George Smoot, the 2006 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, an experimental astrophysicist and a professor of the Physics Department of the University of California at Berkeley, was appointed a chair-professor of the Ewha Academy by President Lee Bae-yong on December 18, 2008. Smoot is the first Nobel Prize winner to come to Ewha as a full time professor. He will be at Ewha for the next five years.
Smoot is known for further confirming the big bang theory or the origin of the universe. His experiment with the COBE (the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite) in 2006 succeeded in making a map of the early universe and discovering the maturing process of the galaxies which are in the present Universe.
Smoot said, “If you could measure the precise amount of the radiation, you could use it to make a photograph of the ‘embryo universe.’ What I did was to develop the techniques that would let us take this image. And now, what you really want to see is how that develops into an adult. So we made a map model that shows the whole picture of how the universe developed.”
Smoot said that the new discovery has opened up more questions that require more scientific research. Therefore, during next semester, he will be furthering his research in defining the principles of the origin of the universe using extreme technology with a team of six professors, Eric Linder and Uros Seljak from UC Berkely and Ahn Chang-lim, Yang Jong-man, Park Ill-hong, and Kim Chan-joo from the Department of Physics at Ewha. Smoot and his team will work to launch a third satellite to have a much more detailed map to reveal the development of the universe. Smoot will also lead the Cosmological Physics Technology Research Center, which is going to be founded at Ewha.
Though Smoot will not be holding regular classes during the semester, he will be occasionally providing special lectures in the area of physics, astrophysics, and space engineering. Smoot hopes he will be a good example to encourage students to have confidence in what they want to do. Smoot said, “The important thing is to realize that people who make new discoveries are people, and you can make them too.” He said that when he was a student, meeting many Noble Laureates, or distinguished scientists helped him to have the confidence in himself. "Also learn from them that it's also important to check your work; know that you can make mistakes."
Ahn Chang-lim said that Smoot’s presence would be a good opportunity for the students in the Physics department. Ahn said, “Some students in the Physics department could have Smoot as their advisor. Moreover, for those who want to attend the Physics department at Berkeley as a graduate student, Smoot can be their advisor there to help them receive their Ph.D. I think it’s a very good opportunity for the students.”
Smoot said that he also wants to contribute to the popularization of science by founding a “Global Teacher’s Academy” at Ewha to raise professional teachers in science and to publish science text books for middle-school and high-school courses.
Receiving his appointment certificate from President Lee, Smoot said, “With the professors from UC Berkeley, I hope to establish a world-class research group in the fields of physics, astrophysics, and space engineering at Ewha.” After visiting the Ewha Archives, Smoot said he was impressed to see how Ewha Womans Universiy has made high achievements in its academic history. “I expect the students to have different viewpoints and attitudes,” said Smoot. “There are always students who are excited, enthusiastic and just glad that they get a chance to learn new things. I hope to capture their brainpower and creativity. I look forward to meeting and working with them.”