Dr. Woosoon Yim's Projects Push the Limits of Active Materials and Biomedical Research

Apr. 25, 2011

It was recently announced, that Mechanical engineering professor Woosoon Yim, has been selected to receive the 2011 Harry Reid Silver State Research Award, which was established to recognize research that is both highly regarded and is responsive to the needs of the community and state. The award is funded by private donations through the UNLV Foundation.

Yim, whose areas of expertise include: dynamics, active material control, and robotics, is humble about his own work and reticent to discuss his accomplishments, but when asked about his department’s recent performance in the last ABET accreditation process, he can’t say enough! The evaluators found no areas of concern, which is like making straight A’s in the world of accreditation.

Dr. Yim is a focused and dedicated researcher, instructor, and administrator. He received his B.S., from Hanyang University; and both his M.S., and Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Just this past year, Dr. Yim was created Fellow of the ASME.

I sat down with Dr. Yim today to ask him about his research and how he feels about receiving this prestigious award. How did you feel about winning the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award?

“Well, actually I didn’t expect it,” he said. “This was the first time I have ever applied for an award, so I was very surprised!” “I thought that maybe there were not so many applicants,” he says laughing.

What projects are you currently working on?

“I brought in money from the National Science Foundation (NSF) with my work on developing a polymer actuator that I want to adapt for use in catheters.” When asked if there were any other current projects on his plate, Dr. Yim explained, “I am also working on a project for Sandia National Labs in New Mexico that includes creating a database for processed hydro and environmental data. This work is taking place in Carlsbad where they store low-level and medium level nuclear waste. Not the kind of waste they were talking about for Yucca Mountain.”

As the Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, how do you find extra time to work on your research?

“I come early and I leave late. I come in on weekends to do my research work when it is quiet.”

How have you selected your projects over the years?

“I’m not really in the position of selecting my projects. They select me. I have something that interests me and then I look for an application that will attract interest and hopefully research monies. Often my projects are continuations of others.”

Did you go to college planning to become a mechanical engineer?

“I did not know what a Mechanical engineer was. I was very influenced by what my friends were doing. I always had an aptitude for math, logic, and analytical thinking, so these things helped.” I commented that he must also have a great deal of creativity to imagine new things and to develop the ways in which to present them to different groups to gain support. “I have never thought about this, but I suppose it is true,” he replied, smiling.

Is mechanical engineering a good choice for today’s students?

“Students in Mechanical engineering can be easily connected to other engineering disciplines, especially in graduate work, there are so many options for them.” Dr. Yim explained that every engineering student would benefit from the basics of mechanical engineering.