중앙데일리

A prize-winning inspiration in the science laboratory

Apr 16,2007
Physics whizz Chae Eun-mi [JoongAng Ilbo]
Graduating top of her class in 2007 from the University of Tokyo, Chae Eun-mi, 24, received the University of Tokyo Presidential Award in physics. “At the University of Tokyo there was so much devotion to physics, it was motivating for me,” Chae said.
“If Japanese students were as busy studying English, to find a job, as Koreans are, it would’ve been harder for me to study. I am glad that I came to Japan,” she said.
On April 5, she entered the university’s graduate school at the top of the class. It was the first time a foreigner had achieved this distinction . Four years ago, as an undergrad, she entered the university’s science and engineering school, also at the top of the class.
While she was a senior at Myungduk Foreign Language High School in December 2001, Chae was selected as a recipient of a Korea-Japan joint scholarship for science and engineering. Hoping to become a physicist, she studied advanced math and sciences on her own time, because they were not included in the school curriculum. That year she recorded the highest score on the scholastic ability test, and was accepted to Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
However, Chae turned her back on these two prestigious schools and decided to go to Japan. Her father, Chae Jong-deok, 54, tried to persuade his only child to stay in Korea, but Chae chose to go to the University of Tokyo because the school has such a strong reputation in physics.
She also put considerable effort into studying the Japanese language. Her work paid off and she did not have any problems attending classes conducted in Japanese. She studied specialized science and engineering terminology along with her Japanese conversational classes. However, tight schedules made her life difficult during her freshman year. Except in the fourth year, classes took place continuously from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“There was so much to study that I had to review what I studied every day just to keep up. But I did not feel it was difficult, as I enjoyed learning the principles of physics so much,” Chae said.
In her fourth year, while she was writing her graduation paper on Bose-Einstein condensates, she almost lived in the research lab, in order to conduct experiments and study English-written theses under the guidance of graduate students. Two months before she handed in her paper, she stayed in the lab until midnight every night.
“It was a perfect environment to study as most students took physics so seriously that they all went on to graduate school,” Chae said. “I was impressed by the fact that my professor dropped by the lab at 11 p.m., to give instructions.”
During the ceremony for the University of Tokyo Presidential Award, her paper was described as “an important academic achievement in the spectroscopy of solids.”
Her average grade for her four years at the university was equivalent to 3.9 out of 4.0.
However, Chae does more than just camp out in the university library. She has always gone to bed before midnight. Her hobbies include reading detective fiction and playing the piano. She also joined an English theater club at the university and made many Japanese friends.
“Paying attention during the class is the best way to study,” she said.
She received a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education for her graduate school work. “I am happy to study with those who love physics. When I return to Korea, I hope I can help overcome the decreasing popularity of science,” Chae said.


By Park Su-ryon JoongAng Ilbo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


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