UNIST to Foster Elites in Science, Tech Fields
By Kang Shin-who
A university opening in the industrial city of Ulsan in March, aims to foster top-notch global scholars in science and technology.
``We are going to nurture core human resources essential for future industries,'' said Cho Moo-je, the first president of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in an interview with The Korea Times. ``Ulsan is the city where all high-tech industries are clustered and it provides an ideal environment for that goal.''
The school plans to complete the construction of all facilities by December, 2010 on a 1 million square meter site in the southeastern coastal city. The first phase of the construction is now underway.
Cho says UNIST will form a triangle of universities for science and engineering talent together with KAIST and POSTECH. However, the president pledged to differentiate the school from the nation's top two tech schools.
He said POSTECH specializes in basic sciences and is pursuing a university like Caltech (California Institute of Technology), while KAIST focuses on applied studies taking MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) as a role model.
``In contrast, we will focus on practical studies and researches seeking a college like Olin engineering school (Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering for undergraduate school), MIT for graduate school and Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology), building strong partnerships with domestic and foreign companies and institutions,'' said Cho who took leadership of the university last September.
To that extent, the school is recruiting competent staff and students from all over the world. Based in Ulsan, the home of Korea's leading industries, such as automobile, ship building and chemicals, the state-run university will be operated as an incorporated institution, meaning it will adopt a more performance-based and corporate-like operation system in management.
Cho said the school will conduct all lectures in English. ``English is essential for students to climb to the top in the scientific and tech fields,'' he said. ``I believe English-only lectures will also encourage students to prepare lessons in advance and review what they learned.''
UNIST started to recruit students from Monday. During a special admission session, which runs through Friday, it will select 350 students. It will also pick 150 other students from Dec. 18 to 23.
The university will recruit students mainly in two fields, engineering and business. Engineering will offer five majors; electrical, electronic and computer; mechanical and advanced materials engineering; bio and chemical engineering; environmental and urban engineering; design and human engineering and new energy engineering, whereas the business field has only a techno management major.
``I will offer the best education and research environment to youngsters dreaming of becoming great scientists and engineers, such as Einstein, Edison and Bill Gates,'' Cho said. All students of the school will get full scholarships and receive a subsidy of 1 million won ($ 1,000) per semester. The top 10 percent of students in terms of admission scores will get financial support for their studies overseas.
Favored applicants for the special admission are students with excellent scores in specific subjects such as English, mathematics and science or those who have won in Olympiad and science competitions acknowledged by the university. Students with early graduation and those from schools in Ulsan will get some advantage points.
``Our university will not weigh much on exam scores in the course of picking students. Rather, we will value the potential and creative talent of the students in science and technology fields,'' Cho said. ``For this, we will hire admission professionals next year to select the right students for our school.''
UNIST aims to recruit foreign students and professors representing 20 percent of the total number of students and faculty staff respectively. It will hire some 250 professors in 2012. Potential faculty members should hold doctorate degrees with more than two years' experience either in research fields or companies and they should be able to give lectures in English, Cho said.
Having worked as a professor at Gyeongsang National University (GNU) in South Gyeongsang Province, Cho served as president of the school from 2003 to 2007. He was also president of the Korean Society for Molecular Biology. Graduating from GNU, Cho obtained his master's degree from Seoul National University and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia, MO, USA.