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Professor Jaehyouk Choi, IT Young Engineer of the Year
Professor Jaehyouk Choi from the KAIST School of Electrical Engineering won the ‘IT Young Engineer Award’ for 2020. The award was co-presented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institute of Electronics Engineers of Korea (IEIE), and sponsored by the Haedong Science and Culture Foundation. The ‘IT Young Engineer Award’ selects only one mid-career scientist or engineer 40 years old or younger every year, who has made a great contribution to academic or technological advancements in the field of IT. Professor Choi’s research topics include high-performance semiconductor circuit design for ultrahigh-speed communication systems including 5G communication. In particular, he is widely known for his field of the ‘ultra-low-noise, high-frequency signal generation circuit,’ key technology for next-generation wired and wireless communications, as well as for memory systems. He has published 64 papers in SCI journals and at international conferences, and applied for and registered 25 domestic and international patents. Professor Choi is also an active member of the Technical Program Committee of international symposiums in the field of semiconductor circuits including the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) and the European Solid-State Circuit Conference (ESSCIRC). Beginning this year, he also serves as a distinguished lecturer at the IEEE Solid-State Circuit Society (SSCS). (END)
KAIST Technology Value Tops in Commercialization Market
KAIST became the first Korean university to achieve 10.183 billion KRW in annual technology royalties, and was also selected as an ‘Institution of Outstanding Patent Quality Management’ and an ‘Institution of Outstanding Public Patent Technology Transfer’ for 2020. KAIST earns its technology royalties through 56 technology transfer contracts. Following KAIST in the rankings were Seoul National University (SNU) in second place with 8.8 billion KRW from 87 contracts and Korea University (KU) in the third with 5.4 billion KRW from 133 contracts. The data shows the high value of KAIST-created technology in the market. The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) started to recognize the Institution of Outstanding Patent Quality Management this year to encourage profit-driven patent management at universities and public research institutes, and KAIST was selected as one of the four first recipients of this distinction. In addition, KAIST was selected as an Institution of Outstanding Public Patent Technology Transfer, a title given by KIPO to three universities and public research institutes this year with outstanding achievements in technology transfers and commercialization to encourage patent utilization. Director of the KAIST Institute of Technology Value Creation (ITVC) Professor Kyung-cheol Choi said that KAIST’s achievement in annual technology royalties and technology transfers and commercialization were prime examples of accelerating competitiveness in intellectual property through innovative R&D investment. In April, KAIST expanded and reorganized its Industry-Academia Collaboration Team into the ITVC to support technology transfers and commercialization. Specialized organizations such as the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Center and Industrial Liaison Center have been established under the ITVC, and industry experts have been recruited as special professors focusing on industry-academia collaborations to enhance its specialized functions. KAIST also operates an enterprise membership system and technology consulting system, aimed at sharing its outstanding intellectual property within domestic industries. In 2019, it secured a technology transfer commercialization fund of 1.2 billion KRW available for three years under KIPO’s Intellectual Property Profit Reinvestment Support Program (formerly the Korean Patent Gap Fund Creation Project). This program was introduced to bridge the gap between the technology developed in universities and the level of technology required by industry. Under the program, bold investments are made in early-stage technologies at the research paper or experiment phase. The program encourages enterprises to take active steps for the transfer of technologies by demonstrating their commercial potential through prototype production, testing and certification, and standard patent filing. KAIST is currently funding approximately 20 new technologies under this program as of July 2020. KAIST’s outstanding intellectual property management has also received international recognition, with its selection as Asia’s leading institution in university R&D intellectual property at the Intellectual Property Business Congress (IPBC) Asia 2019 held in Tokyo, Japan last October. (END)
Deep Learning-Based Cough Recognition Model Helps Detect the Location of Coughing Sounds in Real Time
