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Antivirus Industry the Centerpiece of New Deal R&D Initiatives
- KAIST launches post-COVID-19 R&D initiatives for smart mobile medical systems. - KAIST will make the antivirus industry the centerpiece of what it is touting as the KAIST New Deal R&D initiative, which will drive new growth engines for preparing for the post-coronavirus era. According to the new initiative, KAIST will concentrate on creating antivirus technologies, infectious disease-related big data management, and non-contact services platforms as key future R&D projects. President Sung-Chul Shin launched the COVID-19 R&D Initiative task force last month, composed of more than 50 professors from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, the Department of Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Industrial Design. The task force came up with key research agendas that will promote smart mobile medical systems in the years ahead. “We will devote all of our R&D capacities to pursue a smart healthcare society,” said President Shin. “Our competitiveness in the fields of AI, ICT, materials, and bio-technology holds significant potential for building a healthy society powered by smart medical systems in Korea,” he added. The smart medical systems focus mainly on building an Epidemic Mitigating Mobile Module (EMMM). The EMMM will manage epidemics via the three phases of prevention, emergency response, and treatment, with the development of each phase’s technological modules. The EMMM will also build an AI big data platform to assist with clinical applications and epidemic management. Technologies applicable for the prevention phase include developing recyclable antivirus masks, plasma virus sterilizers, and smart breathable protective gowns. KAIST researchers will also focus on developing diagnosis modules that will identify epidemics more quickly and accurately. Most significantly, KAIST aims to develop technologies for anti-infection medical services such as the transformable negative pressure ambulance module and negative pressure room, which are specially developed for respiratory infections. The new R&D initiatives will center on virus therapies and treatments, specifically pushing forward vaccine and robotics studies. As caring robots and delivery robots will become common as main caregivers via noncontact services, research focusing on robotics will be significantly enhanced. Even before launching the new R&D initiatives, researchers have started to present new technologies to help address the pandemic. Professor Il-Doo Kim’s team in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering developed a washable nano-fiber filtered face mask that is preparing for commercialization. GPS tracking of infections has expanded comprehensively to detect both indoor and outdoor activities of infected patients. Professor Dong-Soo Han from the School of Computing developed Wi-Fi positioning software built into mobile phones that can trace both activities and is now preparing to roll it out. Virologist Ui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering is carrying out research on a universal T-cell vaccine that can block the Betacoronaviruses. It is reported that that new epidemics such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 carry Betacoronaviruses. Research teams in the Graduate School of AI are conducting various research projects on building prediction models for outbreaks and spreads using big data. (END)
Long Economic Depressions and Disparities Loom in the Wake of the COVID-19
"Global Cooperation for Managing Data Key to Mitigating the Impacts Around the World" <Full recorded video of the GSI-IF2020> The COVID-19 pandemic will lead to long economic depressions around the entire world. Experts predicted that the prevalent inequities among the countries, regions, and individuals will aggravate the economic crisis. However, crises always come with new opportunities and international cooperation and solidarity will help creating a new normal in the post-coronavirus era. In a very basic but urgent step, global cooperation for managing data is the key to respond to COVID-19 since medicine and healthcare are intertwined with data science, said experts during an online international forum hosted by the Global Strategy Institute at KAIST on April 22. KAIST launched its think-tank, the Global Strategy Institute (GSI), in February. The GSI aims to identify global issues proactively and help make breakthroughs well aligned with solid science-based policies. The inaugural forum of the GSI focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact socio-economic, scientific, and political landscapes, under the theme “Global Cooperation in the Coronavirus Era.” In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that future global governance will be dominated by the power of science and technology. “If we can implement efficient policies together with troubleshooting technology for responding to future crises, we will emerge stronger than before,” he said. President Shin said ‘the Korean model’, which is being recognized as a shining example for dealing with the pandemic, is the result of collaborations combining the creativity of the private sector, the public sector’s strong infrastructure, and the full support of the citizens. He added, “Without the technological prowess coming from the competent R&D power of Korea, we could not achieve these impressive results.” “Creative collaboration among the private and public sectors, along with research universities from around the world, will help shore up global resilience against the epidemic. We should work together to build a world of growing prosperity,” President Shin said. Prime Minister Sye-Kyun Chung, who is in charge of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in Korea, stressed global solidarity in his welcoming remarks, saying that “We need to share information and rely on the strength of our connections, rather than retreating into nationalistic isolation.” Peter Lee, Vice President of the Microsoft Healthcare, pointed out in his welcoming remarks three critical