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2019-12 30

[Academics][Researcher of the Month] Using Drones to Understand and Find a Solution to Fine Dust

Public awareness regarding fine dust has increased rapidly in the past decade. Weather forecasts now include daily particulate matter (PM) pollution numbers, with PM 10 meaning fine dust particles less than 10 micrometers (0.001 millimeters) in diameter. Ultrafine dust particles are dust particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers. Masks have become a necessity, and a vast number of air filtration products are topping sales. The Korean government is not standing idle as to fighting this phenomenon. A recent Seoul city government policy targeting old diesel cars for their high emission levels has banned them from entering the area within Seoul’s four main gates. However, the government also funds several research projects in order to find a solution. Professor Ahn Kang-ho (Department of Mechanical Engineering, ERICA Campus) has been part of such a project that uses drones to monitor fine dust fluctuations and understand what causes them. Professor Ahn Kang-ho (Department of Mechanical Engineering, ERICA Campus) has been developing methods of monitoring fine dust for over five years. Fine dust is created either from the top down (matter broken into pieces until they become fine dust such as yellow dust from the Gobi Desert) or the bottom up (molecules become fine dust through chemical reactions caused by high temperatures or pressures such as factories, vehicles, or ships). Ahn said that fine dust is particularly harmful as tests have shown that it is extremely difficult for the human body to filter them, which stays within the lungs and accumulates. Although people associate fine dust with factories or sandstorms, it is actually created by everyday actions like cooking meat using a frypan or smoking cigarettes. “Recently, people have been interested in fine dust, but actually, this phenomenon goes as far back as the Silla Dynasty (B.C. 57-935) in Gyeongju,” said Ahn. “There was a law that prohibited cooking rice with other materials other than charcoal.” Ahn added that some countries, especially England, learned about the dangers of this miniscule dust the hard way. Known as the Great Smog of London of 1952, the disaster killed around 12,000 people, including people suspected of having died in the following months as a result of the event. Several smog appearances in Los Angeles of the United States have also highlighted the dangers of unregulated vehicle pollution since the 1940s. Pictured is the fine dust monitoring device that Ahn created. The device is able to analyze over ten elements including time, location, wind speed, humidity, gas, and carbon particles. (Photo courtesy of Ahn) Measuring fine dust is tricky as the machines used to analyze dust particles are usually as big as cabinets and cost over 10 million won. Sampling fine dust and going back to the lab was also a big obstacle to offering real-time measurements of fine dust that was usually monitored all day. Ahn built his own machine, creating a fine dust measuring device that records elements such as time, location, wind speed, humidity, gas, and carbon particles. Ahn successfully made this comprehensive measuring device lighter, which can be fitted into a drone or backpack. Spain’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIC) invited Ahn to demonstrate an earlier fine dust monitoring method using balloons in both 2014 and 2016. Ahn also works with institutions in China and Mongolia. Pictured (Left) is an earlier fine dust monitoring method using air balloons deployed in Spain in 2014, and pictured (right) is a propellarized drone flying in Mongolia to test the machine in low temperatures. (Photo courtesy of Ahn) Ahn's specialized method targeting harbors flies drones to monitor ship exhaust. The experiment was conducted in Busan in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Ahn) Mobility is key to Ahn’s three dimensional fine dust measuring method. Drones carrying the device are launched into the sky surrounding a target area and slowly ascend and descend, revealing the relation between altitude, sun position, temperature and wind direction. With this method, Ahn has offered the government several fine dust monitoring methods using drones for industrial areas, roads, harbors and farms. Ahn offered the government a comprehensive report, suggesting that it monitors these areas with differing methods, including fine dust size differences between roads, creating a map that points out exhaust creating factories and the secondary changes that the fine dust particles go through, following ship routes in harbors, and mapping out farming routes and ammonia distribution. “Managing fine dust from the source is the cheapest way to solving this problem,” said Ahn. As there are no efficient methods to eliminating fine dust, Ahn said that the best way is to prevent them from being created in the first place. Fine dust will only get worse, unless governments, industries, and the public change their everyday habits that feed this poisonous cloud. Jung Myung-suk Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon

2019-11 04

[Academics][Researcher of the Month] RNA Discovery Brings Light to Curing Cancer and Brain Disease

