Ahyoung Kim ('22 Ph.D.) selected as 2023 Schmidt Science Fellow
Ahyoung Kim selected as a 2023 Schmidt Science fellow
Ahyoung Kim, a '22 MatSE doctoral alumna and now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, was recently selected as a Schmidt Science fellow — one of the most prestigious scientific postdoc awards in the world.
Interviewed by Emily Jankauski
What does this recognition mean to you?
Receiving the Schmidt Science Fellowship is a profoundly moving honor. The fellowship prioritizes the nurturing of fellows by providing interdisciplinary research opportunities, unparalleled academic freedom, mentorship and global networking events.
It will help me connect (in) diverse areas beyond my comfort zone, enhancing my skill sets as a future principal investigator and helping me to contribute to addressing emerging issues at the intersection of energy, environment and health.
I am immensely grateful for the program's tremendous support and thrilled to join exceptional colleagues on this journey.
How do you hope to make an impact in the lives of everyday people with your work?
My objective is to develop nanomachines that excel in energy harvesting and transfer through precise programming and arrangement of nanoparticles. These nanomachines draw inspiration from nature's efficient conversion of light to chemical energy in plants, and (they) offer a novel approach to effectively capture and utilize light energy.
They possess remarkable capabilities for specific nanoscale tasks, such as targeted drug delivery, cancer treatment and cell repair in medicine, utilizing the harvested energy. Additionally, they contribute to advancing electronics by enabling the creation of smaller and more efficient devices. Overall, nanomachines hold immense potential to drive technological progress, overcome complex challenges and make a sustainable impact on our daily lives.
How did your time at Illinois help lay the foundation for you to reach this moment?
My time at the University of Illinois was pivotal in reaching this milestone. Like a second birthplace, Illinois offered me a rigorous curriculum and cutting-edge research opportunities, igniting my passion for research.
The collaborative environment (at) Illinois instilled in me the significance of teamwork and effective communication. Moreover, the supportive community fostered my personal and professional growth through graduate student activities, seminars and workshops, granting me networking opportunities and exposure to diverse perspectives.
Lastly, I express profound gratitude for the exceptional guidance and mentorship from my Ph.D. advisor, associate professor Qian Chen, and other faculty members who provided tremendous support.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time in Illinois?
During my time in Illinois, I treasure(d) numerous memories — (from) witnessing my designed nanoparticles showcasing distinct polymer hairstyles under the electron microscope, engaging in mutual learning with undergraduate researchers, collaborating with high school teachers through the Research Experiences for Teachers program, attending conferences worldwide, including Italy; savoring post-workout meals and paint nights with friends; singing along to Post Malone at the Illinois Spring Jam; strolling on the Quad; and celebrating the recent hooding ceremony alongside my parents.
What advice do you have for someone just beginning their doctoral work?
Stay humble regarding your knowledge and abilities. Avoid limiting yourself or hesitating to ask questions and express your thoughts. Embrace bold ideas, consistently push yourself, actively participate in discussions and readily seek assistance when necessary.
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This story was published June 7, 2023.