sectors for global cooperation: medicine and healthcare, public health and prevention, and life and the economy. He emphasized the rule of thumb for managing data, saying that data in these fields should be open, standardized, and shared among countries to combat this global pandemic. During a keynote session, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Jerome Kim described the challenges that go along with developing a vaccine. Dr. Kim said that only 7% of vaccine candidates go through the clinical trial stages, and it will take five to 10 years to completely prove a new vaccine’s safety after completing three stages of clinical tests. “It’s very challenging to develop the vaccine for COVID-19 within 12 to 15 months,” said Dr. Kim. He added that 78 out of 115 candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. There are five groups, including Moderna, Inovio, Jenner Institute, CanSino, and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, who are doing clinical trials in phases 1 and 2. “Given the fact that COVID-19 is a totally new type of virus, various stakeholders’ participation, such as the National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups, the WHO, and UNICEF, is needed to work together to benefit the entire world,” he pointed out. Professor Edward Yoonjae Choi from the Graduate School of AI at KAIST shared how AI and data sciences are being utilized to interpret the major trends of the epidemic. His group mainly focuses on deep learning to model electronic health records (EHR) for disease predictions. Professor Choi said AI and machine learning would be crucial solutions and collaborative research projects will surely accelerate how quickly we can overcome the pandemic. In addition, Dr. Kijung Shin’s group is interpreting the SIR (Susceptible, Infected, and Recovered) model in Korea to predict the number of infections and when people were infected. However, researchers noticed that they could not see the typical modeling in Korea for predicting the number of infections since the model disregarded the new variable of humans’ efforts to stop the spread the virus. According to research by Professor Steven Whang’s group on social distancing and face mask distribution among vulnerable age groups, people in their 20s, 60s, and 70s followed the social distancing guidelines the most strictly. The research team analyzed the data provided by SK Telecom in the Gangnam district of Seoul. The data provided on people in their 70s, a group that accounted for half of all fatalities, showed that masks were generally well distributed nationwide. Dr. Alexandros Papaspyrids, Tertiary Education Industry Director of the Asia region of Microsoft, said that despite all the disadvantages and problems related to remote education, we shouldn’t expect to return to the days before the COVID-19 any time soon. “We should accept the new normal and explore new opportunities in the new educational environment,” he said. Hongtaek Yong, Deputy Minister at the Office of R&D Policy at the Ministry of Science and ICT presented the Korean government’s disease prevention and response policy and how they tried to mitigate the economic and social impact. He stressed the government’s fast testing, tracing, and openness for successfully flattening the curve, adding that the government used an ICT-based approach in all aspects of their response. From early this year when the first patient was reported, the government aggressively encouraged the biotech industry to develop diagnostic kits and novel therapeutic medications. As a result, five companies were able to produce genetic diagnostic reagents through the emergency approval. More notably, four of them are conducting massive R&D projects sponsored by the government and this is the result of the government’s continuous investment in R&D. Korea is the leader in R&D investment among the OECD countries. According to Yong, the government’s big data project that was launched in 2017 continuously traces the trends of epidemics in Korea. The epidemiological studies based on the paths taken by suspected patients using credit card transaction made the difference in predicting the spread of the coronavirus and implementing countermeasures. The data has been provided to the Korea’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). “In addition to the epidemics, we have so many other pending issues arising from digital and social equities, un-contact services, and job security. We are very open to collaborate and cooperate with other countries to deal with this global crisis,” Yong said. During the subsequent panel discussions, David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “The global economy in the coronavirus era will not have a rapid V-shaped recovery, but rather will fall into a long depression for at least two years.” He pointed out that if countries practice protectionism like they did during the Great Depression, the recession will be even worse. Hence, he urged the international community, especially developed nations, to avoid protectionism, consider the economic difficulties of developing countries, and provide them with financial support. Co-Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution Rebecca Winthrop raised concerns over the recent shift to online teaching and learning, claiming that insufficient infrastructures in low-income families in developing nations are already causing added educational disparities and provoking the inequity issue around the world. “The ways to provide quality education equally through faster and more effective means should be studied,” she said. Professor Joungho Kim, the director of the KAIST GSI and the forum’s organizer, concluded the event by saying that this forum will be a valuable resource for everyone who is providing assistance to those in need, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (END)
14-Day Drawing Challenge Helps Maintain a Sense of Connection Amid Prolonged Social Distancing