Professor Nam Jin-wu (Department of Life Science) may have discovered a key ingredient to diagnosing and curing brain disease and cancer in his research published on September 13th in Nature Communications. Nam’s research has brought light to a phenomenon regarding messenger Ribonucleic acids (RNA), a type of polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles that transfers information from the genome (genetic material of an organism) into proteins by translation (the process in which ribosomes in the cytoplasm synthesize proteins after the process of transcription of DNA to RNA in the cell's nucleus). Professor Nam Jin-wu (Department of Life Science) shared his data-driven journey for a deeper understanding of human bodily functions. Nam was the first to discover that microRNAs (small non-coding RNA molecules) and UPF1s (regulator of nonsense transcripts 1) interact with each other and conduct “post-transcriptional or translational regulation” within cells, which can bring deeper understanding to the fundamentals of gene manifestation within cells. MicroRNAs contain around 22 nucleotides (basic building blocks of DNA) found in plants, animals and some viruses, that function in RNA silencing, which prevents the expression of a certain gene, and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. UPF1 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the UPF1 gene and is known to be an important factor needed to selectively recognize incorrectly generated RNAs within cells and degrade them. The conversion process of DNA to protein (Photo courtesy of There are many ways to regulate the process of making protein from DNA genes within cells in the human body. Nam compared this process to switching on lights in a classroom, with the switch being a modulator of protein manifestation, and the actual turning on and off, signifying whether proteins were created. However, cells are much smarter than we think, so instead of a binary state of zero and one that signifies whether proteins were created or not, cells can actually regulate protein in a more precise way as they can have a continuous value between the two numbers. “It is like using a sensor that corrects the light’s brightness according to how bright it is outside, instead of simply turning the classroom light on and off or maintaining a degree of brightness,” said Nam. “In order to do this, genes go through the steps of DNA to messenger RNA to protein.” According to internal and external conditions of cells, the degree of protein manifestation is regulated by “transcriptional regulation,” a transferring process that creates RNA from DNA, and “post-transcriptional or translational regulation,” which regulates the process of creating protein from RNA. Nam said his research started during a lunch with Professor Hwang Jung-wook (Department of Genetics), who was at the time conducting a research on RNA quality control. The two talked about gene manifestation regulation research and questioned why UPF1 dependent decay appeared in messenger RNAs. Nam and Hwang soon created a theory and joined hands to test their theory using various data open to the public for around one year. Most of Nam’s research relied on data-driven science, which uses statistical and computational verification using dozens of terabytes of data. Programs, algorithms and pipelines (a set of data processing elements connected in series) were created to analyze and interpret the data. Then, various experiments and samples were used to develop his research. A total of some four years and six months had passed until Nam published his research. Nam (left on front row) poses with students from the Department of Life Science lab. "Data biology’s biggest attraction is its systematic approach to research," said Nam. With the newly discovered gene control regulation principle, Nam believes that it could be used to diagnose and treat various diseases, and can also be used to develop treatment platforms. Jung Myung-suk Photos by Kim Ju-eun

2019-11 04

[Academics][Excellent R&D] Giving Voice to Those With Developmental Disabilities

Many societies seek to create equal standing for all social groups, which also advances human societies toward democratic order. An important factor in societal evolution is hearing what people have to say, but there are those who are shunned to the outskirts of discussion as their voice is ignored or is transferred to their guardians, who are trusted to speak for those who have difficulties speaking or expressing their mind through gestures. Professor Je Cheol-ung (School of Law) has been fighting for people with developmental disabilities, which includes dementia, mental diseases and disorders, to make society listen to their voices instead of suppressing them in the name of protection. Professor Je Cheol-ung (School of Law) seeks to improve the rights of people with developmental disabilities. “There are those who cannot speak well, but one can see dislike in their expression, which is an expression of refusal,” said Je. “In this way, even if one cannot express themselves through words, they show their intentions in different ways like emotion and feelings. We need to consider whether we are offering a correct service.” Korea has around 400,000 patients with developmental disabilities living in nursing facilities and mental hospitals, which isolates them from society. The lack of caregivers in Korea makes conditions in these facilities unfavorable as one caregiver would have to take care of an average of eight patients. They would often be neglected or even be tied up, literally, and laws do not do much to protect their rights. Elderly struggling from dementia are often swindled into handing over their money or investing in bad businesses. Je’s research on “The Integration of Persons with Impairments for Decision Making Ability into the Communities” has been conducted since 2012, which is funded by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Je said that the problem behind Korea’s policies for people with developmental disabilities is the low budget, and the public benefits offered are typical and not customized towards individual needs. Je’s team seeks to revise laws so that they can function better to protect the rights of the people with developmental disabilities. The first step in Je’s research is creating a theory on possible revisions. Then, Je’s team visits facilities to interview patients and those involved with their wellbeing and finds out if the theory can actually be implemented. One revision that Je said was a significant result of his research is revisions to the Civil Proceedings Act that allows for people with developmental disabilities to participate in lawsuits instead of being pushed to the sidelines. Je said there are many cases where people with developmental disabilities are excluded from lawsuits that they are involved in, instead replacing them with their legal guardians, or included them in the case without any actual participation. Je led a briefing session on supported decision-making for elderly. (Photo courtesy of Je) What keeps people with developmental disabilities from other social groups is the fact that they are not part of the groups that seek to protect their rights, said Je. These groups are instead led by their legal guardians or lawyers. In order to make their voices heard, Je said that people with developmental disabilities whose conditions are less severe need to take a leading position in these groups and speak for those who are more restricted in expressing themselves. Je believes in de-institutionalization, taking people with developmental disabilities out of facilities and restoring them back in society. Je seeks to move this societal paradigm of substituted decision-making to supported decision-making, which will focus on the autonomous decision by patients instead of relying on the supporting roles of legal guardians. Je (fourth from right) and his team attended a debate on implementing a public trust for people with developmental disabilities. (Photo courtesy of Je) “The definition of a good world is a place where the weak can live comfortably,” said Je. “True democracy is practiced only when the weak speak their minds, and society listens in return.” Jung Myung-suk Photos by Kim Ju-eun

