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Trust and Belief Makes a Good Researcher Better (UST-Korea Astronomy & Space Science Institute(KASI) Campus, Dukhang Lee)

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  • Registration Date : 2016-04-05


Belgium, how can I describe this country in a word? When I had to leave for Belgium after being selected for overseas training program, the few things I knew of this country were waffle, beer, and Julian, a panel a famous TV program. I remember the moment when I took my first step in Europe after getting off the plane at Amsterdam Airport in Netherlands because there was no direct flight from Seoul to Brussels, the capital of Belgium. From that point in time, I had started my journey of several months without knowing anything about Belgium except for the research to be conducted there.



Settled in a top-class university in Belgium
After being selected for overseas training program, I went to the city of Ghent using the subsidies for air flight fare and accommodation expense. Established in 1817, Ghent University is the most prestigious university in Belgium, and it boasts of a rich history of 200 years. Many talents who graduated from Ghent University, besides Dirk Frimout, the first astronaut of Belgium, obtained worldwide reputation as recipient of the Nobel Prize and the World Food Prize.

There, in Ghent University, I carried out a joint research with Prof. Maarten Baes. One of the masters in the area of radiation transfer research, he developed SKIRT, an independent radiation transfer simulation system. As an astronomy major, I used SKIRT for my research on radiation transfer simulation wherein extragalactic dirt seem to scatter starlights.

In our lab, we used to have coffee breaks every morning and at 3 pm every Thursday. Though all the researchers were busy with their work, they never missed these coffee breaks, and we always had a good time talking about research subjects as well as other trivial things. Through these occasions, I learned their advanced way of open communication where they talked about their opinions, adding and concealing nothing, as they bridge the differences, regardless of age and position, by fostering a horizontal discussion culture, not a vertical culture where opinions are delivered downward.




Passion for research blooms through trust


While spending time fellow doctoral course students in the lab, I came to think about one word: ‘responsibility’ as a researcher. Korean students do have responsibility, but the attitude of the researchers there to research hard silently, whether they are being watched or not, within a fixed period of time was really imitable. How could this be possible? I found that the answer lies in the trust and belief based on reasonability, in addition to the various cultural and environmental differences that are possibly between Korea and Belgium.

In particular, Prof. Baes was a man who trusted and believed the students. Even if the research of a student does not progress well, he tried to set a reasonable research direction again with the student so that they can obtain optimum results under the present situation while sharing the reason for delay and not blaming for the delay. He never pointed out or inquired about the mistake of the student. In his research room, even the smallest effort was rewarded with a compliment. Under such trust and belief, I came to like the research itself and started to devote myself more deeply into it. After all, the students performed the research responsibly, with the perception that the research was for themselves. I think that the research results of Prof. Baes, which boasts of more than 220 theses and more than 4,800 citations (H-index 37), came from this research culture.





Valuable relationship built in Belgium

It is said that it is the people that remain after all. During my training period, it was Prof. Baes who accounted for a considerable part of my memory. Prof. Baes used to enjoy futsal games with the graduate students, including myself, despite his busy schedules. He had considerable futsal skill. Whenever he met me, the only one Asian student in his department, he used to make an awkward “V” sign with his hands. Prof. Baes, who gave me much help like a friend and sometimes like a fellow student, made me very happy while I stayed in Belgium.

I also spent valuable time with my fellow students of the lab. It rained frequently in Belgium, but the fantastic sunny weather continued during summer. On such days, I used to play Viking Kubb, a game of throwing wood sticks, in the open air with my them. Sometimes, we had barbecue parties on the lawn.
They used to make jokes to avoid directly telling me not to go back to Korea. A friend from the physics department repeatedly said that I had to directly say goodbye to him before my departure; my fellow students from the research room who also like soccer gave me a surprise gift, uniform jersey of the local soccer team, ‘KAA Hent’ and Prof. Baes taught me the value of trust and belief. I obtained satisfactory research results through my UST overseas training, and I also met valuable people. In the future, I also want to be a researcher who is warm and friendly to other people I have to spend time with.





Through this overseas training, I learned one valuable thing. It is the value of ‘trust’ in someone. Beyond the simple research paper that I created during this overseas training, I learned how trust and belief can and guide a person. I wish that I will be able to help my fellow researchers rise and grow again through the small trust and belief I can give to them, even if they fall to the ground.