Yoonseok who was sitting alongside the Senior Researchers massaged his temples as he watched the second presenter stuttering to answer. Gitae, senior temporary researcher and Kaist alumni. The recruit Yoonseok had come to know through the End of the week Conference was nowhere near as timid as he was being now.
Yoonseok also enjoyed putting on the pressure. He believed that a proper amount of whipping helped improve work efficiency. But the style of assessment that the Center Heads were giving now far surpassed the level that can be called intimidation and reached the point of violence. None of them realized this because they were looking down from a high position. And because Songu was watching the Heads of Centers continue with their shameful conduct like he was watching children play, Yoonseok could do nothing but let out sighs.
‘Was my suggestion a mistake?’
Yoonseok gazed over to the one who had moved the Chief today.
Jungwu Han. This twenty six years old young man took many noteworthy actions from the moment he joined. As if he was Seungguk Chun from his student days at Heidelberg.
‘I don’t know to what extent he will meet our expectations.’
If this young man is able to show something that far surpasses his expectation, then the man would bring about new winds of change from within KG Chemicals.
“Hello, I’m G…Gyumin Suh. The presentation I have prepared is for improving the yield of Substrate Glass mass produced for KG Chemical’s primary display TFT-LCD…”
“Core business line. A clever plan. I like it.”
“The topic of factory yield improvement research is already underway by our Electronics Center as one of the long term projects. This presentation is far lacking in comparison.”
Each time the Head of Centers butted heads between one who liked the project and another who pointed out flaws, the expressions of the recruits grew increasingly dyed with helplessness. The same happened to the one after, and even the next presenter after that; the process of three months worth of preparations and hard work being thoroughly dismantled along with their mental state repeated itself.
“Adhesive tape? Researcher Gaehyung Yi. Did you really think that a research project can be carried out with just one reaction formula of Mussel Adhesive Material’s interaction with the metallic components found on surfaces of rocks?”
“If the tape is capable of remaining adhesive under water, then it has applications in Medicine or Electronics Technology…”
“That’s unrealistically optimistic. It’s good to dream big, but your dreams must remain a realistic one for KG Chemicals.”
The Head of Fundamental Elements Center’s rather blunt criticism of the Recruit made the rest of the Temp Researchers present sigh all together in solidarity.
An hour passed, and finally, even Sunghwan Jo finished his presentation and had taken his seat.
“Seventh Presenter please come forward.”
Jungwu rose from his seat at Manager Jun’s voice. He felt the blank stares of the knocked down and battered Temp Researchers gather on his back as he walked up to the podium.
‘It somehow feels like I’m walking toward my doom.’
Sunghwan who had gone earlier and taken a long barrage from the Head of Pharmaceutical Center gave a thumbs up and an energyless smile when their eyes met.
‘I thought things might turn out this way.’
The points in the presentation that Jungwu felt were bland or lacking during the practice earlier were exactly what the Center Heads had pointed out as well.
From the very moment, the topic they had prepared began to be thoroughly dismantled, confidence was erased from the faces of the Temp Researchers. But Jungwu who had seen the passion and the effort that had gone into the preparations felt a bit sorry for them.
“Sigh, who am I to worry about others. I need to worry about myself first.’
Manager Jun began to speak while Jungwu was adjusting the height of the mic.
“Colleague Jungwu Han is an intern who just joined us last week. We have decided to include him in the Project Proposal assessment to see what kind of vision and worth he has as a researcher. Please take this into consideration in his assessment.”
And finally, the silence began. Jungwu felt naked and exposed as the gathering of all the highest ranking researchers of KG Chemicals collectively stared down upon him together.
The trembling and anxiety akin to the first ever job interview.
Here, TOEIC score, GPA, oratory prowess to make everyone laugh and crack jokes were all useless. He had no choice but to show something to prove his worth as a chemist.
“My name is Jungwu Han and I have prepared a presentation on the research of ‘Stronger than Steel Plastics’.”
