Harold Hwang Wins Top Korean Award

By Mike Ross
April 16, 2013

Harold Y. Hwang, professor of applied physics and photon science at Stanford and SLAC, has won the 2013 Ho-Am Award in Science, one of five annual awards often referred to as the Korean equivalent of the Nobel prizes.

The award – which consists of a 6-ounce gold medal, a laureate diploma and a cash prize of 300 million Korean won (about $265,000) – will be presented May 31 in Seoul. Recipients are also scheduled to give commemorative lectures at major universities, academies and high schools across Korea.

Hwang is an expert in creating complex oxide materials with extraordinary electronic and magnetic properties, including superconductivity. Made of alternating atomic layers of metals and oxygen, these materials are the focus of intense worldwide research seeking to design new combinations for electronics, sensing and energy applications.

"Complex oxides are today where semiconductors were early in the 20th century, when crystal radios were state of the art," Hwang said. "If you put various semiconductors together, you can make fantastic devices just because the semiconductor interface can range from an insulator to a good conductor. With complex oxides, however, you can add superconductivity, magnetism, ferroelectricity and many other properties. Imagine the possibilities."

The key, he said, is determining the principles that give each atomic arrangement its special behavior. Hwang and colleagues use SLAC's light sources to probe the electronic behavior of these materials. His team is creating a chamber that will enable researchers to create complex materials layers by layer and measure their properties at the same time.

The Ho-Am Prize was established by Samsung in 1990 to honor its founding chairman, the late Byung-Chull Lee. "Ho-Am" was Lee's pen name. Awards are given each year in the categories of science, engineering, medicine, arts and community service. In addition, a Ho-Am Prize in Mass Communication was awarded from 1991 to 1994 and in 1996.

A total of 177 people have received Ho-Am prizes, including two Stanford professors:  Thomas Lee (2011, Engineering) and Stuart K. Kim (2004, Medicine).

Ho-Am Prizes are awarded to people of Korean origin. (The prize for community service, however, can also be awarded to non-Koreans who made outstanding contributions to Korea and Koreans at home and abroad.) Hwang's parents are from Korea, and came to Southern California for graduate school. He said he's descended from a Chinese merchant who moved to the peninsular country about a thousand years ago.


Photo - Harold Hwang
Harold Hwang. (Photo courtesy Harold Hwang.)