July 23, 2009 09:45
A 26-year-old mathematician fresh out of the doctoral program has become the youngest-ever professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Choi Suh-hyun was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences on July 1.
Except for her dissertation, Choi does not have a single research paper in the Science Citation Index, but KAIST hired her in recognition of her potential. Universities usually select their tenured staff based on the number of research papers and teaching experience.
Choi won gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiad two years in a row -- in Bucharest in 1999 and in Seoul in 2000 -- while she was still at Seoul Science High School. She graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in mathematics in only three-and-a-half years instead of the usual four. In 2004, she went to the U.S. to continue her studies at Harvard University and completed the master's and doctor's degrees in mathematics in June this year. As soon as she earned the degrees, without even serving as a postdoctoral research fellow, she was hired by KAIST.
Kim Dong-su, the dean of the department, said, "We hired her because we value her future growth potential rather than her verified performance."
From the next semester starting September, Choi will lecture undergraduates on calculus and linear algebra six hours a week. "President Suh Nam-pyo encouraged me to aim high. To live up to his expectations, I'm going to dedicate myself to research," she said. But she also pledged to help students explore the field.
Choi's favorite pastime is board games.
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