The Center for Noise and Vibration Control at KAIST announced that their coughing detection camera recognizes where coughing happens, visualizing the locations. The resulting cough recognition camera can track and record information about the person who coughed, their location, and the number of coughs on a real-time basis. Professor Yong-Hwa Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a deep learning-based cough recognition model to classify a coughing sound in real time. The coughing event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes their locations in public places. The research team said they achieved a best test accuracy of 87.4 %. Professor Park said that it will be useful medical equipment during epidemics in public places such as schools, offices, and restaurants, and to constantly monitor patients’ conditions in a hospital room. Fever and coughing are the most relevant respiratory disease symptoms, among which fever can be recognized remotely using thermal cameras. This new technology is expected to be very helpful for detecting epidemic transmissions in a non-contact way. The cough event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes the cough event and indicates the location in the video image. To develop a cough recognition model, a supervised learning was conducted with a convolutional neural network (CNN). The model performs binary classification with an input of a one-second sound profile feature, generating output to be either a cough event or something else. In the training and evaluation, various datasets were collected from Audioset, DEMAND, ETSI, and TIMIT. Coughing and others sounds were extracted from Audioset, and the rest of the datasets were used as background noises for data augmentation so that this model could be generalized for various background noises in public places. The dataset was augmented by mixing coughing sounds and other sounds from Audioset and background noises with the ratio of 0.15 to 0.75, then the overall volume was adjusted to 0.25 to 1.0 times to generalize the model for various distances. The training and evaluation datasets were constructed by dividing the augmented dataset by 9:1, and the test dataset was recorded separately in a real office environment. In the optimization procedure of the network model, training was conducted with various combinations of five acoustic features including spectrogram, Mel-scaled spectrogram and Mel-frequency cepstrum coefficients with seven optimizers. The performance of each combination was compared with the test dataset. The best test accuracy of 87.4% was achieved with Mel-scaled Spectrogram as the acoustic feature and ASGD as the optimizer. The trained cough recognition model was combined with a sound camera. The sound camera is composed of a microphone array and a camera module. A beamforming process is applied to a collected set of acoustic data to find out the direction of incoming sound source. The integrated cough recognition model determines whether the sound is cough or not. If it is, the location of cough is visualized as a contour image with a ‘cough’ label at the location of the coughing sound source in a video image. A pilot test of the cough recognition camera in an office environment shows that it successfully distinguishes cough events and other events even in a noisy environment. In addition, it can track the location of the person who coughed and count the number of coughs in real time. The performance will be improved further with additional training data obtained from other real environments such as hospitals and classrooms. Professor Park said, “In a pandemic situation like we are experiencing with COVID-19, a cough detection camera can contribute to the prevention and early detection of epidemics in public places. Especially when applied to a hospital room, the patient's condition can be tracked 24 hours a day and support more accurate diagnoses while reducing the effort of the medical staff." This study was conducted in collaboration with SM Instruments Inc. Profile: Yong-Hwa Park, Ph.D. Associate Professor email@example.com http://human.kaist.ac.kr/ Human-Machine Interaction Laboratory (HuMaN Lab.) Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr/en/ Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Gyeong Tae Lee PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Seong Hu Kim PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Hyeonuk Nam PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Young-Key Kim CEO email@example.com http://en.smins.co.kr/ SM Instruments Inc. Daejeon 34109, Korea (END)
Sulfur-Containing Polymer Generates High Refractive Index and Transparency
Transparent polymer thin film with refractive index exceeding 1.9 to serve as new platform materials for high-end optical device applications Researchers reported a novel technology enhancing the high transparency of refractive polymer film via a one-step vapor deposition process. The sulfur-containing polymer (SCP) film produced by Professor Sung Gap Im’s research team at KAIST’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has exhibited excellent environmental stability and chemical resistance, which is highly desirable for its application in long-term optical device applications. The high refractive index exceeding 1.9 while being fully transparent in the entire visible range will help expand the applications of optoelectronic devices. The refractive index is a ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the phase velocity of light in a material, used as a measure of how much the path of light is bent when passing through a material. With the miniaturization of various optical parts used in mobile devices and imaging, demand has been rapidly growing for high refractive index transparent materials that induce more light refraction with a thin film. As polymers have outstanding physical properties and can be easily processed in various forms, they are widely used in a variety of applications such as plastic eyeglass lenses. However, there have been very few polymers developed so far with a refractive index exceeding 1.75, and existing high refractive index polymers require costly materials and complicated manufacturing processes. Above all, core technologies for producing such materials have been dominated by Japanese companies, causing long-standing challenges for Korean manufacturers. Securing a stable supply of high-performance, high refractive index materials is crucial for the production of optical devices that are lighter, more affordable, and can be freely manipulated. The research team successfully manufactured a whole new polymer thin film material with a refractive index exceeding 1.9 and excellent transparency, using just a one-step chemical reaction. The SCP film showed outstanding optical transparency across the entire visible light region, presumably due to the uniformly dispersed, short-segment polysulfide chains, which is a distinct feature unachievable in polymerizations with molten sulfur. The team focused on the fact that elemental sulfur is easily sublimated to produce a high refractive index polymer by polymerizing the vaporized sulfur with a variety of substances. This method suppresses the formation of overly long S-S chains while achieving outstanding thermal stability in high sulfur concentrations and generating transparent non-crystalline polymers across the entire visible spectrum. Due to the characteristics of the vapor phase process, the high refractive index thin film can be coated not just on silicon wafers or glass substrates, but on a wide range of textured surfaces as well. We believe this thin film polymer is the first to have achieved an ultrahigh refractive index exceeding 1.9. Professor Im said, “This high-performance polymer film can be created in a simple one-step manner, which is highly advantageous in the synthesis of SCPs with a high refractive index. This will serve as a platform material for future high-end optical device applications.” This study, in collaboration with research teams from Seoul National University and Kyung Hee University, was reported in Science Advances. (Title: One-Step Vapor-Phase Synthesis of Transparent High-Refractive Index Sulfur-Containing Polymers） This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT’s Global Frontier Project (Center for Advanced Soft-Electronics), Leading Research Center Support Program (Wearable Platform Materials Technology Center), and Basic Science Research Program (Advanced Research Project).
Tinkering with Roundworm Proteins Offers Hope for Anti-aging Drugs
- The somatic nuclear protein kinase VRK-1 increases the worm’s lifespan through AMPK activation, and this mechanism can be applied to promoting human longevity, the study reveals. - KAIST researchers have been able to dial up and down creatures’ lifespans by altering the activity of proteins found in roundworm cells that tell them to convert sugar into energy when their cellular energy is running low. Humans also have these proteins, offering up the intriguing possibilities for developing longevity-promoting drugs. These new findings were published on July 1 in Science Advances. The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a millimeter-long nematode commonly used in lab testing, enjoyed a boost in its lifespan when researchers tinkered with a couple of proteins involved in monitoring the energy use by its cells. The proteins VRK-1 and AMPK work in tandem in roundworm cells, with the former telling the latter to get to work by sticking a phosphate molecule, composed of one phosphorus and four oxygen atoms, on it. In turn, AMPK’s role is to monitor energy levels in cells, when cellular energy is running low. In essence, VRK-1 regulates AMPK, and AMPK regulates the cellular energy status. Using a range of different biological research tools, including introducing foreign genes into the worm, a group of researchers led by Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST were able to dial up and down the activity of the gene that tells cells to produce the VRK-1 protein. This gene has remained pretty much unchanged throughout evolution. Most complex organisms have this same gene, including humans. Lead author of the study Sangsoon Park and his colleagues confirmed that the overexpression, or increased production, of the VRK-1 protein boosted the lifespan of the C. elegans, which normally lives just two to three weeks, and the inhibition of VRK-1 production reduced its lifespan. The research team found that the activity of the VRK-1-to-AMPK cellular-energy monitoring process is