2019-10 23

[Academics][Researcher of the Month] Goal to Create a Safe Driving Environment

In an age where humans can rely on machines for assistance in everyday life, an infinite amount of data is interpreted by machines according to our needs. The wonders of technological advancement are developed in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the automobile industry, automation has allowed sensors and algorithms to alert and maneuver vehicles under human supervision. Yet, accidents happen, even with the most cutting-edge technology. Professor Park June-young (Department of Transportation and Logistics Engineering, ERICA Campus) emphasizes the issue of safety in his research on enhancing in-vehicle driving assistance information under a connected vehicle environment. Professor Park June-young (Department of Transportation and Logistics Engineering, ERICA Campus) participated in simulation tests himself. According to Park, there are various factors that can lead to driving assistance malfunctions. Sensors can be blocked by physical objects, such as heavy rain, dust, insects, and glare from sun rays reflecting off white vehicles, which could become anomalies for vehicle cameras. Although automobile manufacturers research thoroughly to create driving assisting technology, it is impossible to factor all scenarios, added Park. A solution to this problem is Cooperative-Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS), which is a system of information sharing between V to I (vehicle to infrastructure) and V to V (vehicle to vehicle). In-vehicle head-up display (HUD) design scenario samples (Photo courtesy of Park) “Vehicles must be informed of adjacent infrastructures and should share information between V to V, vehicle to vehicle,” said Park. “Only by constantly sharing information about the number of nearby vehicles and their movements, thus acquiring their driving patterns as data, can technology assist in driving, even if the driver cannot see in front of them or their sensors are down.” Park’s research did not only focus on the driving technology of the future, but also on the driving environment of today. His objective was to develop the driving technology of vehicles, but in a safe way. He calls his vision of autonomous driving "autonomous safety-driving." Risk scenario-based HUDs that Park and his team have designed in their research are illustrated above. Depending on risk factors, HUDs display different information in various designs and colors, which were selected most optimally by test subjects. (Photo courtesy of Park) Park was part of a four-man team for a period of around three years, most of which was conducted at the University of Central Florida. Park's research focused on creating a stable environment for driving in dangerous situations, especially during fog, which is a big problem in Florida. Heavy rain and fog in the region make it difficult to see even a few meters ahead. In order to create a solution to this problem, Park oversaw the data acquisition of various driver assistance technologies of automobile companies as well as acquiring subjects to participate in test-driving scenarios. With the data acquired, Park and his fellow researchers developed a head-up display (HUD) based on emotional dimensions and design category factors by factoring in safety factors and user preference. HUDs are any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints, which in the case of vehicles is usually displayed on the front window. In 2017, the Korean government announced its goal of achieving partial autonomous driving (with manual overdrive during emergency situations) by 2030. Although Park believes this goal is achievable, he thinks it is impossible without an environment that supports autonomous driving. Park has said that not all cars have autonomy. Regular vehicles and vehicles with assistive driving capacities will have to share roads; thus, in order to coexist in such a shared traffic environment, it is necessary to find anomalies within the system “instead of having a false notion that one will control their surroundings by the car sensor’s readings and drive autonomously.” “I wish the idea of traffic safety is widespread among people,” said Park. “The future is important, but since people living in the present are also important, I plan on working hard to make today’s traffic environment safe.” Park (center in the front row) posed with students from the Department of Transportation and Logistics Engineering research lab in Hanyang University’s ERICA Campus. Jung Myung-suk Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon