[Vol.19] Moments of Unexpected Luck (Hye-gyeong Choe, UST-KIMM Campus Nano-Mechatronics Major (Doctoral Course))
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- Registration Date : 2016-09-29
After I decided to take up a doctoral course, I chose UST among many schools because of its annual overseas research training program. I applied for the program in 2015, the third year of my doctoral course, because I believed I could carry out my own project solely with three years of experience. I also believed that training in overseas country would help me decide my career path. With the help of my advisor, Professor So-hee Jeong, and my colleagues, I was successfully selected for the program.
Beginning of the long-aspired overseas training
Through the program, I could join National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is located in the small city of Golden, Colorado in the US. It is a kind of government-funded research institute. I volunteered to study at the lab led by Dr. Arthur J. Nozik and Dr. Matthew C. Beard. I thought I would be able to produce research results in the six-month period because I knew through our international joint research that the lab was involved with subjects that were similar with mine. In particular, I set an ambitious goal that I would contribute to the joint research and exchange between UST and NREL group, on top of personally completing my degree thesis.
NREL was dealing with various energy-related subjects including solar energy, wind power, and bio-energy. Solar Energy Research Facility (SERF), which I visited, was covered with silicone solar batteries all over its roof; anyone would be able to guess that it was a facility used for solar cell research. In Colorado, almost 300 days of the year are sunny. Moreover, NREL is very eco-friendly place; sometimes I would see deers and rabbits in its yard. Every morning I went to the lab, I inhaled the clean fresh air and I appreciated the opportunity that I was able to stay at such a nice place.
Research environment vastly different from that of Korea
I had been working on research about quantum dot synthesis chemistry and surface chemistry in Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials Campus (KIMM). In NREL, I subsequently carried out a project applying the synthesized quantum dot as solar battery. The dry weather of Colorado was the best environment for researching on quantum dot solar cell, which is very vulnerable to moisture. In my lab in Korea, humidity reaches almost 70 percent even in winter, but in Colorado, the rate remained below 15 percent. At first, I found it a bit difficult to adapt to the dry weather and I suffered from cracked skin and nosebleeds. However, it was the perfect condition for research.
What I found most impressive in the training was the group conference. I had to make a presentation about the project I had been working on in Korea and the research plan for the training in NREL during the first group conference of 2016. I was concerned. I thought to myself, “Do they understand my English? What if they are not interested in my research?” Contrary to my worries, as soon as I finished my presentation, fellow researchers and doctors fired me with almost too many questions and comments. The group conference used to start at noon in a pleasant and free atmosphere where people could bring their own lunch. I found it so impressive that everyone asked questions, shared answers, as well as exchanged opinions.
Last April, the 2016 Material Research Society, the most globally prominent conference in the field of material research, was held in Phoenix, Arizona. UST funded my airfare, while my advisor helped me pay the admission fee for the conference, which greatly reduced my financial burden. Also, the poster presentation that I made during the conference was a great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In May, I happened to catch another lucky chance: I was able to attend a seminar dubbed “Dr. Nozik Event,” which was held to celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. Arthur J. Nozik. The seminar ran for two days with globally renowned scholars in attendance. In particular, the 50 years that Mr. Nozok had spent on research were recalled, which made me think about what would happen to me 50 years from now.
The six months passed much quicker than I expected. I believe that in NREL, I was able to concentrate on research more than any other time over the course of taking my doctoral degree. Thanks to the NREL members and Dr. Arthur J. Nozik who provided me full material and mental support as well as took the time to discuss with me my work, I was able to complete and submit two papers. Aside from the research results I produced, the networks that I built with the world’s greatest scholars would be a great asset in my research life.