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“One thing I am very proud of is that It’s a cheerful laboratory”

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  • Registration Date : 2018-09-27
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Reflections on Teaching

“One thing I am very proud of is that It’s a cheerful laboratory”

Professor Choi Young-min (Advanced Materials and Chemical Engineering Major, UST-KRICT Campus)

A man who has a romantic idea about riding a Harley-Davidson, a man who paints his wife’s fingernails with balsam every summer, and a man who has traveled to countless countries so far! He is Professor Choi Young-min. He picked “bohemian” as a word to describe himself. He has a free and delicate soul. So, his students also live in a free atmosphere without hiding their distinct individuality.

(Caption for photo: With his students on Teacher’s Day)

A laboratory with a noisy and free atmosphere

On the day I met him, one of his students submitted a UST master’s thesis. As I watched him open the cover of the thesis, I saw a lengthy letter from his student inside the thesis. Lost in memories, he read the letter and then hurriedly closed the cover, being a bit shy. He then said he remembered the student being a very fun woman. He talked about her as if she was his daughter, with a father’s smile.

“My students’ fathers are around the same age as me in many cases. So, I worried that they would feel uncomfortable with me. But they seem to be comfortable with me from the fact that they often make jokes and play pranks on me.”

Professor Choi teaches UST students majoring in chemical materials on UST-KRICT campus. The students he teaches study in the Printable Innovative Materials Lab (PIMLab) of the Thin Film Materials Research Center. There are two chief researchers, two senior researchers, four researchers, and nine student researchers conducting research there. He said the researchers are exceptionally pleasant people. So, whenever he hears laughter in the corridor, he notices that they are the researchers from his laboratory. He says that although the atmosphere in his laboratory is a bit distracting and too free, that seems to make creative research and good performances possible.

(Caption for photo: Mini Summer Athletic Meeting)

(Caption for photo: Rock-paper-scissors for determining get-together menu after monthly seminar)

Having one’s own thoughts rather than obeying

“I have my own research direction, but I do not want lead my students in the framework of my research direction. I welcome students who come up with ideas actively rather than students who act according to instructions.”

According to Professor Choi, the current laboratory atmosphere seems to have started with the permission for such freedom. He is a veteran researcher who has conducted only research for 28 years since majoring in ceramic engineering in university and material engineering in graduate school. He is also a pioneer in 2D/3D device printing, which manufactures electronic products with 2D/3D printing, just like printing newspapers or books.

2D/3D device printing allows materials that are used to make conductors, semiconductors, sensors, batteries, etc. to be converted into nanometer-sized ones in order to develop “nano ink”, printing electronic components using this. As this technology can print elements that bend or stretch, it can be applied to devices that are attached to the human body like hot (cool) patches and generate electricity, and for wireless IoT sensors. For this reason, it is receiving attention as a necessary technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Professor Choi developed a technology in 2016 that prints on low-priced transparent substrates such as PET bottles using nano ink made of copper nanoparticles. In particular, Kim Tae-gon, a UST student who carried out the research together with Professor Choi, published an article in “Chemistry of Materials,” a prestigious magazine in the chemical field, as the lead author. In recognition for the commercial application value of the technology in the article, Kim received the UST presidential award and Professor Choi received the best professor award when Kim graduated in 2017.

“Kim Tae-gon entered our school in an unusual manner. He sent an e-mail stating that he wanted to work in my laboratory even though it was not the UST student recruitment notice period. I met him out of curiosity, and he was too shy. I doubted if he would be good, but suggested that he participate in an internship. Once I worked with him, I found that he worked hard and had good sense.”

Kim is now working for the company the above-mentioned technology was transferred to. Kim still visits the laboratory often to use equipment. “He also visited yesterday, and he sometimes talks about troubles” said Professor Choi. Maybe the students still want to be cared for even after graduation.

I cherish the relationships I have made

Professor Choi became a UST professor in 2008, but started teaching in 2011. The first student I met after three years of preparation with the responsibility of teaching well was More, a student from India student. More, who according to Professor Choi was handsome and clever, is now working at an institute for defense analysis in India after getting his Ph.D. Dr. More sent a photo of his newborn son. The two seem to have a close relationship. They met in India last year when Professor Choi went on a business trip there. Also, a few weeks ago, Dr. More came to Korea and gave a lecture in an international conference following the invitation of Professor Choi.

“If the first feeling is good, you know, you want to do better. Since More, I have continuously selected students and taught them. In particular, when I select students, I meet them in advance and have a long conversation with them about the reasons for their application, and enthusiasm. Although my laboratory has a free atmosphere, all members have to concentrate on research during the designated research time. This can be difficult for students who are accustomed to a slack life in university. So, to do this, the students have to have a sense of purpose and passion.”

The faces of the students he has taught are drawn on a white board in his laboratory. Whenever new students join, the other students draw their faces by looking at their features. And this has become a tradition. Looking closely at the faces, I could sense the free and cheerful atmosphere Professor Choi Young-min talked about. Recently, because the students complained that they could not do research as the weather was scorching hot, they had a mini athletic meeting where they had a water gun battle and played dodge ball and soccer and enjoyed chicken and beer. They also go on outings once a year to places where the water and wind are good.

hile taking pictures after the interview, I found letters from students that were attached to a wall. I looked through them and one message caught my eyes.

“Professor, I am so happy to visit your laboratory, because the group atmosphere is great.”