First-of-its-kind grant fosters research partnership between US and Korea

October 23, 2007

Troy, N.Y. - A polymer chemist from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a partnership between American and Korean researchers. Chang Y. Ryu, 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 said. "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 said. "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 said. "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 said.

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.

Other American institutions and researchers involved in the program include Al Crosby, associate professor of polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lynn Loo, associate professor of chemical engineering at Princeton University; Venkat Ganesan, associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin; and Jan Genzer, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University.

The Korean researchers include Taihyun Chang (Korean PIRE leader), director of the Basic Science Research Institute and professor of chemistry at POSTECH; Kookheon Char, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Seoul National University; Kilwon Cho, professor of chemical engineering at POSTECH; Kwanwoo Shin, associate professor of chemistry at Sogang University; and Myongsoo Lee, director of the Center for Supramolecular Nano-Assembly and professor of chemistry at Yonsei University in Korea.
More information on the program is available on the NSF Web site at

About Rensselaer

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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