중앙데일리

Foreigners recruited to take top university jobs

Third in a series

Oct 23,2009
(From left to right) Bruno De Cooman, 52, from Belgium; Harry Bhadeshia, 52, from Great Britain; Yasushi Sasaki, 60, from Japan; and Frederic Barlat, 52, from France. Each is a distinguished foreign professor of metal science technology hired by Postech’s Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology. Provided by Postech
To nurture world-class leaders in education and technology research programs in ferrous studies, Pohang University of Science and Technology, one of Korea’s renowned schools, established the Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology in 2005.

Under Postech’s plan, the university will inject 100 billion won ($83.94 million) to hire distinguished local and international talent and set up state-of-the-art research facilities.

To get the project under way, GIFT Dean Lee Hae-geon had one of the busiest times in his life. He traveled abroad over a dozen times to find scholars to help transform Postech’s GIFT into a research powerhouse.

“I’ve been to Japan, the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium .?.?. I visited everywhere there are distinguished scholars,” Lee said.

It was tough sledding at first. Of those offered positions, some hesitated because they didn’t know much about Postech. But Lee aggressively presented Postech’s long history with Posco, Korea’s top steelmaker, which is one of largest in the world.

It worked. Lee filled four out of 13 GIFT faculty positions with distinguished foreign nationals.

The four are Bruno De Cooman, 52, from Belgium; Frederic Barlat, 52 from France; Yasushi Sasaki, 60, from Japan; and Harry Bhadeshia, 52, from Britain.

“The GIFT project is Postech’s great ambition, one that is unprecedented in any other country that is a steel powerhouse,” Sasaki said. “I heard news that not only were international steelmakers, especially in Japan and China, shocked by the ambitious project, but scholars were also.”

De Cooman is a renowned scholar in automobile-technology. Before joining Postech, De Cooman was in charge of automobile steel materials at the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal.

Barlat’s three theses on metal material science were ranked in the top 10 for the last 25 years in the International Journal of Plasticity.

Sasaki is regarded the leading figure in environment metallurgical engineering, while Bhadeshia received the Bessemer Gold Medal, regarded as the Nobel Prize in the steel sector. Bhadeshia’s strength is developing compounded metals by using computer simulations.

Postech’s Korean professors said research has heated up thanks to the newly appointed foreign faculty members. Kim Kyoo-young, a Korean professor at GIFT, is developing steel materials suitable for pipelines for oil and natural gas. He has De Cooman and Bhadeshia as advisers.

Another Korean professor, Koo Yang-mo, and the four foreigners formed a joint research project that was designated “A World Class University Project,” a program financed by the Korean government to develop local universities’ global competitiveness.

Professor Koo’s team is developing metal that will be used in electric appliances. “Just sitting beside these four distinguished foreigners will help me to get the latest information about metal material sciences,” Kim said with a chuckle. “Thanks to foreign professors, Postech has developed world-class scholastic networking.”

Postech forecasts that seven out of GIFT’s 11 ongoing research projects will earn top world rankings.

“To publicize Postech’s research success, the university will hold an international symposium in Europe and North America next year,” Barlat said.

Dean Lee said GIFT received inquiries from Europe and Japan about exchanging professors and having an internship program. International corporations are following GIFT’s progress. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil and gas corporation, has signed a joint research partnership with Postech. The company and Postech will work together on nonferrous metals, metals, petroleum and energy matters for the next decade.

GIFT is increasingly popular among developing countries. Countries such as India, China, Iran, Vietnam and Ukraine send top students to GIFT, according to the university.

If Korea wants to attract more such scholars, the GIFT foreign professors said it should be easier to live in Korea. “For foreigners, carrying out basic daily life tasks, such as buying goods and seeing a doctor, is not easy,” Bhadeshia said. “This means that unlike Europe, in which is used to multiethnic groups and multiple languages, Korea still is limited for foreigners.”

Other professors agree. “There’s no English manual for electrical appliances and there aren’t enough foreigner schools in Korea,” Barlat said. “People don’t want to come to Korea if they have children who still need to go to school.”

De Cooman said he regrets that there are not enough programs promoting Korea to foreigners. “True globalization is based on promoting Korea’s own identity to the world,” he said.

By Special Reporting Team [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]





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