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MAE gains CAREER award-earning research with new faculty member

Watching students in his lab work begin the research process reminds new Associate Professor Chanwoo Park of a cartoon he used to watch with his two daughters about a tree growing overnight from a seed. Their work begins with a metaphorical research concept seed and manifests into a project the students expand and perfect as they progress through their education and gain experience.

Portrait of Chanwoo Park

Chanwoo Park joined the MU College of Engineering’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department in September.

“Sometimes, when I do research with students, we don’t have a multi-million-dollar lab,” said Park, who joined the MU College of Engineering’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department in September. “But great research doesn’t always require a lot of money. You start with a very humble idea, and it becomes this great thing.”

Watching an idea move from concept to fruition is something Park said he learned while working in industry. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in mechanical engineering, from Hanyang University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, respectively. After finishing his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, Park spent nearly eight years working for Ford Motor Co., in Dearborn, Mich., and Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc., in Lancaster, Pa.

While he’d planned a career that included teaching since graduate school — his father was an elementary school teacher in Korea — Park said he joined industry because at the time, that was his only available opportunity.

“It became very rewarding,” Park said about working in industry. “I learned a lot of business ethics and professional skills. After I began teaching, it also gave me another way to communicate with students.”

In 2008, he entered academia as an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and later was promoted to associate professor.

The research Park conducted in industry, as well as research conducted as a junior faculty member, combined to form the research concept for which Park was awarded the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER award in early 2014. This research looks at applying a multiscale approach to the interfaces of heat transfer in liquids.

“Most research groups focus on one side of the scale, large-scale or nanoscale, and that leaves a gap between,” Park said.

Some of Park’s previous research looked at interfacial heat-transfer points — the surface or material that conducted the heat transfer. But even he only looked at it within one scale. This new research will focus not only on the transfer of heat among multiple scales, but Park said he plans to also modify the surface properties of the interaction site and factor different liquid chemical compositions into the results.

“It’s a very comprehensive approach,” he said.

The NSF CAREER award is a five-year, $400,000 grant that Park will use with a new research group at Mizzou. He said he chose to come to the university because it was a good opportunity for him professionally and also a good city for his family.

“The university is a great place to conduct research,” he said. “I also like how the university encourages students to learn beyond the classroom.”