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Interview with Dr. Myungeun Seo from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

Dr. Seo Myungeun of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST

John Wiley & Sons and the Polymer Society of Korea (PSK) presented the Wiley-PSK Young Scholar Awards to young scientists during the annual meetings in recognition of the innovative and outstanding research work by young Korean polymer scientists.

 

The Wiley-PSK Journal of Polymer Science (JPS) Young Scientist Award was conferred to Dr. Myungeun Seo of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology, while the Wiley-PSK Macromolecular Rapid Communications (MRC) Young Scientist Award was conferred to Dr. Kangwon Lee of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Center for Biomaterials.

We are honored to share the following interview with Dr. Myungeun Seo who has made remarkable contributions to the field of polymer science with his synthesis of novel triarylamine monomers. Read more about his research article, entitled “Synthesis of triarylamine-containing poly(arylene ether)s by nucleophilic aromatic substitution reaction”.

 

Wiley Asia Blog: How do you feel about winning the 2015 Wiley-PSK JPS Young Scientist Award?

Dr. Seo: It is a great honor to me. I feel like I won the Rookie of the Year Award! I sincerely thank Wiley and the Polymer Society of Korea for giving me this honor. Also I would like to thank all of my inspiring colleagues whom I have worked with, particularly my Ph.D. and postdoc supervisors – Professor Sang Youl Kim and Professor Marc A. Hillmyer, and students in my own research group.

Wiley Asia Blog: Please share more about your award winning research work and your background.

Dr. Seo: My recent work was published in the Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry last year. It discusses the synthesis and polymerization of new triarylamine monomers which can be polymerized via nucleophilic aromatic substitution reaction. We found that reactivity of the monomers can be tuned by introducing electron-withdrawing groups to the triarylamine moiety, which also affects the optoelectronic properties of the resulting polymers.

I have also explored new combination of monomers via reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) copolymerization of functional monomers and published several papers. Particularly, I have synthesized several reactive block polymers that can be crosslinked via postpolymerization modification. By removing the sacrificial block, the crosslinked block polymer can be converted into robust nanoporous polymers with enhanced thermal/mechanical properties for potential applications, e.g. nanoporous membranes for water treatment.

Finally, a new method for fabrication of block polymer nanostructures via polymerization-induced microphase separation (PIMS) which spontaneously induces microphase separation during block polymer synthesis was developed. When the second polymer block is grown from the end of the first block, the segregation strength increases by polymerization and finally results in microphase separation in the polymerization mixture. By incorporating a crosslinker to the emerging structure, we can convert the polymerization mixture into a crosslinked nanostructured composite with bicontinuous morphology in one step. Using the PIMS approach, I reported in Science in 2012 that robust mesoporous polystyrene with 3D continuous pore structure (pore size ~10 nm) can be readily obtained with precise control over size. In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, I further showed how hierarchically porous polymers consisting of micropores (<2 nm) within the wall of 3D continuous mesopores can be prepared with enhanced adsorption rate.

Wiley Asia Blog: What are your current research goals?

Dr. Seo: In my group, we are mainly working on the synthesis and self-assembly of polymers to fabricate nanostructures with potential applications. Our research focus is now on porous polymers. We are exploring synthesis of porous polymers with various pore sizes, hierarchically porous polymers with pores across different length scales, nanoporous polymers with tailored shapes, etc.

Wiley Asia Blog: Why did you decide to be a scientist?

Dr. Seo: My father is a university professor, and also received his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Chemistry, KAIST. So I guess it was natural for me to decide to be a scientist. Luckily, I was not that bad in science. I went to a Science High School and then KAIST, where I followed my father’s path and majored in chemistry. I am really happy to be in the same field as my father as we can discuss about our research work and collaborate together!

Wiley Asia Blog: What is the lowest and highest point of your career thus far?

Dr. Seo: I have just started my career in 2013, and it is too early to discuss the lowest and highest points at this moment. But I can say that this year has been a very grateful year for me as I have received the 2015 Wiley-PSK JPS Young Scientist Award and also the EWon Assistant Professorship, which is KAIST’s special junior faculty award.

 

Wiley Asia Blog: Any advice for aspiring scientists out there?

Dr. Seo: I still have a lot to learn and don’t feel experienced enough to give advice. So I just would like to say “Enjoy your research!”

 

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