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Strengthen the cooperation between GFRIs
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“Research and Papers Mean Everything to Researchers”

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Reflections on Teaching

“Research and Papers Mean Everything to Researchers”

Professor Lee Taek-kyeon (UST-KIOST campus)

“Try to write at least two SCI papers.”
This is what Dr. Lee Taek-kyeon, a professor of Marine Environmental Science on the UST-KIOST campus, always requires his students to do. Is it too harsh given that most students write one or two papers before completing their doctor’s degree? Prof. Lee’s doesn’t think so. “The more papers, the more competitive. It’s the only way your ability can be recognized,” he says. We wanted to learn more about his beliefs, and visited the KIOST South Sea Research Institute (SSRI) on Geojedo Island to meet him.

Source: KIOST

A doctoral student under his guidance published six SCI papers

Lee has consecutively held various posts, and was a research director and later the head of the center. Considering such a long career, one might think that his passion for research would fade away, but he still puts as much energy into it as young researchers. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to UST students.

“In fact, I couldn’t decide whether to supervise dissertations, because conducting research and teaching are completely different,” he says. “But it came to my mind that I could teach students based on my career and as long as I’m in research. I thought it would be rewarding just writing my students a reference. I also thought that as a thesis advisor, helping them to succeed in landing a job is my duty.”

This is why he asks his students to write two papers that can be listed on SCI. Some might not want to admit it, but not all universities are perceived as the same. Obvious distinctions are made between universities in Seoul and local ones and prestigious schools and lower ranked ones. There is only one way that students attending a local or lower-ranked school have a competitive edge when seeking jobs. When they are researchers, it can be achieved by writing papers. Prof. Lee said, “When students get into UST, they must devote themselves to research until they complete their course.”

Thanks to his guidance based on such a firm belief, two Marine Environmental Science graduates from the UST-KIOST campus have achieved distinguished results. Hwang Jin-ik, a researcher who received his doctor’s degree in 2017, published 27 dissertations, including six SCI papers (as the lead author) during his course. Park Mi-rye even published as many as 20 papers while studying for a master’s degree. Considering their amazing accomplishments and the number of papers, it is not difficult to guess how hard they tried, not to mention Prof. Lee’s committed efforts. In recognition of their hard work, Hwang won an award for best thesis, and Prof. Lee received the best professor award and the best supervisor award in 2017.

Professor Lee Taek-kyeon examines lab results with students.

“Be happy, and do your best today to be happy.”

Marine Environmental Science on the UST-KIOST campus is a multidisciplinary major divided into two main branches, Marine Environmental Chemistry and Environmental Biology, which respectively cover the distribution and behavioral characteristics of toxic chemicals in the marine environment and interactions between mediums, and toxicological responses of marine organisms by ecological features. Currently, seven students are working towards a master’s or doctor’s degree. Two of them are studying for a master’s and a doctor’s degree, respectively, under the direction of Prof. Lee.

Prof. Lee stresses that “happiness” is among the most important values. He believes that it is no longer meaningful to do research, read and write papers without feeling interested and happy, and to be happy, one should do one’s best in the present.

“I tried to look for a way to make students happy here in this institute, but couldn’t find one,” he says. “There is no way but to spare no effort in doing research or writing a paper, and try to find happiness in such enthusiasm. Our ultimate goal is happiness, and it can be achieved by doing your best today. This is what I emphasize the most to my students.”

Compared to his great enthusiasm for research and education, what Prof. Lee expects from the school is somewhat humble: creating an environment where students and the faculty can concentrate only on research. “UST has grown quantitatively as well as qualitatively,” he says. “I believe UST will see tremendous growth in the future when investing more in producing better research outcomes and researchers with greater ability. Faculty members will also put in more efforts, of course.”

Prof. Lee stresses that “happiness” is among the most important values.