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School of Soft Matter Research besucht koreanische Exzellenzinstitute

Eine Delegation der FRIAS School of Soft Matter Research besuchte vom 23. bis zum 27. Mai das Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon sowie das Korean Institute of Advanced Study (KIAS) in Seoul.

FRIAS School of Soft Matter Research visits two Excellence Institutes in South Korea

From Saturday May 23rd to Wednesday  May 27th, a FRIAS delegation, consisting of the school directors, Professors Hermann Grabert and Jan Korvink, as well as physics scientist Dr. Wolfgang Häusler and scientific coordinator Dr. Britta Küst paid an commendatory visit to two major Korean institutes. On the agenda was the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon and the Korean Institute of Advanced Study (KIAS) in Seoul.

The KAIST was established in 1971 as Korea’s first graduate school specializing in science and engineering education and research. KAIST is located in the Daedeok Research Complex in the city of Daejeon, 150 kilometers south of the capital city, Seoul. The Daedeok complex is the nation’s R&D capital and home to some 50 public and private research institutes, universities and high-tech and venture capital companies. KAIST’s Daedeok and Seoul campuses house six colleges (Natural Science, Life Science & Bioengineering, Engineering, Information Science & Engineering, Business, and Cultural Science with 20 departments), eight research institutes and five affiliate schools.

Over the past four decades, KAIST has evolved into a global research university. The University’s faculty conducts internationally recognized research in cooperation with academic institutions and industries all over the world. For the 2009 academic year, about 5500 students are enrolled in bachelor and master programs and 2500 in doctoral programs. The students are trained by 842 professors and 334 staff members, giving rise to a very attractive staff-student ratio which surely was a factor in ranking KAIST  seventh in the Chosun-QS 2009 Asian University Ranking.

At KAIST the delegation was welcomed and guided by Professor Inkyu Park, who had put together a very exciting day´s programme. First of all, the Central Research Instrument Facility was presented, an impressive facility established as a technology support center for staff and students. Here not only very elaborate equipment for chemical, structural, surface and thermophysical analysis (ranging from mass spectrometers via diverse modern spectroscopy techniques to five different electron microscopes)  is housed in one facility, but also the technical staff is present 24 hours a day to conduct the measurements required by the scientists.

The NanoCentury Institute (one of the 8 top KAIST institutes) was introduced by Professor Jeung Ku Kong who gave an overview of this special KAIST Institute, where interdisciplinary nanotechnology research is conducted, where new topics for future research are chosen, and where top international scientists from a variety of research areas are recruited – ideas which are very reminiscent of the aim of FRIAS.

Later on a discussion with Professor Yong-taek Im, Dean of External Relations and former Humboldt fellow at Erlangen University, revealed some interesting facts about the KAIST, for instance that the KAIST only recruits the top one percent of students, who then receive an education in a 1:10 professor:student ratio (although the institute aims at a 1:7 ratio by 2011), that professors continue to be  employed after their emeritation, and that the institute can count on 400 Mio$ government funds annually ….

The visit to KAIST was concluded by further lab tours to nano-related research groups at the physics department, the department of Materials Science and Engineering (including a brandnew  Cleanroom facility of more than 500 m2 for academia and industry), and the department of Precision Engineering and Metrology.

The next day, the delegation headed for the KIAS in Seoul, an institute built in strong analogy with the mother of all IAS in Princeton, where it was welcomed by the president, Professor Hyo Chul Myung, and the vice president, Professor Jaewan Kim. The president gave an introduction into KIAS, an Institute for Advanced Study founded in 1996 under the support of the Korean government with a strong commitment for basic theoretical sciences.

KIAS is currently operating three Schools, the School of Mathematics, School of Physics, and School of Computational Sciences. The Institute has no formal curriculum, degree programs, or experimental laboratories. Instead, the Institute is now home to talented scientists and young promising research fellows to accomplish and explore the most fundamental areas of science. The institute has a remarkable infrastructure including a large and comfortable auditorium for several hundred participants, a smaller conference hall for about one hundred participants, and several seminar rooms, discussion areas and tea/coffee corners.It organizes numerous international conferences, symposia, workshops, and lecture series (all in all about 500 per year), in which several renowned scientists participate including Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists. Reminiscent of FRIAS, the KIAS has three types of scientists: research fellows, who are post-docs with own research grants appointed for a maximum of  5 years; faculty staff, who are professors from Korean universities; and KIAS scholars, who are visiting scientists (up to 3 months) resembling the FRIAS Soft Matter External fellow pool.

The KIAS presentation was followed by a guided tour around the KIAS, where the FRIAS delegation had the chance to admire the spacious facilities and to meet and talk to some scientists at KIAS. The discussions were extended into a traditional Korean lunch at the faculty club where future formal agreements between the two institutes were discussed and where a reciprocating visit of a KIAS team to Freiburg was agreed upon.