- “You need space, but you also need connections.” - Schools and workplaces have closed and people are staying at home around the globe. Governments across the world have urged their people to keep a distance from others as a measure to slow the spread of the pandemic. With the Korean government’s decision to extend the intensive social distancing campaign until at least April 19, people in Korea are advised to avoid nonessential trips, public facilities, and social gatherings for another two weeks or so. This unprecedented prolonged social distancing drive leads people to feel fatigue and frustration. Such emotional stress is worse for those who live alone in a foreign country. The International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST has been working around the clock to build a dedicated COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service to support the university’s international community on campus and abroad and help get them connected online. As the COVID-19 situation lingers, there has been a growing demand for mental health support from many KAIST international members including 299 students who have been staying in Korea on their own and away from their families, as well as from those who could not return to campus from their overseas homes. In response to this, the KAIST ISSS Team has been offering some special online events and programs that can help the KAIST international community stay feeling connected whereever they are, while still keeping a safe distance from each other. For instance, the team is running an art-therapy program called ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge’ March 30 through April 12. This program is online and individual-based, so it does not require any physical contact between participants. Each participant is asked to draw a picture at home using the daily topics previously set by the ISSS Team over 14 days. The topics include (Day 1) self-portrait, (Day 2) spring flowers, (Day 3) if you could become anything…, (Day 4) funniest memory you have, (Day 5) animals at KAIST, (Day 6) something you love, (Day 7) country or city you want to visit, (Day 8) what’s for dinner? (Day 9) person you miss, (Day 10) your favorite place at KAIST, (Day 11) your feeling today, (Day 12) things in your favorite color, (Day 13) song lyrics, and (Day 14) your future self in 10 years. Once all 14 pieces have been completed, submissions can be made online by sending an e-mail to the ISSS Team after scanning or taking a photo of each drawing. Selected submissions will be awarded small prizes for participation and shared through the university’s official website and SNS channels. “All the participants need is paper, coloring tools, and their creativity and imagination. They don’t have to be a great artist to join this challenge. There is no right or wrong or good or bad. They just need to have fun drawing every day for two weeks, ease their coronavirus anxiety, and remain emotionally stable just like they did back in the normal days,” said Su-yeon Ahn, the manager of the KAIST ISSS Team. She added, “In times like these, you need space, but you also need connections. Our team wants our international students, professors, and researchers to build strong connections with each other, even online.” Katherine Michelle Pena Santana, an M.S. candidate from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering who is taking part in ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge,’ looked back and said, “Lately with the new coronavirus spreading around Korea and the entire world, I was feeling very anxious. I didn't get out of my room and lived by just looking at the same walls and creating some kind of a psychological burden on myself.” Santana added that these kinds of activities could give many foreign members of KAIST an opportunity to not only relieve fear and stress, but also share each other’s experiences dealing with this pandemic. She explained that this is why she decided to participate in this challenge. An undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, Ada Carpenter, appreciated the KAIST ISSS Team’s efforts to provide a variety of special online mental health support services to help the university’s international community socialize, while strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing. She expressed excitement about participating and said, “I’m so looking forward to the challenge of things that I wouldn’t normally draw.” < Short Self-interview Video Clip Filmed by Ada Carpenter > The COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service by the KAIST ISSS Team will be continually updated with new information and enhanced with other tools and support over the coming weeks and months. Some of the upcoming events and programs include ‘The Online Guitar Lessons’, ‘The Growing Houseplants Challenge’, and ‘The Any Song Challenge*’. * The song titled “Any Song” by Korean rapper Zico has been gaining attention on social media thanks to many celebrities taking on the ‘Any Song Challenge’, performing a short dance to the chorus of the song and sharing it on social media. (END)
COVID-19 Update: Reaching Out to Help Local Schools’ Online Classes
After the Ministry of Education decided that all schools would conduct online classes from April 9, schools began to ramp up online education tools and systems. On March 30, the Ministry announced a three-phased opening for the schools, putting online classes for third-year middle and high school students first. The online classes will expand to first and second-year middle and high schoolers and the upper grades of elementary schools on April 16, followed by first to third graders of elementary schools on April 20. Although some schools have already introduced online teaching and learning into the curriculum, most schools are still unprepared, raising concerns over possible educational disparities caused by insufficient infrastructures and a lack of training for teachers. To counter these issues, KAIST rolled up its sleeves to help teachers from 38 local middle and high schools in the Yuseong District of Daejeon better prepare for their interactive online classes by providing a special training course from April 7 through 29. Following the course, approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate