Dr. Myoung-Hwan Kim, UTRGV assistant professor of physics, was named the 2018 Outstanding Young Researcher by the Association of Korean Physicists in America (AKPA), during the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in March in Los Angeles.
Kim, who has been with UTRGV for two years, was recognized for his work on infrared light, which came as a surprise because that isn’t his main focus, but rather just part of the fundamentals of the work he currently does.
“The reason I was surprised is because the award has been given since 1994, and every year they recognize a young Korean physicist in the United States. But there are many past winners from Ivy Leagues or Tier-1 Research Universities,” he said.
He said the recognition is especially important to him because attaining it can be so difficult.
“I was nominated this year and I thought I wouldn’t get it because we are not yet an emerging research university, not as established. Then they said it was because of my studies on modern materials with infrared lasers – which is weird, because my major accomplishment is not this one.”
For the past 12 years, Kim has been working on novel material research using recently developed polarimetric spectroscopy technique.
“This is a pioneer study,” he said. “My expertise is polarimetric spectroscopy – which is a method of studying materials using polarized light. It is a spectroscopy – the study of the absorption and emission of light by matter – in a special condition of light.”
Kim said his research is in the fundamental stages.
“These are the initial stages to build these measurement systems,” he said. “It is an emerging, new kind of technique to provide deep understanding of physics in time-reversal symmetry broken material system.”
For those who do not speak physics, time-reversal symmetry means physics does not change when time flows backward.
Kim’s research laboratory on the Brownsville Campus is equipped with state-of-the-art infrared and terahertz spectroscopy systems, supported by UTRGV and the UT System with $463,119 from the UT System Valley STAR award in Spring 2016, and a UTRGV College of Science SEED grant award.
His group of graduate students under the UTRGV UT Arlington cooperative Ph.D program have developed new optical nanostructures for nano-photonics research, and he plans to equip a new polarimetric spectroscopy system for novel material research at UTRGV.
“This will be powerful research,” he said. “I believe that is AKPA sees this as important.
They see potential in this kind of study, and ultimately, this is why I was given the award.”