Basic Science Korea

Aside from programs in Korea that is funding and conducting basic science research, The Institute for Basic Science, or IBS, is an ambitious government undertaking with 30 well-founded research centers, and the construction of a linear accelerator, aiming to “Make Discoveries for Humanity and Society.”

Started in 2011, it should still be called a “new” program, but then again basic science is agnostic on issues of time, right? The centers operate in the areas of Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Earth Sciences and a category they refer to as Interdisciplinary (that have centers on topics such as Physical Chemistry of Soft Matter, Genome Engineering and Basic Medicine). Through and through the topics are exciting and relevant. Does it matter that the research areas are quite well defined?

The 30 centers are tasked to drive forward basic science through large-scale, long-term group research. They are funded directly by the government (as opposed to much other research that is funded through the National Research Foundation, NRF) with a budget last year of about 350 million EUR and almost 1000 persons.

Quantum Nanoscience

I had the pleasure of visiting at the center for Quantum Nanoscience, one of the IBS centers, located at Ewha Womens University in Seoul. The amicable Director Professor Andreas Heinrich and his staff were all very generous with their time and guided the Korean OSI and EU colleagues through their labs and offices. The center is beautifully perched on a hillside in new facilities, with vibration-damped parts of the building housing sensitive equipment with which they are able to see and manipulate objects on the atomic scale. Useful to discover what properties arise when you put a particular atom next to another particular atom, or to engineer devices for computation on atomic level, which they have done (defining atoms with stable magnetic properties representing “0” or “1”).

Besides of being an interesting visit, it very much gave the impression of being a harmonious workplace. The facilities, the views and the present sense of building something important certainly contributed to that, but they had also gone the extra mile with an outreach program that included artworks and a Middle School Project on Quantum technology.

Topp 1% Wanted

If you think such a research environment would be something for you, you should know that IBS has several calls out for Directors that are offered to build their own research centers based on their own proposals for relevant research. They are also seeking Chief Investigators to work on problems of their suggestion with generous budgets and resources. If that doesn’t suit you, then consider perhaps a role as Associate Director or a Young Scientist Fellowship. They set out to hire 300 of the top 1% of Scientists globally when they started in 2011 and they are not quite there yet, but they have the money and the problems for you to work with.

How You Exhibit Science to Society

I have not yet been to Daejeon in the Korean south-west but I really look forward to it because their lie the IBS headquarter, with the Linear accelerator (RISP) and several of the research centers. And I am just as curious about the Science Culture Center they have there, because how you exhibit Science to society reveals much about you view Science in society.