ISSP stay report of Prof. Woun KANG
Ewha Woman’s University
I have enjoyed the visiting professorship at ISSP for eight months from July 2019 till February 2020. What I have benefited the most from were numerous seminars, symposiums, meetings in many different area of research. Somehow, my research area has never been popular in my country and I have always had more colleagues in Japan than in Korea. I haven’t had a student for fifteen years, which deepened my isolation. In this sense, a long stay of eight months at ISSP was a precious experience to recover my enthusiasm, in particular the connection with the outside world.
ISSP is one of the nicest place to enjoy the flow of people and information, as was the laboratoire de Physique des Solides in Orsay, France, where I did my Ph.D. study. I think it is a really good atmosphere for young people who have to find the area of research to which they should devote their most active period of life.
I especially enjoy the discussions with Prof. Osada who has endless enthusiasm and a broad and deep understanding of not only organic conductors but also many recent hot topics such as topological insulators, Dirac electron systems, 2D systems, and so on.
I had planned to do some experiments combining my pressure apparatus with cryogenic instruments in the ISSP equipped with readily available liquid helium. Some technical glitches hampered the experiment which could not fully resolved until my departure. But, we will certainly continue to work on it. Throughout the experiments, Dr. Uchida’s technical assistance was essential at every step to overcome endless problems, for which I sincerely appreciate.
Upon arrival, it was a pleasant surprise to meet Dr. Andhika Kiswandhi who started his postdoc at the ISSP on the same day as mine. He made my life in Kashiwa much easier. Dr. Uchida’s fine taste also made life in Kashiwa easier. We often explored fine but hidden eating places around campus for lunch.
The stay at the ISSP was my last physical exchange. In this new world with Covid-19, it becomes almost impossible to travel all over the world either for conferences or for collaborative research. An open world suddenly turned into a closed world. Some news outlets used to introduce the most powerful passport in terms of number of countries one can enter without a visa. Now even the existing visa has become void for most of destinations.
Since the start of 2020, while I was still in Kashiwa, there was a suspicion of a global Covid-19 pandemic, which was not yet taken seriously at that time. The only visible sign was the general shortage of facial masks. As it is not uncommon to see people with masks in Japan in spring, the environments were not necessarily exotic and we were able to move around freely to any location without too much worry. Based on previous experiences with SARS and MERS, we were more or less optimistic to wait until summer to see full eradication of Covid-19. However, even six months after I returned home, there is no sign of complete recovery, but rather a grim prediction that the virus will stay on much longer or never go away completely. Most of lectures have been posted online. Almost all national and international conferences have been canceled or postponed. Some of them have survived some form of webinar.
Any plan to return to ISSP to complete unfinished work has to be postponed indefinitely. I again lost almost all personal exchange that I longed so much. We have to struggle to face a completely new world that we never dreamed of.
However, a good memory stays forever. I sincerely appreciate everyone at the ISSP for their hospitality, especially the ILO staffs whose warm support made my stay pleasant.