Posted December 18, 2013

Japan and Korea symposia encourage international research collaborations

In an effort to encourage and foster more international collaboration opportunities for Temple faculty, College of Science and Technology Dean Michael Klein organized two daylong research symposia in Japan and Korea.

More than one dozen Temple researchers in chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, mathematics, and earth and environmental science participated in one or both of the symposia at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Tokyo, Japan, and Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Klein, a member of NIMS’ international advisory board, said faculty—especially young faculty—are often too busy to travel and establish international collaborations. “I just wanted to open their eyes to these international opportunities because everybody tends to think the best is always in America,” he said.

Leveraging his longstanding relationship with NIMS, Klein organized the first symposium on advanced material and nanotechnology as a way to highlight the Temple Materials Institute and connect Temple and NIMS faculty who share research interests.

Provost Hai-lung Dai previously had established a student exchange agreement with Yonsei University, considered the second-leading university in South Korea. Dai requested Klein explore organizing a second symposium there. That meeting was expanded to include the subjects of mathematics and the environment.

“Yonsei has a lot of synergies with Temple—the size of its student body, the number of faculty, an urban university located in a large city,” Klein said. “Since it is only about a two-hour flight from Tokyo to Seoul, it made sense to organize an additional one-day symposium.”

Several Temple researchers who participated in the symposia were able to establish key contacts with their host counterparts. Those interactions have the potential to evolve into research collaborations.

For example, Svetlana Neretina, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Temple, is working on the design of plasmonic nanostructures. She met fellow researchers at NIMS and Yonsei who have unique instrumentation capable of doing single-particle spectroscopy that can characterize the optical properties of the nanostructures.

“Only a few research groups in the United States have such equipment, so to me, this is a very unique opportunity to work with these researchers at NIMS and Yonsei,” she said.

Robert Levis, chair of chemistry and director of the Center for Advanced Photonics Research, identified researchers at both institutions who could play significant roles in projects in his lab.

“I wasn’t expecting anywhere near the match or fit we got with these researchers, but we had great interactions,” he said. “Establishing these research contacts at NIMS and Yonsei were matches made in heaven.”

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Benjamin Seibold, who attended only the Yonsei symposium, said, “it was a little crazy to go to the other side of the world for only two days, but it was definitely worth it.”

Seibold, whose research focuses on the simulation of radiative transfer in applications of cancer therapy, met with an astrophysicist whose work might be complementary. “They are looking at a very different problem, but the underlying equations that describe large-scale astrophysical phenomena are the same as what I’m doing.”

Klein said that in establishing those contacts, “there is absolutely no substitute for meeting face-to-face.

“When you have relationships between institutions, there is a lot you can do from the top down, but this trip was an attempt to kick-start things from the bottom up,” he said. “In the end, the music has to be made by these young researchers working together.”