Centre for Plastic Electronics and Doctoral Training Centre students spend 2 weeks in Korea as part of the UK-Korea Student Exchange programme
In late March ten members of the Centre for Plastic Electronics travelled the five-and-a-half thousand miles to South Korea for a two-week exchange. Our schedule was full of lab tours, presentations and cultural activities. We went to the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), which is similar to the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) in the UK. Here we saw the science of tomorrow: virtual doctors, artists and angling. The equipment was very impressive; and we were all hugely impressed with the government’s approach to science funding. Our first traditional Korean meal was with members of ETRI, who introduced us to Korean etiquette (shoes off and kneeling at the table) and cuisine. The next day was the most hotly anticipated part of our exchange: a tour of Samsung. We were the first tour group Samsung had ever hosted, and were thoroughly looked after by the technology giants- from a 16 x 80” flat screen display of photographs of Imperial on our arrival, to iced tea in leather chairs whilst we were shown a promotional video. After touring their extensive and remarkable labs we had tea with former Imperial students who have gone to work at Samsung- I’m not sure any other universities in the world will ever be able to experience that part of the tour! A chronological tour of the Samsung museum; from fax machines, pagers and mobile phones before they were smart, to kimchee-fridges and real-3D televisions was the perfect end to an inspirational day. For the first week we were in the science city, Daejeon, home to the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Whilst at KAIST we each gave a presentation on our individual work to Korean academics and students. The workshop provided us with contacts for exciting new collaborations and opened our eyes to new ways of interpreting our results. On the only weekend of our visit we climbed 850m up Gyermongsan (‘chicken dragon’) mountain, north of Daejeon, with some of our new friends (the ones who had survived karaoke the night before!). The fresh air, blue skies and views from the top made the whole ordeal of being the only red-face Brits scaling the peak in jeans less embarrassing! We arrived in Seoul on Sunday after taking the ultra-fast KTX train (in ‘VIP’ class). Impressively/ not surprisingly there are no delays on South Korean rail (the delays are even listed next to the platform numbers ‘0 min’). We stayed at Seoul National University, which has student body of nearly 30,000. The campus is so big (and mountainous) you have to take a bus between departments; and it even boasts its own museum and art gallery. After presenting posters of our work to a new group of students, exciting new relationships were formed and novel work planned. During our time in Seoul we were also treated to tours of the National Museum, Royal Palaces and a traditional Korean musical. For the final remainder of our stay we visited EWHA woman’s university- one of the city’s largest and the world’s leading all-female institute. Founded in 1886 with around 20,000 students, Ewha (“pear blossom”) was easily the most beautiful of all the buildings we visited. The tiny physics department here is extraordinary; we all were awestruck by the amount of actual science they keep in their work. Overall, the science facilities, dedication and enthusiasm of the universities and students we met during our time in South Korea set it apart from any other place any of us have ever visited. We all came home with a long list of contacts, new friends and fresh ideas. Whilst I’m not sure the seven-day Korean working week will catch on here (for a while at least!), the country’s dedication to improving the integration of technology and sustainable living for the citizens of the future fortified our optimism into our exciting research in Plastic Electronics.
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