increased in low cellular energy status by reduced mitochondrial respiration, the set of metabolic chemical reactions that make use of the oxygen the worm breathes to convert macronutrients from food into the energy “currency” that cells spend to do everything they need to do. It is already known that mitochondria, the energy-producing engine rooms in cells, play a crucial role in aging, and declines in the functioning of mitochondria are associated with age-related diseases. At the same time, the mild inhibition of mitochondrial respiration has been shown to promote longevity in a range of species, including flies and mammals. When the research team performed similar tinkering with cultured human cells, they found they could also replicate this ramping up and down of the VRK-1-to-AMPK process that occurs in roundworms. “This raises the intriguing possibility that VRK-1 also functions as a factor in governing human longevity, and so perhaps we can start developing longevity-promoting drugs that alter the activity of VRK-1,” explained Professor Lee. At the very least, the research points us in an interesting direction for investigating new therapeutic strategies to combat metabolic disorders by targeting the modulation of VRK-1. Metabolic disorders involve the disruption of chemical reactions in the body, including diseases of the mitochondria. But before metabolic disorder therapeutics or longevity drugs can be contemplated by scientists, further research still needs to be carried out to better understand how VRK-1 works to activate AMPK, as well as figure out the precise mechanics of how AMPK controls cellular energy. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) of Korea. Image credit: Seung-Jae V. LEE, KAIST. Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Park, S., et al. (2020) ‘VRK-1 extends life span by activation of AMPK via phosphorylation’. Science Advances, Volume 6. No. 27, eaaw7824. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw7824 Profile: Seung-Jae V. Lee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://sites.google.com/view/mgakaist Molecular Genetics of Aging Laboratory Department of Biological Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.krDaejeon 34141, Korea (END)
‘SoundWear’ a Heads-Up Sound Augmentation Gadget Helps Expand Children’s Play Experience
In this digital era, there has been growing concern that children spend most of their playtime watching TV, playing computer games, and staring at mobile phones with ‘head-down’ posture even outdoors. To counter such concerns, KAIST researchers designed a wearable bracelet using sound augmentation to leverage play benefits by employing digital technology. The research team also investigated how sound influences children’s play experiences according to their physical, social, and imaginative aspects. Playing is a large part of enjoyable and rewarding lives, especially for children. Previously, a large part of children’s playtime used to take place outdoors, and playing outdoors has long been praised for playing an essential role in providing opportunities to perform physical activity, improve social skills, and boost imaginative thinking. Motivated by these concerns, a KAIST research team led by Professor Woohun Lee and his researcher Jiwoo Hong from the Department of Industrial Design made use of sound augmentation, which is beneficial for motivating playful experiences by facilitating imagination and enhancing social awareness with its ambient and omnidirectional characteristics. Despite the beneficial characteristics of sound augmentation, only a few studies have explored sound interaction as a technology to augment outdoor play due to its abstractness when conveying information in an open space outdoors. There is also a lack of empirical evidence regarding its effect on children's play experiences. Professor Lee’s team designed and implemented an original bracelet-type wearable device called SoundWear. This device uses non-speech sound as a core digital feature for children to broaden their imaginations and improvise their outdoor games. Children equipped with SoundWear were allowed to explore multiple sounds (i.e., everyday and instrumental sounds) on SoundPalette, pick a desired sound, generate the sound with a swinging movement, and transfer the sound between multiple devices for their outdoor play. Both the quantitative and qualitative results of a user study indicated that augmenting playtime with everyday sounds triggered children’s imagination and resulted in distinct play behaviors, whereas instrumental sounds were transparently integrated with existing outdoor games while fully preserving play benefits in physical, social, and imaginative ways. The team also found that the gestural interaction of SoundWear and the free sound choice on SoundPalette helped children to gain a sense of achievement and ownership toward sound. This led children to be physically and socially active while playing. PhD candidate Hong said, “Our work can encourage the discussion on using digital technology that entails sound augmentation and gestural interactions for understanding and cultivating creative improvisations, social pretenses, and