The PT file he had prepared appeared on the screen and then Jungwu began to speak without interruption or hesitation as he gave his presentation. He had spent the entire morning reviewing the chemical knowledge in his head. Even if he didn’t put in any effort to memorize the information, he already understood the principles through and through and the words came smoothly to him. Few of the Heads looked curious as his flawless presentation carried on. It was a very positive sign.
“…when the method is applied to liquid mix, it causes the string-shaped molecules to become pulled and organized. And if they are solidified in that state, it becomes a product with a high percentage of crystalline structure.”
Jungwu was about to continue with his presentation when he was stopped by the Head of Fundamental Elements Center.
“Did you prepare this PT?”
“Unless I’ve read this CV wrong, aren’t you a Business Major?”
“Yes, sir that is correct.”
“That’s correct? If that’s correct then how…”
“Hey, Professor Jang. Don’t interrupt the presentation. He was in the middle of presenting a riveting method of successfully creating a 90% crystalline structured material.” The Head of Material Sciences Center Jongsun No who had been bickering with Taesun Jang all throughout the presentations motioned for Jungwu to continue.
“This liquid has adhesive properties. And if this is flattened using high speed…”
“…a new material that can compete with Metals and Ceramics. This is the 1st objective of this research topic.”
When the presentation that was incomparable to the material presented by the other six recruits was over, the Center Heads who had been derailing and shutting down the research topics were momentarily at loss for words.
“Who would like to comment first?”
Manager Jun smiled slightly as he asked. As the one in charge of training, he did not like to watch the new hires be crushed. And Jungwu did not seem like he was about to be.
“Time is passing. Are there no one who wishes to ask anything?”
Taesun Jang turned on the mic.
“Intern Jungwu Han. About the crystallization process. Using no additives and relying only on the process itself… how did you come up with this?”
Jungwu looked at the string-shaped molecular structure that had appeared over the PT on the screen as he carefully answered.
“I based the idea on molecules that already exist in nature. Protein or DNA Polymers are able to perform their function thanks to the ability of replicating and constructing itself.”
“That perspective is quite…different. Is it because you’re a non-professional? This research has low cost, low energy and material consumption, low carbon emission, and can even bring long term benefits to society as a whole. Excellent work.”
“Eh… Society as a whole?”
Because Jungwu had not prepared this research with such a grandiose vision, he could not give a proper answer in response. Taesun continued,
“And me interrupting you in the middle of presentation was simply out of amazement. A young intern like you basically appeared out of nowhere. You said you joined just a week ago? Your future looks very bright.”
“Anyway this topic is also under the umbrella of Fundamental Elements Lab. Bravo. Congratulations and welcome to our Center.”
Taesun began with praises and ended with orders for personnel relocation. When this happened Jongsun No who had been doing nothing but exclaim at Jungwu quickly opened his mic to interject.
“Since it’s a 90% Crystallization method, I’ll give you 90 points. You don’t need to go through complicated paperwork and process and start immediately at the Material Sciences Lab and begin the project. You should aim for 100 points, don’t you think?”
“Professor No, you can’t just decide that without…”
“Wait. Come to the Electronics Development Center. We have a research slot vacant so we can supply funding immediately. It means that we can start the research project before we even do the inauguration.”
“Hey, Professor Huh! You just finished telling us that you lacked MT Funds and had to cut cost at consumables! Then reduce your Project Subsidy share!”
“Why are you bringing up the Project Subsidy funds now?”
The question and answer time once again devolved into a battleground for the Heads.
“Since there were three proposals in the presentation for just Fundamental Elements lab, please give us first pick.”
“Professor Jang, is this some sort of Horse race? Choose what and pick what? Let’s just follow the procedure.”
“Wait, how can you change your mind just because you have talent you want to grab? You agreed to simplify the procedure earlier!”
The good thing was that there didn’t appear to be a Head that had a poor opinion of him. Jungwu let out a sigh in relief as if a burden was lifted from him.
