The Power of Passion and Perseverance Gets Stronger when Faced with Impossibility (Professor Jeong-hyeon Lee, UST-KIOST Campus)
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- Registration Date : 2015-10-07
In 2004, Dr. Seung-seop Bae of KIOST presented a thesis about elaborately separated archaebacteria in an international academic symposium. But, many thesis reviewers did not acknowledge this outcome and cast suspicious eyes, doubting if it was really possible to separate the bacteria. Six years later, the research result of Dr. Bae was published in the Nature, and the outcome of the research was widely recognized. Always behind him was Prof. Jeong-hyeon Lee.
Prof. Jeong-hyeon Lee teaches marin biotechnology in the KIOST campus. Marine biotechnology is concerned with finding new genetic information and materials by researching about marine organisms, which account for 70 to 80 of all species on earth. In particular, the deep seafloor is home to unidentified sea creatures, such as microbial organisms, that live in thermal waters with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher.
Please introduce your major and research field.
I belong to KIOST, which researches various marine-related subjects from basic studies to marine policies and vessels. As for me, I am studying marine biotechnology. I conduct researches about the application of modern biotechnology to marine creatures that range from unusual organisms living in the sea to mysterious microbes to whales, the largest creature in existence.
Marine biotechnology is largely divided into two categories. The first is about studying how unidentified marine creatures adapt to the environment. The second is about inventing medicines and medical supplies derived from marine creatures by researching about their unique features.
What was your motivation behind joining UST?
I agreed with UST’s foundation principle of adding educational functions to the government-funded research institutes and nurturing excellent researchers. Thus, I joined the school in its very early days. I thought it was very meaningful to simultaneously nurture excellent researchers and brilliant students through field works. Since then, I have taught students the values and potentials of marine organisms, how they function and live, and how we can utilize them.
Your pupils are receiving global recognitions. Do you have any special teaching skills?
No, I don’t. In fact, the road of a researcher is not easy at all. We have to have both superior skills and strong personality. To my students, I always stress passion and perseverance in achieving, because in the end, researchers are the kind of people who need to stay foolish and work hard to make their own way. I know Dr. Bae, one of my pupils, published his thesis in Nature as the first author and was awarded with a Minister Prize during this year’s commencement ceremony. But, what I did for my students was only remind them of the values of our work and offer them motivation.
The fruitful outcomes were partially born, thanks to UST’s unique system. Unlike other graduate schools, UST only has three to four students in one class. Naturally, the lectures focus more on communication with each other rather than unilateral impartation. We’re in UST and that is the reason that we, the professors and students, can ask and answer a lot of questions among each other, as well as actively present our own opinions in class.
We wonder, what is your principle as a researcher and a professor?
I wanted to be a professor that my students can be proud of, and this is still my principle in teaching students. All of us have our own role. I have a role as a professor and a researcher of marine biotechnology. As a professor and a researcher, I have to fulfill my duties. I think our basic duties are to write theses, carry out researches, and produce basic research outcomes that are required by the state and society. I am doing my best to achieve these basic duties.
What is your vision and goal for the development of marine biotechnology?
I think we can achieve a great goal by building it piece by piece. The goal of this year is to focus more on field research, which is about going out to the sea on board, collecting samples, and separating microorganisms. Next year, KIOST will complete the building of a 5,000-ton vessel. Using this, we plan to collect quality samples to separate and cultivate microorganisms. Also, based on field research, we aim at being the world’s best team in the field of marine extremophiles and marine genetic research. Of course, to this end, we need close collaboration between the students and professors, as well as field research. Our objective is to complement the current shortages and reinforce the strengths of our team to meet our goal of becoming the world’s best.
Please give a piece of advice to UST students.
UST has a really great education system in place. Most of all, students can receive scholarships from research institutes through their contribution to field research, as well as work in a research environment with the best quality. They should fully take advantage of this system. Students with strong passion can get more opportunities. I hope USTians will lead the country with passion and perseverance.