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Lamont Weekly Report – August 12, 2005

P.O. Box 1000, 61 Route 9W Palisades, New York 10964


– Letter from the Director –


I flew out to Seoul Korea on Monday and have spent the last three days with Sean Solomon from Carnegie, Ray Weiss from Scripps, Howard Roe from Southampton and Teruyuki Nakajima from University of Tokyo, carrying out an external review of the School of Earth Sciences at the Seoul National University (SNU). In fact it has been an extremely interesting several days, and we have all learned a lot. It is an impressive school with faculty almost exclusively educated in the US, and all functioning at the highest levels of our science. SNU is so good that it has no peer in South Korea, which sets up a complex national dynamic with all students and all young faculty wanting to work at only one university, and being willing to experience very low pay and receive almost no incentives, simply for the prestige associated with being on the SNU staff. They must learn to function very differently from an American university in order to avoid the possible stagnation that 'in-breeding' would produce. But as they have grown over the past few years this has not been a problem and they have a great set of diverse and highly international projects, and have succeeded in attracting faculty out of tenure track positions in top US universities.

It is tough to believe as one drives down the busy downtown streets of modern Seoul, that it is only 30km from the border with North Korea. And it is even tougher to hear the students talk of the three year mandatory military service that they must all undertake, and casually discuss the need to defend Seoul from the North for only three days, because that is how long it will take for the US to bring in the tactical nuclear weapons...

We unexpectedly had an audience with the President of SNU on Friday morning - he got his PhD from Princeton and taught at Columbia business school for 3 years - so he was completely familiar with the US university system - it was a very good and open conversation. And it was interesting to see the massive steel blast doors in the corridor outside his office used as protection during the student riots of a few decades ago.

Korean hospitality was overwhelming - and as usual when traveling in Asia I ate some of the best food I have ever tasted, but almost never knew what I was eating...
I fly home Saturday afternoon and get into JFK in the evening, so I will have Sunday to recover, and be ready for a 'normal' week next week.

Hope all is well at Lamont, and have a great weekend,

– Mike


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