students will be assigned to schools to help them set up and better utilize the online educational program. On April 3, Professor Youngsun Kwon, the Dean of KAIST Academy and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, gave a two-hour online interactive tutorial session on the utilization of the real-time video conferencing platform ‘Zoom’ for online classes. He shared best practices for checking attendance, running classes, and giving and marking quizzes and assignments. A total of 102 local middle and high school teachers attended this session. “We feel very fortunate to reach out to teachers who are so passionate about learning online education methodology. We were pleasantly surprised to see this many educators show up for the tutorial session,” said Dean Kwon. He also appreciated KAIST students’ strong interests and support in the community outreach project in response to COVID-19 during these challenging times when social distancing is so critical. He said more than 150 student volunteers signed up for this project 10 hours after his office posted the opening for volunteers on the KAIST intranet. “We will help front-line school teachers, strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing,” he added. The students’ online class support group will provide additional help to schools that are inexperienced users of Zoom. The students will be those who are very familiar with online lectures using Zoom, and are fully acquainted with how to operate them. One or two of the students will be assigned to each school that requests support, and will directly help solve complications that stem from preparing and running the classes through online measures for safety reasons. The expenses for the support group’s activities will be fully covered by KAIST, and the period of support may be extended upon request. KAIST has been offering approximately 1,200 courses remotely since the spring semester opened on March 16 and will do so until the COVID-19 situation stabilizes. Along with the provision of pre-recorded one-way lecture contents, real-time two-way lessons are being delivered through various video conferencing platforms including Zoom, YouTube Live, and Microsoft Teams. There were both minor and major technical issues at the beginning of the semester, caused by the instability of servers and system overloads as well as from users being inexperienced with the tools and systems. However, the class procedures have gradually stabilized and are now running better. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin said, “As the COVID-19 situation lingers, this is a more difficult time than ever, where all educational establishments and educators must quickly learn and apply new methods of education, often in insufficient preparation conditions.” He added, “KAIST will provide support for secondary schools in the region to quickly resolve the inconveniences caused by new users of online classes so that they may provide high-quality education.” (END)
Cyber MOU Signing with Zhejiang University
KAIST signed an MOU with Zhejiang University (ZJU) in China on March 25. This MOU signing ceremony took place via video conference due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The collaboration with ZJU had already started with the signing of an MOU for cooperation in technology commercialization last December. Possible cooperation initiatives included facilitating joint start-up businesses, patent portfolios, and technology marketing. With this general agreement signing, it is expected that the two institutes will expand mutual exchanges and collaborations at the institutional level for education and research. President Sung-Chul Shin said, “We will work together to devise measures for the systematic advancement of cooperation in various directions, including education, research, and the commercialization of technologies.” ZJU, a member of the C9 League known as China’s Ivy League, was established in 1897 and is located in the city of Hangzhou. Its population across 37 colleges and schools comprises 54,641 students and 3,741 faculty members. The university was ranked 6th in Asia and 54th in the world in the 2020 QS Rankings. (END)
A Global Campaign of ‘Facts before Rumors’ on COVID-19 Launched
- A KAIST data scientist group responds to facts and rumors on COVID-19 for global awareness of the pandemic. - Like the novel coronavirus, rumors have no borders. The world is fighting to contain the pandemic, but we also have to deal with the appalling spread of an infodemic that is as contagious as the virus. This infodemic, a pandemic of false information, is bringing chaos and extreme fear to the general public. Professor Meeyoung Cha’s group at the School of Computing started a global campaign called ‘Facts before Rumors,’ to prevent the spread of false information from crossing borders. She explained, “We saw many rumors that had already been fact-checked long before in China and South Korea now begin to circulate in other countries, sometimes leading to detrimental results. We launched an official campaign, Facts before Rumors, to deliver COVID-19-related facts to countries where the number of cases is now increasing.” She released the first set of facts on March 26 via her Twitter account @nekozzang. Professor Cha, a data scientist who has focused on detecting global fake news, is now part of the COVID-19 AI Task Force at the Global Strategy Institute at KAIST. She is also leading the Data Science Group at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) as Chief Investigator. Her research group worked in collaboration with the College of Nursing at Ewha Woman’s University to identify 15 claims about COVID-19 that circulated on social networks (SNS) and among the general public. The team fact-checked these claims based on information from the WHO and CDCs of Korea and the US. The research group is now working on translating the list of claims into Portuguese, Spanish, Persian, Chinese, Amharic, Hindi, and Vietnamese. Delivering facts before rumors, the team says, will help contain the disease and prevent any harm caused by misinformation. The pandemic, which