“So Matt, tell me a little bit about yourself,” says Dr. Moser. This week, the workshop focused on the elevator pitch, the short self-introduction to employers. Dr. Moser tasked each of us with writing a brief speech that highlights each of our desirable qualities and skills. We took turns presenting ourselves to the group. Elizabeth elected to go first, and then it was my turn. It started off smooth. I managed to look up from my paper a few times so that I was not simply reading. However, once I finished, Dr. Moser once again asked, “Matt, without reading, just tell me who you are.” This was the unsettling part, the part that made me realize I needed to spend more time thinking about this question. I found it difficult to say much more than what I had already written down. Do I really only know myself from this sheet of paper? The thought lingered. Then Dr. Moser said, “speak as if you were speaking to your friends.” This was more appealing. I began speaking about myself and suddenly a minute had gone by and I was done. It was almost like instinct took over. I had said meaningful things without forcing it all to sound perfect. That was a refreshing feeling. Perhaps there is some truth in the phrase “speak from the heart.”

The feedback from the group was also very helpful. After each of us presented, we gave and received feedback from the others. This part was rewarding because it allowed me to see what others do very well during their speech. Body language, tone, and confidence were a few of the many effective qualities I learned from the others’ speeches. As we continue to refine our speeches, I will be focusing on speaking more from the heart and less from the paper.

Lab Work

This week my focus was on AFM, or atomic force microscopy. On Monday (7/5), Soyun gave me a live tutorial on the AFM. We saw how to set it up, how to scan a sample, and how to interpret results on the computer. The AFM is a very powerful machine in the sense that it can visualize three dimensions on the atomic scale. It can also measure a wide range of properties such as topography and piezoelectricity. For the rest of the week I practiced setting up the machine and read more about the background of how the AFM works. I will be making a presentation of the AFM background topics such as feedback loop mechanism, AFM modes, and calibration techniques. 

AFM setup with cantilever and tip shown pointing left

Getting food with the lab mates continued to be fun this week. They took me to eat fried fish for dinner, which was incredible. Jiweon and Hoon spoke about their experiences in the military. I learned that military service is required for Korean men, but there are different ways to fulfill the requirement. Some train for combat while others work in research.

From left to right: Jason, Jiweon, and Hoon. Fried fish on the table!


Thankfully, the rain did not persist for the entire week. Thursday night (7/8), Nathan and I met up with Jing-shu and Hui for dinner at their favorite Chinese restaurant near campus. Later, Hui took us to find the KAIST campus cats. We saw one cat scream at another cat for a good minute. I found it adorable. I imagine the cat on the receiving end did not.

One of the many local cats at KAIST

Over the weekend, the whole group converged on Seoul. We met Elizabeth and Busa’s roommate Nadia and she was nice enough to be the team leader for the weekend. Saturday was packed with activities. First, we visited 토속촌, a famous restaurant, for ginseng chicken stew. This restaurant used to be owned by Dr. Yoonseok Lee’s family. Dr. Lee is at UF’s physics department and was my professor during my freshman spring semester. I’ll be sure to let Dr. Lee know the meal was delicious.

Inside Tosokchon, the restaurant previously owned by Dr. Lee’s family

Chicken stew… a whole chicken filled with rice

After lunch we visited Changdeokgung Palace, a piece of Korean history dating back to 1405! It was stunning. The architecture was designed to complement the surrounding nature, as seen in the picture. My favorite part was wearing the traditional garments, or “hanbok”. I have Busa, Elizabeth, and Nadia to thank for that. 

King Matthew the 1st rocking purple hanbok at the secret garden inside the palace

Changdeokgung Palace…the site of formal visits to the King of the Joseon Dynasty

Next stop was Namsan Tower, where we had a beautiful view of the city from every direction. Skyscrapers, mountains, palaces, you could see it all. It finally made more sense that Seoul can fit nearly 10 million people into one city.

One view from the top of Namsan Tower

On Sunday, the group had a short visit to Itaewon, the foreigner district of Seoul, before Nathan and I took the bus back to Daejeon. The day concluded with a few hours of basketball at Eunpyeong Park with my friend Dong Hwan. Overall, it was another unforgettable week in Korea.