One of Them To No. 1
One of Them To No. 1
  • Park Hee-won, Kim Su-min
  • 승인 2018.02.09 12:19
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The Postech Times went to Hong Kong from Jan. 14 to 17. On the second day in Hong Kong, we met Professor Kim Ji-tae at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), who earned a M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at POSTECH. He has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at POSTECH (2011.8~2012.2), at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (2012.3~2014.11), the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (2014.11~2015.11) and as a senior researcher at Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (2015.11~2016.5). Presently he is a mechanical engineering professor at HKU.
He received questions about his research, his experiences, how he became a professor in Hong Kong, and the differences between HKU and POSTECH.

▲ Prof. Kim Ji-tae introducing the laboratory apparatus he designed by himself
▲ Prof. Kim Ji-tae introducing the laboratory apparatus he designed by himself


What is your research field these days?
To tell the truth, I study what I want. Even though I think it is not a virtue of a scholar, studying fields that look fun can be a big advantage. I have studied material science, optics and physics; which I was interested in. Nowadays, I am working to build three dimensional nano-scale intelligent elements. A 3D printer for these devices should function in a high-resolution and with the accuracy of a nanometer. When improved, I assume nano- scale active element will be made out of a 3D printer, too. Given magnetic field or lights, active elements in the shape of a helix can move themselves in the fluid. In the future, nano-robots from 3D printers will diagnose diseases while traveling through the human body and will cure them.

▲ A miniature of a temple made by a 3D-Printer
▲ A miniature of a temple made by a 3D-Printer

What were some of the hardships you encountered in your research?
I suggested a project in the Max Planck laboratory. Renowned for physics, top class physicists gather every week, taking turns and giving seminars. But I could not understand any of the seminars for two years because I did not major in physics, which led to low self-esteem. Rather than compensating for optics and quantum mechanics, I concentrated on my own projects instead. I realized what others wanted from me was not following up on physical things, but to motivate people by working on what I can do well. In the comparably short period of two years, I published a paper. Fellow workers started to wonder about my research field. Research is like failure for 360 days, and then creating results from three days into something meaningful. To look back I only thought thesis, research results and achievements were everything. However, I grew up and learned a lot in the process of solving the problem itself.

After postdoc in Germany, why did you choose to be a professor in HKU?
To be honest, a professor appointment is so hard to attain these days, HKU permitted me to work. Students from POSTECH are competent and assessments are better than any time before. Studying for about four years in Germany, I loved the life outside of Korea. Also, as the official language here is English, people call each other by their first names regardless of age. It guarantees autonomy of research and promotes horizontal relationships between senior and junior professors.

What is the difference between POSTECH and HKU?
HKU is famous for not only natural science and engineering but also finance, management and urban engineering. In terms of students’ attitude, students usually have lots of questions when I give a good lecture. Also, lecture evaluations are much harsher than POSTECH. Even though it is not mandatory, students cast candid comments to professors before the final exam. If the comment contains unavoidable responsibility of professor or the score is far beyond the average, professor should vindicate in front of students and other professors. Grades here are amazingly credible. If one does just the average of the whole class, he or she gets B- or C+ grade.
On the other hand, when I was in POSTECH, I worried about getting left behind. POSTECH is isolated because of its regional situation. But students from POSTECH certainly do great and have competitive sides compared to other colleges. POSTECH produces a high quality of research and has an excellent study environment.

Prof. Kim said Postechians have their own potential and ability, and he was also just 'one of them' when he was an undergraduate at POSTECH, but he tried to create a challenge and not just follow the typical path of studying, graduating, and entering a large cooperation. Finally he became a professor in Hong Kong and not in Korea. He emphasized graduates of POSTECH are competitive in the field of research. So, it is better for Postechians to keep challenging themselves. He suggested when going to study abroad, to apply to more prestigious universities. Postechians do not know how much potential they have. If they reach for the highest set of circumstances; they can experience various things that they cannot have imagined. “Have self-esteem and don’t be afraid of challenging yourself. If you want to do something, go anywhere and do it,” he stated.