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Building a New Research Lab: Lessons Learned from Korea

AEMPL

Prof. Lee of AEMPL received a Distinguished Award from KIST’s President

“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts” (Bill Gates)

When I came first time to Korea in 2007 for pursuing my master degree in SNU, I was impressed with rapid development of Korean technologies. It was including how the country that historically had almost same Independence Day with Indonesia could be an industrial nation within a short period. Especially for my research interest at that time, it was interesting to learn how Korea could shift the construction scheme of nuclear power plant (NPP) with “turn-key contract” from the USA’s company in 1970’s to the condition where they could design a new NPP reactor and won a $ 20 billion NPP project from an Arabic country in 2009. In the end of my master study, I found the reasons: working hard and innovation.
I continue my Ph.D study in UST-KIST with the topic of lithium-ion battery (LIB). For a developing country like Indonesia, the research and development of battery technology, especially LIB is relatively new scientific branch. As a pioneer for this field in Universitas Indonesia, I am expected to set-up a new lab when I return to the university after my graduation. I am fully aware that establishing a lab is not that easy. It requires huge investments to provide all-sophisticated research facilities. However, with some lessons learned from Korea, those will help me build a new research lab in the near future.

Securing Research Funding with Tight Networks

To conduct a research, the availability of funding is necessary. In particular for the research in LIB, I have already identified the needs for research infrastructures, including the apparatus/product specs and prices with its corresponding suppliers, both from Korea and overseas. The research funding may come from the government bodies, relevant industries and internal funding from the university. I learned from my supervisor how he maintains the networks with many institutions and industries so that a mutual cooperation within those parties happens. I will also keep the network with UST-KIST, as generally they offer a competitive grant for their alumni. During a discussion on my presentation in an international conference in Jeju last year, one professor suggested me: “If you have a limited research funding once you return to your country, you may think to start your research with a computer-aided simulation”. That sounds realistic as an option.

Creating a Comfort Research Environment

Talking about research, we deal with human, the student or researcher. Thus, to make a great research group, it is strongly depending on the quality of researcher itself. And creating a convenience atmosphere for research is the way to realize. Rather than “pushing” my future students for work, I will always regularly talk with them. I will hear their difficulties in research and give them some solutions and advice. I learned from my previous lab in SNU and current lab in UST-KIST (http://aempl.kist.re.kr) which had/has a regular meeting among the researchers. Lunch or dinner together can be a suitable method to build a strong relationship with the lab members. Eventually, a supportive and warm research environment will lead to a successful research group.

Inviting International Students

Many bright students from Indonesia study abroad, including Korea. But, limited foreign students study in Indonesia, especially in engineering major. It is well understood due to lack of research facilities as well as scholarship for international students. Here in Korea, more than 80,000 foreign students are currently studying with diverse majors financially supported by Korean government, companies or professor-based projects. I believe that they directly contribute to the enhancement of Korean economic growth at the present. Like my supervisor who secures the fund for his foreign students, I will allocate some money from research grants to invite prospective international students to study in my future lab, so that it will mutually benefit to our research activities.

Those are positive insights that I learned from Korea. In this occasion, I would like to thank to Korean people who pay the taxes where the Korean government allocates their fund as my scholarship. I also express my gratitude to my advisor for his patience guidance, encouragement and advice throughout my study.

“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind” [Daraqutni, Hasan]

Seoul, 28 November 2014

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Building a New Research Lab: Lessons Learned from Korea

  1. well said chairul..

    Posted by warna | 28 November 2014, 3:16 pm

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