A polymer chemist from Rensselaer is the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a partnership between American and Korean researchers. Chang Ryu (pictured at right), associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, will oversee the $2.5 million grant that will bring together engineers, scientists, and graduate and undergraduate students from top U.S. and Korean universities.
“As research and education become more global, and many countries continue to invest heavily in science and technology, our students in the United States strongly need to have a global perspective,” Ryu says. “When these students graduate, they need to foster collaboration with international research to help America maintain its leading place in the international scientific community.”
The program is funded by NSF under its Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program. PIRE awards enable American institutions to develop long-term, collaborative research and education programs with international partners. The $2.5 million grant will be managed and allocated by Ryu over a five-year period.
Ryu understands how important it is to foster relations with Korea, as he was born and raised in Korea. He will return this spring for a sabbatical at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Korea to help establish the exchange program.
“Although Korea is the second largest resource of U.S. students from East Asia, the United States has made very limited efforts to reciprocate by sending U.S. students to Korea,” Ryu says. “Korea has made huge investments in science and technology. At this point, Korea and other nations are reaching out to us to equip their young future scientists with global perspectives on research and education. For the same reason, we need to reach out to them, and that is why NSF is promoting such activities through the PIRE program.”
The collaboration will focus on student education and exchange at both the graduate and undergraduate levels to help develop Korean and American researchers who can successfully interact and collaborate with one another, Ryu said. Five graduate students from various universities in each nation will take part in the exchange program each year. Four American undergraduate students will also make the long journey to study in Korea and gain summer research experience.
The students will be prepared for the huge cultural shift with a course on language and culture. Andrew Sangpil Byon, assistant professor of East Asian studies at the University at Albany, will collaborate with Ryu to develop educational materials that will prepare the American students for their time in Korea. An in-depth Korean language and cultural training program also will be offered to the U.S. students by a Korean university, prior to beginning their research in Korea.
“We are not just sharing research and knowledge,” Ryu says. “We will also be sharing our cultures. It is important that our students learn to interact with each other on more than just a scientific level. We want them to receive more than just a scientific education from the program.”
In addition to teaching the students, the professors will be getting an education as well. “Most of the American researchers are early in their careers, while the Korean researchers are renowned leaders in their fields. This will foster mentorship among the faculty,” Ryu says.
The research will cross cultural boundaries, and it will also cross research boundaries. All of the research will be highly interdisciplinary. The researchers involved include chemists and engineers with expertise in polymer synthesis, separation, characterization, and theory. In particular the PIRE researchers will work to develop specialized polymers known as chemically heterogeneous copolymers, which play an important role in the development of new materials and improving the interfaces between materials.
More information on the program is available on the NSF Web site.
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