The Sceptical Chymist | Reactions: Ji-Hyun Jang

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Ji-Hyun Jang is in the Interdisciplinary school of Green Energy at UNIST, Korea, and works on graphene and 3D nanostructures related with energy conversion systems, catalysis, and energy-storage devices.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

When I was in high school, I joined a chemistry club, a voluntary group for people who loved sciences. After classes, we performed experiments of our own in the lab. At the time, I liked wearing the white lab coat, working with the glass apparatus, and the process of thinking logically. My teacher taught us chemistry with great passion, which inspired me to pursue it as my major.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I love what I am doing now—conducting research and seeing our contribution to the progress in our field, however incremental. Well, it seems there is no position that is a better fit for me than working as a scientist.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

I have been working on the fabrication of 3D nanostructures. They have been shown to feature very interesting phenomena as photonic crystals, phononic crystals, and bioscaffolds. Recently, I have extended the application of our 3D structures into energy-related areas, such as solar cells, water splitting devices, and supercapacitors. 3D nanostructures dramatically boost the potential for these technologies, since they increase the active sites by more than thousand times compared to the bulk materials. In addition to my research into 3D nanostructures, I am also deeply involved in synthesizing and developing physicochemical properties of the wonder material graphene.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I suppose the person I would most like to meet would be Marie S. Curie, who opened up the science of radioactivity and is famous for having twice won the Nobel Prize.

Even more than her numerous achievements, I respect Marie Curie’s attitude toward her life and her aspiration for the science, which allowed her to continue her research even under very difficult circumstances. Here, I would like to explain the reason why I have chosen her as a person I would most like to have dinner with by several quotes from her that show explicitly what she believed about science and about life.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

Ever since I became a professor, the overall time I have spent working in the lab by myself has been continuously decreasing. However, I come to the lab almost every day to check the progress of my students and to discuss the issues they might have with the various ongoing experiments.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

I would like to bring a spring binder filled with papers collected from everywhere. They might be mostly the scientific papers I have not been able to read due to lack of time or lack of pressing interest when I first came across them. Reading others’ valuable work is always fascinating.

The music I would like to take is “Clarinet Concerto in A major, K622,” by Mozart. By the way, I can bring the appropriate player, right?

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

The most influential professor I can remember is Edwin L. Thomas, from Rice University, my former postdoc advisor during my time at MIT. He was a model professor; he showed us everything essential as a scientist and as a professor. From how to perform our projects in a reasonable way, to how to move students to focus on their researches, to how to treat people and even how to enjoy our lives, Prof. Thomas was exemplary.

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