreaker research ship (IRS), set sail for the Arctic during a record-breaking summer heat wave this year. Its mission, which is the ship’s ninth journey, includes doing research on the reason for abnormal climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. In particular, as most of the expedition is composed of UST professors and students, we cannot but cheer and support them more loudly.

Araon, which collects ice cores from drift ice

Enthusiasm toward an Unknown World

The Korea Polar Research Institute (Head: Yun Ho-il), which completed its new building in Songdo, Incheon in 2013, is known for its design, shaped like an enormous iceberg, and icebreaker ship. It is the most outstanding building even in a crowd of cutting-edge intelligent buildings that stand closely together like killer whales surging above the sea.

The Korea Polar Research Institute is the heart of polar research of Korea, which hit its stride in 1987 by constructing a research station in the Antarctic. Currently, Korea strives for polar research based on the excellent infrastructure of two Antarctic research stations (Jang Bogo, King Sejong), the Arctic Dasan Station, and IRS Araon.

Thanks to those efforts, the Korea Polar Research Institute proved the presence of ice in East Siberia during the glacial epoch, leading an international joint research, and for the first time in the world, interpreted the whole gene sequence of a higher organism in the Antarctic, which came to have unique physiological phenomena for adapting to a low temperature environment. Due to such excellent research achievements, it is regarded as a young leader of polar research by international society.

There are currently 25 students majoring in polar science in UST. Polar science is a huge composite science area encompassing the whole fields of natural science and engineering. Students from various undergraduate studies have gathered and burn with desire to learn about the unknown world in the thrilling fields of the South Pole or North Pole, as well as the laboratory.

Panoramic View of the Arctic Dasan Station

UST Field Education, No Exceptions Even in Polar Site

The Antarctic and Arctic are the only undeveloped land on earth, and a huge, unpolluted natural laboratory that is shrouded in ancient mysteries. However, due to the extreme cold and dry environment, it is difficult for ordinary people to access.

“Students in the UST Polar Science Major need a frontier spirit beyond a passion for studying,” Major Representative Professor Park Hyeon says. Researchers of the Korea Polar Research Institute come and go to and from the Antarctic and Arctic on Araon or a flight route that takes one week for a round trip. Professor Park also went to the Arctic Dasan Station with several transfers and light aircraft a few days ago.

Field-centered research, the major feature of UST education, is no exception even here. Students on the Korea Polar Research Institute Campus must carry out research in the polar regions for at least two months. As they can go there only in summer time and great caution should be paid for safety, thorough preparations are needed. However, the students’ hearts cannot help beating harder before this special trip that is not allowed for ordinary people.

The excitement of field research is also delivered in the story of student So Jae-eun, who visited the Antarctic King Sejong Station twice for research on lichen.

Professor Park Hyeon and his first student, Doctor Ahn Do-hwan. Dr. Ahn’s first overseas trip was for research in the Arctic when he attended UST.

Professor Park Hyeon, who returned to the base after field investigation with a joint international research team

Student So Jae-eun, who is doing research on lichen ecology

Field Research is a Blessing

“I think ‘duty’ is a blessing here because nobody can even imagine this outside UST. It’s marvelous to see the Antarctic continent and local animals and plants, which I’d only seen on TV or in textbooks, in person.”

Of course, after an intense first impression, the daily routine is not too different here. They wake up at the morning call music, eat breakfast, and then leave the base. As the research site is quite far, they prepare rice balls and instant cup noodles for lunch. In many cases, it is late evening when they return to the base after wandering in the snow and collecting samples all day.

However, field research in the polar regions, which they experience with their whole body, cannot help but become a singularity that makes science majors think about their future more seriously. Student So Jae-eun, who has almost completed a Master/PhD integrated course, has also come to have a dream of becoming a confident member of a joint international research team and revisiting the Antarctic.

Major Representative Professor Park Hyeon said he felt rewarded since he could predict a bright future for polar science as the UST- Korea Polar Research Institute Campus is filled with many students, 10 or 20 times the one or two members at first. He attracts challengers who will open a bigger future for Korean polar research.

“The mysterious polar regions are also a place where big science is possible, as they are filled with unknown things. If you have passion, you can try it, whatever it is. That’s the biggest attraction of the Polar Science Major.”