He raised a thumb towards Gitae and Sunghwan who had grown very close to him during the last break. And they too bowed their head toward Jungwu as a show of thanks.
‘It’s such a relief that the presentation is over’
It was when he was thinking it was all over and started being happy that he gazed over and saw the first speaker Pilho Kim who was sitting on one end of the room looking forlorn. None of the Heads had given him much attention. And therefore, he was unable to leave a lasting impression.
The expression on Pilho’s face was strangely familiar. Jungwu’s own expression had been like that back in spring when he was going around to interviews when he saw competitors being praised for giving good answers and feeling empty inside. Even Gitae and Sunghwan who had clapped for Jungwu showed signs of bitterness and regret at the corner of their lips.
‘So this is competition. This.’
Jungwu stood quietly because it didn’t look like the Center Heads were going to be done anytime soon with their conversations. No matter which Center he is sent to, he didn’t really mind so he had thought that as soon as things calmed down a bit, he would be able to hear next directions from the ones in charge.
“It was a very impressive presentation.”
But then, the Chief researcher Songu suddenly turned on his mic. His seemingly laid back but somehow heavy voice caused all the Heads to shut up in an instant.
A serene silence fell over the room.
“Intern Jungwu Han.”
“Yes, Chief sir.”
“There’s still plenty of time remaining for presentation, is there nothing you would like to add?”
He suddenly had a thought when he saw the expression on the Chief’s face that reminded him of a friendly neighborhood grandfather.
‘He’s someone difficult to deal with, huh.’
“It’s all fine so please speak freely.”
It was sanctioned by the Chief Researcher himself. Jungwu felt that he should do whatever he can that was within his power.
“This isn’t my topic, but there was something I wanted to add to Pilho Kim’s presentation.”
Jungwu turned to check on Pilho. Pilho nodded his head to show it was fine to continue. He must have also felt nervous because of the Chief.
“Is that so? Please go on.”
As soon as the Chief finished speaking, Manager Jun who had been hanging on to every word on the exchange quickly searched for and put on the PT material for the first presentation on the screen.
“Please go to the image on the 4th page, Manager.”
Jungwu’s gaze stopped on the image that showed the window glass and coating material. And as he thought, the chemical reaction formula popped up and enlarged itself, making it possible for Jungwu to understand what was going on in the microscopic world on an intuitive level.
“One of the Head has stated that insulation coating research is difficult to advance.”
Fundamental Elements Lab Head Taesun Jang turned on his mic in response.
“That is correct. There is no room in the market to enter.”
“What if we use material that has 3 times the average energy savings?” said Jungwu
“Is there still such a groundbreaking material yet to be found?”
“Ah, is 3 times something groundbreaking?”
Jungwu quickly checked the values listed in his documents and replied.
“If we apply ‘light control’ thin film coating that allows the glass to become transparent or mirror-like, then the effectiveness rises to 6 times. It reflects light during summer and allows the light to pass during winter so it maximizes the seasonal energy savings.”
“It can be done by making the reaction responsible for reflecting the visible spectrum of light be reversible by using palladium and hydrogen gas reactions.
“Hmm? This will need some further study.”
“Professor Jang. What do you mean by further study? Don’t you understand? Intern Jungwu. Give us a more detailed explanation.” Professor Huh intervened.
Jungwu had no choice but to walk over toward the screen at the Head’s orders and pointed toward the area between the glass and the glass frame.
“This part. If the Thin Film alloy in charge of the management of light becomes hydrogenated then it becomes transparent, and if it becomes dehydrogenated due to oxygen, then it becomes a mirror. If Palladium is too expensive, then we can redirect the research toward Magnesium or a Nickel alloy.”
Taesun became mute. If this was right, then let alone not being at the end of the road for development and research, the success of the project would give it a good chance of becoming the number 1 research project in the entire research center.
