Monday, October 1, 2007

KAIST Hires An American MIT Ph.D.

I saw this headline on the Korea Times website. It looks like the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has hired a recent PhD grad from Boston's Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her name is Mary Kathryn Thompson and she earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

Beyond that, the article is fairly typical as it gives a bit of information about her and her interests. I just think it's good to see more foreign females coming to Korea to teach.

She'll have a bit of adjusting to do to get used to how Korean students and Korean education works, but KAIST is a great school with some great students. They're also a Korean institution that is seriously getting research done.

Good luck Professor Thompson.

American Becomes KAIST Professor at 27

A 27-year-old researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) became the youngest professor here after being hired by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

The Korea's top technology school said yesterday it appointed Mary Kathryn Thompson as an assistant professor in its civil and environmental engineering department. She earned her Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering at MIT this year, and has received a dozen honors and awards for her academic achievements in the mechanical and material engineering field.

By becoming one of six foreign professors at KAIST, Thompson is now the youngest professor in South Korea, where age matters a lot more than in Western countries because of its Confucianism tradition. But still, she didn't break the record of becoming a professor at the youngest age, which is held by Yoon Seok-ho, who was hired by Sungkyunkwan University in 2002 at the age of 26.

Like any other young and talented foreigner who lands in South Korea, Thompson said that heading for the East was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone_ continuing her fast-forwarding academic career and experiencing foreign culture.

``Although I love to be an engineer and an educator, I also enjoy foreign languages, literature, music and art so I have always hoped to spend some of my life overseas,'' she said in a press release. ``A faculty position at KAIST offers excellent opportunities for world-class academic research, educational innovation and cultural exploration. It seems to be a perfect fit for me.''

The hiring of Thompson is the latest in a series of surprising news from the Daejeon-based university. Since Suh Nam-pyo, a former chief of MIT's mechanical engineering department, became the dean last year, the school has implemented a series of bold reform actions that have so far drawn mostly positive reactions.

Last week, the university rejected tenure requests for 15 of 35 professors for the first time in its history. It also abolished a regulation that forced professors to have at least seven years of service before applying for tenure.

Thompson hinted that Suh had some personal influence on her in deciding to come to KAIST. Having attended his lectures at MIT, Thompson said that her first plan in her new position is to adapt ``axiomatic design theory,'' which was developed by Suh himself decades ago, in dealing with civil and environmental engineering problems.

There are 436 professors at KAIST. Only six are foreigners, excluding foreign citizens with Korean origin, the university said.

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