ownership of digital materials in digitally augmented play experiences.” Professor Lee also envisioned that the findings being helpful to parents and educators saying, “I hope the verified effect of digital technology on children’s play informs parents and educators to help them make more informed decisions and incorporate the playful and creative usage of new media, such as mobile phones and smart toys, for young children.” This research titled “SoundWear: Effect of Non-speech Sound Augmentation on the Outdoor Play Experience of Children” was presented at DIS 2020 (the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems) taking place virtually in Eindhoven, Netherlands, from July 6 to 20. This work received an Honorable Mention Award for being in the top 5% of all the submissions to the conference. Publication: Hong, J., et al. (2020) ‘SoundWear: Effect of Non-speech Sound Augmentation on the Outdoor Play Experience of Children’. Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS'20), Pages 2201-2213. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1145/3357236.3395541 Profile: Professor Woohun Leewoohun.email@example.com://wonderlab.kaist.ac.kr Department of Industrial Design (ID) KAIST
KAIST Receives $57 Million Donation to Enhance Research
The largest amount since the opening of KAIST will fund ‘Singularity Professors’ KAIST Development Foundation Chairman Soo-Young Lee made a gift of real estate estimated at approximately $57 million on July 23. This is the largest donation KAIST has received since it was founded in 1971. The fund will establish the “Soo-Young Lee Science Education Foundation” and the proceeds of the foundation will go to the “Singularity Professors” as necessary resources to help make discoveries and design new approaches to accelerate breakthroughs. “KAIST should be the institute that will produce first Korean Nobel laureate in the field of science. I hope this fund will be utilized to enable Korea to stand out in this challenging time by accomplishing breakthroughs nobody has never imagined,” said Chairman Lee during the donation ceremony at KAIST’s campus in Daejeon. This is Chairman Lee’s third donation following the $6.7 million donation in 2012 and the $830,000 donation in 2016. Chairman Lee began her career as a journalist in 1963. In 1981, she started her own business by launching Kwangwon Ranch and became a successful businesswoman. In 1988, Chairman Lee established the real estate company Kwangwon Industries. After receiving an honorary doctorate from KAIST in 2012, she has served as the chairman of the KAIST Development Foundation from 2013. Chairman Lee expressed her intention to make another donation to KAIST in the near future during the news conference. “People matter most for advancing the world. KAIST has a very distinct mission to foster the brightest minds and will drive the nation to move forward. I have worked with KAIST for quite long time so that I have a strong belief that KAIST is the one that will not only make contributions to Korea but also to all humanity,” she explained. “For example, about one-fourth of the R&D manpower at Samsung Electronics is from KAIST. In 2019, Samsung Electronics recorded a revenue of approximately $206 billion which accounted for about 16% of national GDP. KAIST is the one that fosters global talents who are working at global company such as Samsung and many others.” KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin also expressed his deep respect for Chairman Lee’s decision, saying that the entire KAIST community will make every effort to keep up Chairman Lee’s noble idea encouraging KAIST to push forward and help realize KAIST’s role and mission. (END)
Atomic Force Microscopy Reveals Nanoscale Dental Erosion from Beverages
KAIST researchers used atomic force microscopy to quantitatively evaluate how acidic and sugary drinks affect human tooth enamel at the nanoscale level. This novel approach is useful for measuring mechanical and morphological changes that occur over time during enamel erosion induced by beverages. Enamel is the hard-white substance that forms the outer part of a tooth. It is the hardest substance in the human body, even stronger than bone. Its resilient surface is 96 percent mineral, the highest percentage of any body tissue, making it durable and damage-resistant. The enamel acts as a barrier to protect the soft inner layers of the tooth, but can become susceptible to degradation by acids and sugars. Enamel erosion occurs when the tooth enamel is overexposed to excessive consumption of acidic and sugary food and drinks. The loss of enamel, if left untreated, can lead to various tooth conditions including stains, fractures, sensitivity, and translucence. Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be brought back. Therefore, thorough studies on how enamel erosion starts and develops, especially at the initial stages, are of high scientific and clinical relevance for dental health maintenance. A research team led by Professor Seungbum Hong from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST reported a new method of applying atomic force microscopy (AFM) techniques to study the nanoscale characterization of this early stage of enamel erosion. This study was introduced in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials (JMBBM) on June 29. AFM is a very-high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy (SPM), with demonstrated resolution on the order of fractions of a nanometer (nm) that is equal to one billionth of a meter. AFM generates images by scanning a small cantilever over the surface of a sample, and this can precisely measure the structure and mechanical properties of the sample, such as surface roughness and elastic modulus. The co-lead authors of the study, Dr. Panpan Li and Dr. Chungik Oh, chose three commercially available popular beverages, Coca-Cola®, Sprite®, and Minute Maid® orange juice, and immersed tooth enamel in these drinks over time to analyze their impacts on human teeth and monitor the etching process on tooth enamel. Five healthy human molars were obtained from volunteers between age 20 and 35 who visited the KAIST Clinic. After extraction, the teeth were preserved in distilled water before the experiment. The drinks were purchased and opened right before the immersion experiment, and the team utilized AFM to measure the surface topography and elastic modulus map. The researchers observed that the surface roughness of the tooth enamel increased significantly as the immersion time increased, while the elastic modulus of the enamel surface decreased drastically. It was demonstrated that the enamel surface roughened five times more when it was immersed in beverages for 10 minutes, and that the elastic modulus of tooth enamel was five times lower after five minutes in the drinks. Additionally, the research team found preferential etching in scratched tooth enamel. Brushing your teeth too hard and toothpastes with polishing particles that are advertised to remove dental biofilms can cause scratches on the enamel surface, which can be preferential sites for etching, the study revealed. Professor Hong said, “Our study shows that AFM is a suitable technique to characterize variations in the morphology and mechanical properties of dental erosion quantitatively at the nanoscale level.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), and the KUSTAR-KAIST Institute of Korea. A dentist at the KAIST Clinic, Dr. Suebean Cho, Dr. Sangmin Shin from the Smile Well Dental, and Professor Kack-Kyun Kim at the Seoul National University School of Dentistry also collaborated in this project. Publication: Li, P., et al. (2020) ‘Nanoscale effects of beverages on enamel surface of human teeth: An atomic force microscopy study’. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials (JMBBM), Volume 110. Article No. 103930. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmbbm.2020.103930 Profile: Seungbum Hong, Ph.D. Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://mii.kaist.ac.kr/ Materials Imaging and Integration (MII) Lab. Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Singularity Professors Represent the Future of Research at KAIST
KAIST will launch a Singularity Professor track, which gives more freedom to researchers for pursuing their research goal. This more flexible and creative research environment institutionally supports researchers as they dive deeper into their research for a longer period of time without any strings attached. The track was established in an effort to ensure more competitive researchers who can lead the way for new advances in science and technology. This innovative research initiative is part of KAIST’s expansive effort to envision and position itself to build global research competitiveness in the wake of its 50th anniversary in 2021 and beyond. From this year, KAIST will select two to three research faculty for this special track with full-scale funding for 10 years. Singularity Professors will have their annual performance evaluations waived for 10 years. Instead, their research will be reviewed in their fifth year. The professors in this track will not participate in government-funded R&D projects and be fully funded by KAIST’s endowment. In addition to those newly hired into this track, Singularity Professorships are opens to existing faculty members. The selection criteria are very simple but highly demanding: one who can pivot an existing academic paradigm or invent a new discipline by presenting a novel scientific theory. KAIST recently hosted a briefing session for current faculty members and encouraged them to apply for the new track. As part of the selection criteria, the research topic’s innovativeness, feasibility, and appropriateness will be major factors for this track. Employment under this track will continue for up to 20 years. After receiving an evaluation of Very Satisfactory at the end of first ten-year contract, another ten years will be added. President Sung-Chul Shin, who has pushed for this system since he took office in 2017, said during the briefing session, “It takes quite a long time to bear fruit in academics, especially in science. I am very delighted that KAIST is paving the way for building a longer-term research environment which allows full and longer commitments for research that the faculty is excited to