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Subject Nuclear & Quantum Engineering Brings the World to KAIST - Professor Man-Sung Yim
Name NENS Created 2015.11.11 16:49

NOTE: Since 2010, the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering has been experiencing a significant increase in the influx of international students and researchers. Consequently, it has become the department with the highest ratio of international students at KAIST. Professor Yim, who has been the head of this department since 2011, shares some thoughts on what has made the department so popular and outlines some of its future prospects.

 

Webpage:http://nens.kaist.ac.kr
E-mail:msyim@kaist.ac.kr
Tel/Room:  +82-42-350-3836/room2402 , bldg N7-1

 

 

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Man-Sung Yim and I have been at KAIST since August 2011. At the time that I joined, former KAIST President Nam Suh was emphasizing the importance of bringing in new departmental leadership that would further the growth of each program. And, he wanted to bring people from outside the university to lead the effort.

Aside from my role as Department Head, I am also the director of the Nonproliferation Education and Research Center (NEREC), a center established to foster international nuclear nonproliferation that is conducive to peaceful use of nuclear technology. Furthermore, I am a member of the Advisory Committee for the Korean Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal, “Progress in Nuclear Energy”. I also belong to the International Advisory Committee for Nuclear Energy at the Imperial College of UK. My research interests include nuclear waste management, nuclear safety, fuel cycle, and nuclear nonproliferation.

 

Why do you think so many international students come to Korea to study Nuclear and Quantum Engineering (NQE)?

From my perspective, the increase in the number of international applicants can be credited to the rapid increase in Korea’s reputation in this area over the past several years. In order to understand how Korea became one of the key players in the nuclear industry, we have to look at its history.

When Korea first introduced nuclear power in the 1970s, the concept was received with strong public enthusiasm. Through technology development and technological self-reliance, Korea’s nuclear power industry continued to grow and improve. Eventually it became a nuclear exporter after winning a contract with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This UAE nuclear export deal marked the beginning of a new era for the Korean nuclear industry. In the nuclear industry, there are three major players: the technology customer, holder, and provider. Through the UAE agreement, Korea’s position shifted from the middle to the top of this hierarchy. Korea soon became a global powerhouse of nuclear technology along with France, Japan, and Russia. Such changes gave a boost to our department‘s rising profile, and may be part of the reason why so many international students started applying to KAIST. As you may know, KAIST NQE was requested to play an essential role in establishing a nuclear engineering department at Khalifa University.

On a side note, international relations could also be considered a key factor in our popularity. It is difficult for individuals from Middle Eastern, African, or Asian countries to receive higher education in the U.S., especially in the field of nuclear and quantum engineering. The good relationship Korea has with most of such countries gives us an advantage to recruit students from them. We have several programs such as the KINS (Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety)-KAIST MS program and the RCA/IAEA MS program that can be used to attract students.

 

What is the NQe departments vision?

Our department goal is "Global Top 2020" - that is, we want to be the best university in our field at the global level by 2020. Our current research performance puts our department at par with the top 3-5 nuclear engineering programs in the U.S. We want to develop future global leaders and contribute to the needs of the global society through innovative technology development. In addition, we are gearing up our globalization efforts. For example, in 2015 we are starting various new programs such as the Next Generation Global Leader Summer Camp and Global Challenger Program with support from KAIST and Westinghouse. We have also begun a special summer Fellows program in the area of nuclear nonproliferation for the international academic community.

 

Although there are many graduate students, there are not many undergraduate students in the NQE department. What do you think about this?

The KAIST NQE department was initially established for the graduate program. Consequently, there is a large graduate student community, while the undergraduate representation is relatively small compared to that of other departments. And although our department is recognized in countries around the world, it is still not as well known in Korea.

However, our department offers many international opportunities and employment possibilities. We have ongoing plans for career expos and are increasing the number of promotional and department events. In addition, the department remains proactive about professors meeting with students for joint breakfasts to foster closer mentorship. Although there are no official records, we do feel that our program would rank very high in terms of student satisfaction.

 

This next question might be a bit uncomfortable. In order to gain national funding, Korean universities must participate in various national projects. The problem is that these projects must be undertaken in Korean. Since there are many international students in the NQE department, how do the international students and professors deal with this issue?

This is a good question. The fact that the projects must be undertaken in Korean does indeed pose a difficulty for international students and professors. Currently, research is done by both Korean and international students, but project reports are mainly written by the Korean students while the research papers are written by the international students.

As one way of addressing this issue, we are trying to increase the number of collaborative international projects. While the funding is from each of the respective country’s governments, there are significantly less language barriers between the involved parties.

But ultimately, this is not a big problem. As we strive to become more global, more and more of our work will necessarily be written in English. The extra burden lies with the Korean students, who will undertake the task of translating our work into Korean for national reports.

 

In your opinion, how foreigner-friendly is Korea?

When I first came to KAIST, I brought one of my students with me from the U.S. He stayed at KAIST until he finished his Master’s degree, but left before undertaking his PhD. He said that the atmosphere of the KAIST campus was very friendly and he had no problems while on campus. However, when he went outside KAIST, getting around the city was quite problematic. Even searching for information on the Internet in English was difficult. Daejeon life in general was too urban for him and his wife, and several obstacles prevented them from truly feeling comfortable here. In other words, although KAIST is doing its best, the Korean infrastructure still has improvements to make for foreigners to feel welcomed.

 

Could you name a few things that the KAIST NQE department is doing to try to make KAIST a more comfortable place for its international members?

We have a number programs and services available for international students. There are professors in charge of assisting international students, and also TAs and mentors especially for internationals. In addition, we believe that everyone, whether they be students or professors, should be able to participate in all forms of activities. Therefore all department lectures, seminars, and even lab seminar meetings are carried out in English. We also hold department picnics and trips every semester to increase interaction in the NQE community. Many international students participate in these activities.

 

Do you have any last comments?

If you consider yourself an international student and need assistance, I encourage you to seek help. Reach out and talk to someone. You don’t have to struggle through problems on your own. Here at KAIST we have mentors, TAs, professors and staff who are always willing to help you. Just let us know that you would like assistance!

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