spread in China and South Korea before arriving in Europe and the US, is now moving into South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. “We would like to play a part in preventing the further spread of the disease with the provision of only scientifically vetted, truthful facts,” said the team. For this campaign, Professor Cha’s team investigated more than 200 rumored claims on COVID-19 in China during the early days of the pandemic. These claims spread in different levels: while some were only relevant locally or in larger regions of China, others propagated in Asia and are now spreading to countries that are currently most affected by the disease. For example, the false claim which publicized that ‘Fireworks can help tame the virus in the air’ only spread in China. Other claims such as ‘Eating garlic helps people overcome the disease’ or ‘Gargling with salt water prevents the contraction of the disease,’ spread around the world even after being proved groundless. The team noted, however, that the times at which these claims propagate are different from one country to another. “This opens up an opportunity to debunk rumors in some countries, even before they start to emerge,” said Professor Cha. Kun-Woo Kim, a master’s candidate in the Department of Industrial Design who joined this campaign and designed the Facts before Rumors chart also expressed his hope that this campaign will help reduce the number of victims. He added, “I am very grateful to our scientists who quickly responded to the Fact Check in these challenging times.”
COVID-19 Map Shows How the Global Pandemic Moves
- A School of Computing team facilitated the data from COVID-19 to show the global spread of the virus. - The COVID-19 map made by KAIST data scientists shows where and how the virus is spreading from China, reportedly the epicenter of the disease. Professor Meeyoung Cha from the School of Computing and her group facilitated data based on the number of confirmed cases from January 22 to March 22 to analyze the trends of this global epidemic. The statistics include the number of confirmed cases, recoveries, and deaths across major continents based on the number of confirmed case data during that period. The moving dot on the map strikingly shows how the confirmed cases are moving across the globe. According to their statistics, the centroid of the disease starts from near Wuhan in China and moved to Korea, then through the European region via Italy and Iran. The data is collected by a graduate student from the School of Computing, Geng Sun, who started the process during the time he was quarantined since coming back from his home in China. An undergraduate colleague of Geng's, Gabriel Camilo Lima who made the map, is now working remotely from his home in Brazil since all undergraduate students were required to move out of the dormitory last week. The university closed all undergraduate housing and advised the undergraduate students to go back home in a preventive measure to stop the virus from spreading across the campus. Gabriel said he calculated the centroid of all confirmed cases up to a given day. He explained, “I weighed each coordinate by the number of cases in that region and country and calculated an approximate center of gravity.” “The Earth is round, so the shortest path from Asia to Europe is often through Russia. In early March, the center of gravity of new cases was moving from Asia to Europe. Therefore, the centroid is moving to the west and goes through Russia, even though Russia has not reported many cases,” he added. Professor Cha, who is also responsible for the Data Science Group at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) as the Chief Investigator, said their group will continue to update the map using public data at https://ds.ibs.re.kr/index.php/covid-19/. (END)
Students and Professors Adjust to 1,200 Online Classes
- Approximately 1,200 online classes are being offered during the cyber semester. - COVID-19 is transforming the way KAISTians live. Many restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus have us adjusting to a new environment swiftly. A cyber MOU signing ceremony with a foreign partner university took place on March 25, as did a cyber Board of Trustees Meeting on March 26. KAIST’s Main Campus is normally one of the most iconic picnic destinations for the citizens of Daejeon, but this is not the case this spring, as the campus has been temporarily closed to protect our own community as well as our neighboring communities. KAIST has been offering approximately 1,200 courses remotely since this semester opened on March 16 and will do so until further notice. Students and faculty members are experiencing the newly emerging norms of remote education in this time of social distancing. This unexpected disruption might advance the new digital pedagogy at KAIST, which was already ahead of the curve with its online learning and teaching infrastructure. Professor Youngsun Kwon, the Dean of KAIST Academy and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, said, “We had already initiated the KAIST Learning Management System (KLMS) in 2011 for introducing flipped learning, a student-centric creative-learning pedagogy. Since then, about nine percent of all our classes have been run using this methodology. Students pre-study the online streaming lecture materials that professors have uploaded in advance outside the classroom, and in-class activities are mainly group discussions and problem-solving activities.” According to Dean Kwon, the university was planning to further introduce real-time online education from this spring semester and were in the process of setting up the system started from last year. “Our plan was to connect the real-time video conferencing service Zoom to our existing remote educational platform KLMS. However, things related to COVID-19 all happened so rapidly that we didn’t yet have a full-fledged connection,” said Dean Kwon. Professors had to choose either to conduct their lectures remotely in the form of a pre-made one-way lesson or a real-time two-way lesson. They could also modify them using both platforms. Professor