Nobel Prize winning physicist, professor Serge Haroche, visits Korea University.
He advised university students, who will be leading our future, to actively participate in the journey of challenges facing mankind in future.
The 2012 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, Professor Serge Haroche from the Collège de France, visited Korea University in order to participate in a colloquium with professors from the Department of Physics, on September 20. During his visit, he had a chance to have a conversation with KU President Jaeho Yeom.
During his conversation with the KU president, Haroche talked about the college entrance examinations system in France. He said that high school seniors in France take a national academic qualification examination, called Baccalauréat. Once a student received scores that were higher than the cut-off point, he/she became eligible to apply for the colleges they wished to attend no matter how many points the student got. Statistically, about 10 percent of high school graduates passed the first round of the examination. About a half of them were asked to take a second verbal test. After going through the two rounds of the test, very few applicants ended up being accepted. Furthermore, according to Haroche, the level of the test was quite high, as it contained difficult questions for high school students to answer. High school seniors in France, therefore, have to study hard just like students in Korea.
In response to the professor, President Yeom said that he felt sorry that once these students entered a university, they wanted to rest after pouring all of their energy into preparing for the entrance exam. He added that he always advised students to fill the most beautiful days of their lifetime with precious moments instead of wasting their time.
Being curious about the ratio of students who continue their studies in graduate schools, Professor Haroche thought it interesting that, unlike France where most of college graduates decided to go to graduate schools, the employment rate of bachelor’s degree holders in Korea was relatively higher than in France. Responding to the professor’s comment, President Yeom said that, aside from helping students with landing their jobs, the school tries to provide support for students who think outside the box, such as planning their own start-up businesses.
They both agreed that basic science was and should continue to be the foundation for and engine behind the economy of a nation. To support the development of basic science, they agreed that national-level support was much needed.
To the young generation, the physics professor gave advice on life. “As a scientist who studied in physics for my lifetime, what I want to tell young students is that they have chances to learn, to become better people, and to solve a host of problems that the world will face in future. From a scientific or humane point of view, we should try hard to understand what is going to happen in the future. After understanding the problems of the future, we should know how to control them and eventually convert them into something advantageous for us. In the field of science, there are lots of challenges lying ahead such as global warming and the need for renewable energy. These challenges are in the hands of the young generation. To support them, leaders should be well-educated,” he said, emphasizing that education should play a pivotal role in nurturing young students. He continued that, “What I want to say to Korea University students is that you have the privilege of getting on board this challenging journey that humankind will confront in the near future. What you do here on campus will have a meaningful influence to the world.”
As a physicist, he expressed his anticipation on the scientific developments that will unfold in the future. “Technologies we take for granted at present – lasers, computers, GPS, and cellular phones – all originated from the way we understand the microscopic world. I assure you that, in future, new discoveries and new developments will definitely lead to the evolution of other technologies. As it has always happened in the field of basic science, when we first discover something, we do not yet know about its usage or usefulness. However, we are sure that it will someday be used for something to be discovered later. To the young physicists who recently joined academia, I think they are very lucky because the science society is about to obtain findings that are very hopeful. Like I said earlier, it is going to be an extraordinary journey to go on. The biggest draw to the journey is your curiosity. What comes after following the curiosity is a reward, which makes people confused about its causal relationship, as the cause and result are connected too closely. To tell them from each other is one of the challenges facing future physicists.”
After receiving his doctoral degree in physics at University of Pierre and Marie CURIE, also known as University of Paris VI, in 1971, Haroche spent the following year (1972-1973) as a visiting post-doc on Arthur Leonard Schawlow’s team at Stanford University. In 1975, he moved to France and began his career as a professor at University of Paris VI. Since 2001, he has been working as a professor at the Collège de France. Aside from his permanent position, he also taught in other institutions including Stanford University, MIT, Harvard University, and Yale University. He is a member of the Académie des Sciences, the European Physical Society, and the American Physical Society.
He has spent his life doing research on quantum physics. He has developed experimental methods that enable the measuring and manipulation of quantum particles such as a photon by human hands, opening a new chapter for the experimental methods in quantum physics. More specifically, he trapped photons and atoms between two highly reflexive mirrors in order to develop experimental methods that could manipulate and measure their interactions. In doing so, he proved the state of superposition, which could only be examined theoretically in quantum mechanics. With his groundbreaking discovery, mankind moved one step closer to the development of quantum computers and atomic clocks. In 2012, Haroche was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics with David Wineland, who succeeded in developing experimental methods that could control and measure trapped ions by using photons. Before receiving the Noble Prize, he was selected as an awardee of the Humboldt Prize in 1992, the Albert A. Michelson Medal by the Franklin Institute in 1993, the Charles Hard Townes Award by the OSA (The Optical Society, originally established as the Optical Society of America) in 2007, and a Gold medal from CNRS (Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique) in France.