The Korean Army, I was amazed by the

The thunderous roars of tanks rang through my ears as I rolled 200-pound petroleum barrels
into a colossal fuel storage. I squinted as the foul, gray smoke blocked my vision and invaded my
nose and lungs. When I became the logistics squad leader of the 15th Tank Battalion of the Korean
Army, I was amazed by the sheer number of petroleum barrels that were required to mobilize the
50-ton K-1 tanks: nearly 100 barrels a month. The putrid smoke emanating from the monstrous
vehicles made me wonder at how we could decrease their pollution. It was not the first time that I
had felt the deleterious effects of petroleum fuels on the environment. As the son of a gas station
owner, I was always wary about petroleum energy. Ever since my father started a gas station
business, I have witnessed the rampant emission of smoke to the cloudless sky. My personal
experiences as a logistics squad leader and exposure to the petroleum industry have informed and
fostered my desire to study ways to combat harmful carbon emissions. As a result, I chose chemical
engineering as my major with the lofty ambition to resolve the problem of pollution. My interest
in resolving this issue grew as I researched possible remedies in the field of sustainable energy:
electrochemical energy devices.
Given this aspiration, I sought out research opportunities to become more knowledgeable
about electrochemical energy engineering. After a year-long search, I worked with Professor Ho
Seok Park in the Energy Systems and Environmental Methods lab at Sungkyunkwan University
after getting discharged from the army. I began working with Professor Park to synthesize
graphene materials, and thereby familiarized myself with laboratory procedures and equipment.
After a month of intense studying, Professor Park gave me a project that suited my interests: the
integration of metal oxides into graphene materials for improved supercapacitor performance.
Although the uses of metal oxides had been studied extensively, the professor recommended
utilizing a new synthesis method protocol developed by his group. Thus, my first project was to
synthesize highly porous CoO/graphene electrode via an ozone treatment and ice templating
process. My experimental contributions on the project resulted in a co-first authorship on the
manuscript reporting our results in Ceramics International Journal. The three months of research
at Sungkyunkwan University prepared me with an extensive technical and laboratory repertoire
and competency in electrochemical energy.
Although I left that group to continue school, I was excited to continue my studies in
electrochemical energy. At Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), I found that Professor Shawn
Litster’s work coincided with my research work. In his lab, I was given a project studying the
water activity dependence and the deactivation mechanisms of IrO2-integrated reversal tolerant
fuel cell anodes during fuel starvation. Because of my previous research experiences, my work
became much more independent, and I was able to use basic principles learned in class to design
experiments. After almost one year of searching for the mechanisms, I found that there is a linear
relationship with water activity for IrO2, while carbon corrosion increases exponentially with water
activity, suggesting that the carbon poisons the catalyst at a higher rate in the high water activity
regime. Eager to continue my work during the summer, I applied for the Summer Undergraduate
Research Fellowship at CMU. To receive the fellowship, I drew on my experiences in fuel cells
and graphene, and proposed the idea of replacing the traditional carbon black-based electrodes
with corrosion resistant graphene to diminish the effect of the catalyst deactivation. While pursuing
the project I designed, I desired to continue research and broaden my perspective by fulfilling my
interest outside of the laboratory. So, I joined the ChemE Car organization as a member of the new
driving mechanism team, researching thermoelectric generators. After one year of designing a
chemically driven thermoelectric motor, my team became a separate driving mechanism team
named Thermoelectrics Team, for which I was elected team leader. Currently, I direct five students
in constructing a thermoelectric motor driven by magnesium oxidation.
After four years of specializing in Chemical Engineering, I am applying to Yale’s Chemical
Engineering PhD program because of the applicability of my background knowledge to the
research being undertaken by its faculty. Additionally, I would value the potential crossdisciplinary
experience I would gain related to electrochemical energy devices since my research
work was done in the Mechanical Engineering department at CMU. Much of the work I have
performed is directly related to current research at Yale: Professor Jaehong Kim and Shu Hu’s
unprecedented works related to the hydrogen peroxide production using solar cells, Professor
Andre Taylor’s development of new electrocatalysts for fuel cells, and Professor Lisa Pfefferle’s
synthesis of carbon nanotubes for various energy applications. These research works are
particularly salient to my future research goals, related to the integration of energy storage and
conversion mechanisms that could lead to insights that allow us to commercialize cheap energy
conversion devices with minimal carbon dioxide emission.
At CMU, I have been blessed with a wide variety of technical skills and the opportunities
to hone my investigative inclinations. Further study at Yale will provide me chances to resolve the
bottlenecks of practical applications of electrochemical energy devices and start my career
developing the devices that will render the pervasive use of fossil fuels obsolete. After completing
my PhD program and post-doctoral fellowships, I hope to start my own research group and
contribute to advancements within the field of electrochemical energy engineering. My passion
for investigation and collaborative research converge perfectly with this career path, and it is
logical for me to choose a university that is at the forefront of research to achieve my goals. I am
confident that I am endowed with substantial research experience and unbounded scientific
curiosity to flourish in and contribute to the Yale and its engineering community.



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