Youngchul Kim from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said, “I had to also make some changes in my class activities and assignments. I removed a group design project and some tutorial workshops that were meant to provide students with hands-on experience using design tools such a 3D printer and a laser cutting system. Ironically, I found that students seem to focus on online lectures more intensely than I expected. I feel like students give me their thoughts and respond much quicker as well.” Unfortunately, the online learning and teaching infrastructure and resources that had been put in place could not handle the overwhelming volume of classes being uploaded over very short period of time. To handle the new demand, IT technicians are setting up the technical environment with stable servers to improve network traffic. For professors, teaching assistants, and students to teach and learn better in an online space, department offices have been lending spare equipment such as laptops, tablets, headsets, and webcams to those who do not have their own, based on availability. Academic support staff have also been pitching in by developing the best guidelines for online training. “Even in these uncharted waters, all of the members of KAIST are doing their best to keep the ship steadily sailing in the right direction. I am very grateful for everyone’s efforts to make things work,” said Dean Kwon. About 60% of the courses currently offered online are being uploaded using the non-real-time KLMS, and the remaining 40% are run in real time via Zoom. Each class runs for 50 minutes per academic credit, and comprises at least 25 minutes of lecture, a Q&A session, and a group discussion. Students enrolled in the 481 courses that include experiments are asked to conduct their experiments individually after watching a 50-minute online lecture. Experimental, practical, and physical courses that are impossible to provide online have been cancelled or postponed until the next semester or summer/winter breaks. “I find the online lessons quite convenient for the courses that I am taking this semester, especially the non-real-time ones, because I can watch the lecture videos over and over again even after the class has finished to understand the contents better,” said Jaymee Palma, an undergraduate student from the Department of Chemistry. Ada Carpenter, an undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, added, “Students who normally feel uncomfortable speaking in class raise their questions on an online Q&A board more easily. Besides, I saw many other students asking questions and leading a discussion verbally as well. I think, when students join a synchronous Zoom classroom, they are more engaged than when just attending a regular lecture in a conventional classroom. It’s like everyone can sit in the front row of the class.” Still, there are reportedly pedagogical, logistical, and technological challenges to these extraordinary educational measures. Some students express concerns about keeping up with professors and other students if they don’t have sufficient technological knowledge and skills. Some also cite the disadvantage of online classes having much less interaction and engagement among students and between professors and students than offline ones. “Fortunately, I think my professors are all excellent, so I can immerse myself well during all my cyber classes,” said Sang-Hyeon Lee, a graduate student from the School of Computing. (END)
Recyclable Nano-Fiber Filtered Face Masks a Boon for Supply Fiasco
Wearing a face mask is a common sight in Korea during the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the overwhelming demand, last week the government started to ration two masks per person per week, as a drastic measure to address the supply fiasco. The face masks most commonly used are disposable ones, originally made for filtering out up to 94 or 95 percent of fine dust, referred to as N94 or N95 masks. A KAIST research team announced that they have developed a nano-filter that maintains excellent filtering efficiency even after hand washing through the development of proprietary technology that aligns nanofibers with a diameter of 100~500 nm in orthogonal or unidirectional directions. This reusable nano-filtered face mask could help to relieve the challenges arising from the supply shortage of face masks. Professor Il-Doo Kim’s nano-fiber filtered mask will maintain its sturdy frame and filtering function even after being washed more than 20 times. Professor Kim, who has continued to study the filtering of fine dust using nano-filters, is now awaiting final approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to bring his product into the market. Professor Kim used an insulation block electrospinning process to manufacture orthogonal nanofibers by controlling the alignment of nanofibers. This structure can minimize delivering of the pressure toward the air filter and maximize the filtration efficiency, which is different from existing disposable masks without nano-fibers. Existing masks also fail to maintain their air filtering function because their electrostatic function disappears when exposed to water. Thus, their filtering efficiency is reduced significantly, making it almost impossible to reuse them. However, this nano-fiber design was proven to be water resistant with more than 94% filtering efficiency in 20 repeated bactericidal tests with ethanol. The nano-fiber mask also showed no deformation in its nano-membrane structure despite the 20 hand washes. In particular, it was confirmed that there were no deformations in the membrane, even after soaking in ethanol more than three hours. Professor Kim said, “We believe that this mask can be reusable for about a month even after washing in ethanol. The inner filter can also be replaced.” He added, “We found that the mask filters out up to 80 percent of 600-nanometer particles even after undergoing a bending test more than 4,000 times.” Professor Kim established his startup company, the “Kim Il-Doo Research Institute,” last February. It can currently produce 1,500 nano-fiber filters per day.