try. That’s the first step to sow the seeds for bearing fruit in academics, especially in science.” This is a paradigm shift to embrace transformation in a new era. The new institutional strategy supports the change from a fast follower to a first mover during these technologically turbulent times. Under its Global Singularity Research Projects initiative, KAIST already selected focus research topics in the most challenging as well as most creative fields of neuro-rehabilitation, new materials, and molecular optogenetics. “Especially in the post-COVID era, we have a very clear mission for the world. Our knowledge should translate into global value that can benefit those suffering from this pandemic, and mitigate the inequity coming from the digital discrepancies,” President Shin added. (END)
Study Finds Interferon Triggers Inflammation in Severe COVID-19
KAIST medical scientists and their colleagues confirmed that the type I interferon response plays a pivotal role in exacerbating inflammation in severe COVID-19 cases. Severe COVID-19 has been shown to be caused by a hyper-inflammatory response. Particularly, inflammatory cytokines secreted by classical monocytes and macrophages are believed to play a crucial role in the severe progression of COVID-19. A new single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of more than 59,000 cells from three different patient cohorts provided a detailed look at patients’ immune responses in severe cases of COVID-19. The results suggest that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 experience increased regulation of the type I interferon (IFN-I) inflammation-triggering pathway, a signature that the researchers also observed in patients hospitalized with severe cases of influenza. Their findings suggest that anti-inflammatory treatment strategies for COVID-19 should also be aimed toward the IFN-I signaling pathway, in addition to targeting inflammatory molecules such as TNF, IL-1, and IL-6, which have been associated with COVID-19. The research team under Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering sequenced the RNA from a total of 59,572 blood cells obtained from four healthy donors, eight patients with mild or severe COVID-19, and five patients with severe influenza. By comparison, patients with severe cases of influenza showed increased expression of various IFN-stimulated genes, but did not experience TNF/IL-1 responses as seen in COVID-19 patients. Unlike the flu cohort, patients in the severe COVID-19 cohort exhibited the IFN-I signature concurrently with TNF/IL-1-driven inflammation – a combination also not seen in patients with milder cases of COVID-19. Their result, along with past mouse studies that highlight how the timing of IFN-I expression is critical to determining the outcome of SARS, support targeting IFN-I as a potential treatment strategy for severe COVID-19. Professor Shin said, “This research provides insights for designing therapeutic options for COVID-19 by investigating very closely how the immune cells of COVDI-19 patients develop. We will continue to conduct research on novel therapeutic immune mechanisms and target therapeutic anti-inflammatory medication to improve the survival of severe COVID-19 patients.” This study, conducted in collaboration with Severance Hospital at Yonsei University, Asan Medical Center, and Chungbuk National University, was featured in Science Immunology on July 10. This work was funded by Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and SUHF Fellowship. -PublicationScience Immunology 10 Jul 2020:Vol. 5, Issue 49, eabd1554DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abd1554 -ProfileProfessorEui-Cheol ShinGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringLaboratory of Immunology & Infectious Diseases (http://liid.kaist.ac.kr/)email@example.comKAIST
COVID-19 Update: Fall Semester to Continue Offering Classes Online
KAIST announced that the university would continue online classes through the fall semester. However, the university will conduct additional in-person classes for upper-level undergraduate lab classes and some graduate courses where on-site interaction was deemed to be highly necessary. Some 600-level graduate courses at the Daejeon campus and graduate courses at the Seoul campus will carry out both in-person and online classes. The fall semester will start from August 31. Provost and Executive Vice President Kwang Hyung Lee announced the fall semester plan in his letter to the entire student body on July 9. He said that the university decided to continue with online classes in consideration of the safety of KAIST community members and the current status of the COVID-19 spread. However, he said the new plan will help students choose class options between in-person and online classes. “Although the number of classes with two versions is limited, we believe this will help many students continue learning without the sustained face-to-face contact that is inherent in residential education,” Provost Lee said. In-person classes conducted in the fall semester will also be provided online for students who are not available for in-person classes. Students may choose the type of