Kookheon Char is currently professor in the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea and director of the National Creative Research Initiative Center for Intelligent Hybrids. He received his BS in chemical engineering from Seoul National University in 1981 and MS from KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology) in chemical engineering in 1983. From Stanford University, he obtained a PhD in chemical engineering in 1989. He joined IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, USA, as a visiting scientist in 1989, and he then moved to work for LG Chemical in Science Town of South Korea until 1991 before he joined the Seoul National University, where he has served as professor since 1991. He was recently elected as the dean of college of engineering of Seoul National University, starting his term at the beginning of September of 2017.
Char has been active in several national and international scientific professional societies including MRS, APS and ACS. He has been involved in organizing the IUPAC Macro 1996 and also served as meeting or program chairs of LbL2017 and ICNS2017. He is now APS Fellow (2010) and Gutenberg Research College Fellow (Germany, 2011) along with serving as the vice president and a full member of the NAEK (National Academy of Engineering of Korea; 2011) as well as a full member of the KAST (Korea Academy of Science and Technology; 2012). Since his research is involved with polymeric materials and their hybrids, he has been actively engaged in the MRS meetings and publications for many years during professional career involving many invited talks in different sessions. He has authored over 310 refereed scientific papers, 90 patents, and edited 3 books.
Char’s research interests range from the fundamental understanding of polymeric materials and their hybrids with special emphasis on interfaces and surfaces to real world applications such as next generation low-k dielectrics, quantum dot displays, and next generation batteries.. He is currently leading several national research projects on the developments of functional hybrid materials and next generation nanocrystal-based hybrid materials for displays and microelectronics. He interacts internationally with many scientists all over the world, particularly leading the international collaboration programs with Germany and USA through the IRTG (2006- 2015) and PIRE (2008 ~ 2011) Programs as well as serving as visiting professors at MIT (USA), Cornell University (USA), Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research and University of Mainz (Germany), ESPCI (France), and EPFL (Switzerland).
The Materials Research Society (MRS) is now recognized as the most successful interdisciplinary and international society for researchers in the field of materials science and engineering to advance materials improving the quality of life. The diverse and vibrant perspectives that the MRS has set allowed me to participate in an MRS Meeting almost every year ever since I started my career as a professor and the dynamic nature of materials evolution also motivated me to interact with many materials scientists all over the world through active international collaborations. Based on broad cultural and professional experiences I had over 30 years, I firmly believe that I could make valuable contributions to the ever expanding boundaries of the MRS. The MRS, from its first establishment in 1973, has proven a huge success with its vision. As the materials enterprises and societies move into ever accelerating 21st century, the MRS should continue to focus on new perspectives. I would like to suggest three pathways to increase its impact.
First, I will continue to promote excellence in materials research. The huge success the MRS enjoys is based on the excellent choices of adaptive topics and activities in meetings and publications involving superb members as speakers and authors, volunteers, and staff. This successful tradition and firm foundation of the MRS should continue by combining with new emerging horizons in materials research such as nanomedicine, biomaterials and energy- and environment-related issues. We must also balance the topical coverage of MRS meetings by providing forums for emerging and ever rapidly changing topics but also providing avenues for ongoing discussions on the topics of continuing importance in materials research. The diversity and integration of topics covered by the MRS would bring more membership and recognition, which I think are the strong merits of MRS compared to other academic societies.
Second, I will promote diversity in the MRS membership. Since diversity drives innovation, excellence and new discoveries in the MRS community and the recent statistics also shows that about 47% of membership is from countries outside of US, I will work hard to bring more membership from international materials communities for MRS to further grow. Active interactions between cultures are crucial for an international society such as the MRS. As such, I believe the active roles of the MRS in different regions have driven the MRS in important ways. We should also recruit more female and minority members from different parts of the world to further promote the diversity through gender and egalitarian issues. I could serve as a mediator on these issues, particularly for the materials communities in Asia.
Finally, I will actively promote industry engagement. The ideas and principles developed in academia should be effectively available for real world commercialization. The timeframe between different technological stages – conception and development of new materials, understanding the fundamental physics of them, identifying ways to societal impact through implementation in technology and manufacturing in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner – ever becomes shorter, as evidenced in the Materials Genome Initiative Project. This trend would be more important for small-sized companies like startups.
We need to promote more intimate communications between academia and industry through diverse media such as national meetings, publications, and other digital media. I firmly believe that the MRS will have a pivotal role in such industry engagement and I could find a contribution ground to that aspect through my job experiences in global companies and international collaborations involving industries.
The challenges the MRS is now faced with in achieving such goals are the rapid adaptation in ever evolving materials world and also the good balances between different objectives. Successful achievement of such objectives for the MRS would heavily depend on its members, volunteers, and staffs. I believe that the role of the MRS Board is to promote the mission and vision of the MRS by guiding the society to the sustainable future through innovative, active and vibrant engagement. I would be honored to have the opportunity to help shape the future of the MRS in this direction.