COVID-19 Update: All Undergrad Housing Closed
KAIST stepped up preventive measures against the outbreak of COVID-19 by closing all housing complexes for undergraduate students. Provost Kwang-Hyung Lee, in an email to KAIST community members on March 12, advised all undergraduate students who had already moved in to the dormitories to move out by March 23. The university opened the spring semester on March 16, two weeks later than originally scheduled, due to the outbreak. All in-person classes have been shifted to online classes and this will continue until further notice. “The dormitory would likely become the source of a COVID-19 cluster on the campus. Given the gravity of the current situation, we can’t help but make this unprecedented measure. It is fully for the best interests for our students’ health and safety. It saddens me to say that students are required to go back to their homes,” said Provost Lee. Dormitory fees will be refunded, and transportation and storage services will be provided for students who return back home. It has not yet been decided when they can return to the campus. There are four exceptional cases for this special measure: 1. when a student does not have legal residency in Korea, 2. if a student’s legal residence is located in a severely affected region such as Daegu, Chongdo, and Kyongsan, 3. if students in their final semester before the graduation need to take a research class that is not available online, 4. if students have a very special reason that does not allow them to stay at home. Such students are required to meet the Associate Vice President of Student Life for approval of the exceptional stay. Meanwhile, the first day of the online semester on March 16 saw an overwhelming amount of traffic on the remote educational platform, the KAIST learning management system (KLMS), and the real-time platform, Zoom. The two systems were both overloaded. The Dean of the KAIST Academy sent an email to the community, explaining the technical glitch causing the overload. He said his office had fixed the problem, allowing resumed access to the system from inside and outside the campus. Considered the nature of classes that are difficult or impossible to provide online, the university decided to cancel the some of physical training classes such as golf, dance sports, badminton, swimming, and tennis this semester. Social distancing is another issue the university is enhancing throughout the campus. The university announced new lunch break shifts to disperse the dining hall crowds; the first shift is from 11:30 to 12:30 and the second shift is from 12:30 to 13:30, effective from March 17. The COVID-19 response bulletin also instructed KAIST community members to sit in a row, not face to face, when eating together with colleagues, and asked them to refrain from talking while eating. In addition, a total of 29 virus and fine duster filtering machines have been installed across the campus dining facilities. The bulletin posted on March 13 restressed the importance of wearing a face mask in compact areas such as elevators and refrain the non-essential business or personal travel. Parents who need to take care of their children due to the closure of schools and day care centers are advised to work from home. (END)
COVID-19 Update: All Classes to Go Online after Semester Opens
All classes of undergraduate and graduate courses will go online from March 16 in a protective measure for the KAIST community to slow the spread of COVID-19. No decision has yet been made for how long the online classes will last. The spring semester will start two weeks later than scheduled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19. For online classes, professors are uploading their taped class video clips onto the KAIST Learning Management System (KLMS). These classes will be conducted in both real time and on demand. The video conferencing solution Zoom will be employed for real-time online classes, and professors and students will interact using the bulletin board function for on-demand classes. The university is scaling up its institutional response to protect the KAIST community against the outbreak of the disease following the cancellation and postponing of major academic events including the commencement and matriculation ceremonies scheduled in February and March. The new protective measures include all sports complexes and facilities temporarily closing from February 24. All building entrance gates are only accessible with those carrying a KAIST ID card. A total of nine fever monitors have been installed in the university headquarter building, main library, dining halls, the day care center at Daejeon campus, and at the Seoul campus. The Emergency Response Team is posting a daily bulletin and response manual on the KAIST portal system with updates on the number of confirmed cases in Daejeon and other regions including Seoul as well as reminder notices to help contain the spread. Provost Kwang-Hyung Lee advised KAIST community members to refrain from traveling to the gravely affected region and foreign countries in an email sent on March 11. Anyone who has a travel history in those regions should report