I n this month’s issue of The KAIST Herald, the obituary section had to be replaced by an additional interview. Consequently, this column is dedicated to Professor Jung H. Shin, who has recently left us and I would like to ask politely for the generous understanding of our readers.
Professor Shin never took long to leave an impression on his students. He was very casually dressed, quantified by a permutation of plain shoes, jeans or pants, shirts or t-shirts but one that almost always ended with his baseball cap on his head. The most formal of those permutations I ever got to see was with a perturbation term consisting of a grey suit during the recruitment information session for the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology.
He had been the youngest professor to be appointed by KAIST at the time of his arrival at the age of 27. He graduated from Harvard University in three years with a bachelor’s degree in physics and went on to finish his education with a PhD at Caltech. He helped the founding of the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology in 2008, where he also became a professor and served as the Department Head. He was given numerous accolades, some of them being the Young Scientist Award in 2004 and a Presidential Citation in 2006.
In a world where theoretical physics is sometimes regarded as having become too abstract, Professor Shin believed in a physics that could benefit mankind on a more practical level. As the calm, charismatic man once said, cosmology and astrophysics are interesting in their own rights, but you will find it far more useful to understand the reason why all of a sudden your smartphone has stopped working. When physicist Richard Feynman — who had already accumulated a legendary reputation for himself at that time — was nearing his death, one of his colleagues sadly remarked to him how he would be “not here anymore”. Bravely, Feynman replied that this did trouble him sometimes but also that as he had lived, the good parts of him had rubbed off onto others and that “he would not be truly gone.” In a similar light and in remembrance of Professor Shin, I devote this piece to him for the memories he has left me. He inspired many and his cause will never be forgotten.