the classes they prefer according to their situation, among only the courses that will offer two versions. Professors will decide if they will conduct two versions of their classes. The Office of Academic Affairs is collecting the professors’ applications for conducting both versions until July 24. KAIST offered real-time online classes and pre-recorded KLMS (KAIST Learning Management System) classes during the spring semester with a very limited number of in-person lab classes for graduate courses and these two versions of online class will continue for fall semester. Provost Lee asked the students who will take the in-person classes to strictly observe all precaution measures as the university will do its best to abide by the government guidelines against the Covid-19 in preparation for the fall semester. “We will continue to make appropriate and safe accommodations for them,” said Provost Lee. Those who need to reside in on-campus dormitories are required to be approved for moving. The applications will open after all the in-person class schedules are fixed next month. However, students who were approved for staying in the dormitories last semester can move in without additional approval procedures for the fall semester. (END)
X-ray Scattering Shines Light on Protein Folding
- Multiple forms of a non-functional, unfolded protein follow different pathways and timelines to reach its folded, functional state, a study reveals. - KAIST researchers have used an X-ray method to track how proteins fold, which could improve computer simulations of this process, with implications for understanding diseases and improving drug discovery. Their findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on June 30. When proteins are translated from their DNA codes, they quickly transform from a non-functional, unfolded state into their folded, functional state. Problems in folding can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “Protein folding is one of the most important biological processes, as it forms the functioning 3D protein structure,” explained the physical chemist Hyotcherl Ihee of the Department of Chemistry at KAIST. Dr. Tae Wu Kim, the lead author of this research from Ihee’s group, added, “Understanding the mechanisms of protein folding is important, and could pave the way for disease study and drug development.” Ihee’s team developed an approach using an X-ray scattering technique to uncover how the protein cytochrome c folds from its initial unfolded state. This protein is composed of a chain of 104 amino acids with an iron-containing heme molecule. It is often used for protein folding studies. The researchers placed the protein in a solution and shined ultraviolet light on it. This process provides electrons to cytochrome c, reducing the iron within it from the ferric to the ferrous form, which initiates folding. As this was happening, the researchers beamed X-rays at very short intervals onto the sample. The X-rays scattered off all the atomic pairs in the sample and a detector continuously recorded the X-ray scattering patterns. The X-ray scattering patterns provided direct information regarding the 3D protein structure and the changes made in these patterns over time showed real-time motion of the protein during the folding process. The team found cytochrome c proteins initially exist in a wide variety of unfolded states. Once the folding process is triggered, they stop by a group of intermediates within 31.6 microseconds, and then those intermediates follow different pathways with different folding times to reach an energetically stable folded state. “We don’t know if this diversity in folding paths can be generalized to other proteins,” Ihee confessed. He continued, “However, we believe that our approach can be used to study other protein folding systems.” Ihee hopes this approach can improve the accuracy of models that simulate protein interactions by including information on their unstructured states. These simulations are important as they can help identify barriers to proper folding and predict a protein’s folded state given its amino acid sequence. Ultimately, the models could help clarify how some diseases develop and how drugs interact with various protein structures. Ihee’s group collaborated with Professor Young Min Rhee at the KAIST Department of Chemistry, and this work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). Figure. The scientists found that non-functional unfolded forms of the protein cytochrome c follow different pathways and timelines to reach a stable functional folded state. Publications: Kim, T. W., et al. (2020) ‘Protein folding from heterogeneous unfolded state revealed by time-resolved X-ray solution scattering’. PNAS. Volume 117. Issue 26. Page 14996-15005. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1913442117 Profile: Hyotcherl Ihee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://time.kaist.ac.kr/ Ihee Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Young Min Rhee, Ph.D. Professor email@example.com http://singlet.kaist.ac.kr Rhee Research Group Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
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