it to the Emergency Response Team and self-quarantine for two weeks at home or in a designated dorm complex. KAIST surveyed all community members’ travel histories last month and instructed those who had traveled to Daegu and foreign countries or had contact with a confirmed patient to go into self-isolation or work from home while conducting intensive self-monitoring. They have been asked to report their temperature to the Emergency Response Team twice a day. The response manual recommends canceling or postponing meetings and events at the campus. “If necessary, we ask that you make a conference call instead,” said the Emergency Response Team. Meanwhile, the Academic Affairs Office decided to employ a flexible academic schedule in consideration of students’ circumstances during this extraordinary outbreak situation. “We still need to run 16 weeks of classes for the semester but we are being flexible in how the classes can be run. It will wholly depend on the professor and students’ discussions based on their situation. We won’t apply a unilateral mid-term and final exam week during this special time,” said the bulletin from the Academic Affairs Office. (END)
“A drop of water shall be returned with a rushing river.”
- Chinese KAISTians Donate Supplies to Fight COVID-19 in Daegu - The Chinese community at KAIST donated 2.49 million won worth of personal protective equipment on March 4 to support on-site medical personnel in the city of Daegu. South Korea has been witnessing a significant surge in novel COVID-19 transmissions, and Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang Province are the most affected regions. As the COVID-19 situation grows more serious globally day by day, a Chinese master’s student from the KAIST Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yuewen Jia, suggested a fundraising campaign on the KAIST Chinese Community’s WeChat messenger chat room, and her idea was enthusiastically supported by many peer-members. The KAIST Chinese Community is comprised of 105 undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral fellows, researchers, and professors. With Jia’s post-doc colleague Pei Li volunteering to manage the fundraising process, a total of 2.49 million won was collected in 12 days between January 27 and February 7. The donors, including Qin Xu, a PhD candidate in the School of Electrical Engineering, reportedly asked for their donations to be used to support on-site medical personnel affected by the outbreak. They believed that medical supplies are the most essential in times like these. The group purchased personal protective equipment online and waited for more than 20 days until the items were finally delivered to them. The goods include 1,280 protective caps, 57 protective suits, 15 protective glasses, and two protective face shields. Given the surging spread of the COVID-19 disease in Korea, where the confirmed cases have increased multi-fold since mid-February, the KAIST Chinese Community decided that their items should be used immediately in Korea, instead of being sent back to their home country as they had planned. Guoyuan An, a student representative of the community studying for his master’s degree in the School of Computing, said, “Earlier, some members of the KAIST Chinese Community who had visited China were self-quarantined for two weeks in a special facility designated by KAIST as a precautionary measure. Thanks to the outstanding care we received from offices at KAIST including the COVID-19 Task Force Team, the International Office, the Student Offices, and the Clinic, those who were quarantined could return to campus safe and healthy.” He continued, “KAIST and the Koreans as a whole spared no effort in helping China and Chinese people living in Korea fight the COVID-19 outbreak in its early days, and all of the members of the KAIST Chinese Community felt deeply grateful for all the attention and aid. This has been a definitive reason for us to change the donate recipient from China to Korea.” “As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘A drop of water shall be returned with a rushing river.’ This proverb means that even if you receive a little help from others, you should return the favor with all you can when others are in need. We decided to make a donation ourselves in hopes that our small contribution could help on-site medical personnel work for the health and wellbeing of Koreans who are affected in that area.” he explained. The donated items were delivered to the Division of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management at the Daegu Metropolitan Government Office, with help from the on-campus medical center KAIST Clinic Pappalardo Center and the KAIST International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team. Dr. Yun-Jung Lee, the executive director of the KAIST Clinic Pappalardo Center, expressed “a huge thank you to the KAIST Chinese Community for pitching in to help battle this national and global crisis.” She added, “Their donations have been passed to those in desperate need, and their warm-hearted act of kindness will go a long way.” (END)
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