Taesun grimaced due to being stuck between being unable to go back and withdraw or modify his statement from earlier in fear of losing face before the other Heads and not being able to openly admit he was wrong. Professor Iljung Huh, the Head of the Electronics Center who had been bickering the most with him throughout the presentations began to laugh loudly.
“Hey Professor Jang, it looks like the project you were putting down just got resuscitated by that intern.”
“I get it so please shut up.”
“It was such a good idea to participate today. I never thought I’d see such a precious sight.”
Taesun Jang, who became enraged glared at Jungwu as he asked, “Any other thoughts? What about the PT Professor Huh had attacked?”
Jungwu tilted his head until he recalled the information on Solar Power Panel that Gitae had presented.
“It’s not that there is none but…”
“Then go ahead and say it. That’s the whole point of question and answer session.”
This time Manager Jun put Gitae’s file on the screen. Meanwhile, the Chief who had been smiling throughout the bickering of the heads had already withdrawn from the discussion.
Jungwu watched the screen as he carefully expressed his opinion.
“Someone said earlier that research on improving the efficiency of a semiconductor is too broad to be a research project and therefore it was pointless…”
“You are correct. Professor Huh had said that.”
Iljung was forced to swallow back a groan when Taesun immediately pointed that out.
Jungwu watched the chemical hologram images of ring-shaped compound melting down to liquid form and floating over the surface of the semiconductor as he answered.
“What do you think about using ‘silicon ink’ that turns to liquid when heated rather than standard silicon for the research development direction? So that there is no waste silicon and is more efficient.”
“What do you mean by liquid?”
“Expose Cyclopentasilane under x ray to change it to Polyhydrosilane, then melt that with an organic solvent. If we drop this liquid on the glass surface and then give it high speed rotation, then it will spread across the surface evenly. If heated.”
Manager Jun typed extremely quickly so that as soon as Jungwu suggested a new perspective on the research projects, it was added into the PT as an addendum.
The rest of the researchers naturally turned to look at Jungwu after he made two Heads of Centers fall quiet. And up until now, the other Heads with the exception of Fundamental Elements Lab and Electronics Development Lab had been laughing away.
And then, Iljung decided that he didn’t want to be the only one singled out so he pointed toward the Information Electronics Materials Lab’s Head, Sungbo Kim.
“What do you think about displays? Professor Kim had a lot to criticize on that one.”
Jungwu scratched his chin. He didn’t know if this was okay but like how chemical reactions could not be stopped midway, he felt like the situation was past the point where it could be stopped.
Manager Jung opened up the 3rd PT that Gyumin had prepared like it was the most natural thing in the world and Sungbo Kim let out a groan mixed with nervousness.
“Professor Sungbo Kim.”
“You can’t possibly…”
“No, it’s not a major thought or anything. Production efficiency improvements of the Display category are under the umbrella of microelectronics sciences, right? I have a lot of interest in things happening on a tiny scale. Please consider this just my opinion on the matter as you listen. Try to reimagine the program not on a microscopic scale but on a nanoscopic scale…”
Sungbo grew quieter and quieter as Jungwu continued to bring up more and more opinions up.
There seemed to be some sort of a domino effect. When Manager Jun put up the PT for the 4th presentation that the Yungshik Oo had given on the topic of batteries, the Head of Center that had criticized it the most couldn’t help but gasp in surprise.
“The thing about experiments involving Hydrogen tanks, it has quite a high risk.”
“What about storing it inside a storage unit with Carbon Nano Tubes? Graphite Nanofiber might also be worth researching. The microscopic holes that Hydrogen atoms can fit into seemed to synergize well to make a fairly sturdy structure…”
“Uh, then it won’t be that dangerous. My comment earlier did not take into consideration the super nanoscopic storage solutions.”
Head of Material Science Center Jongsun No who had been very enthusiastic about Jungwu from the very start spoke softly to Manager Jun when the man exhibited a terrifying initiative and moved onto the 5th presentation material.
“Human Resources Manager Yunghak Jun. Jungwu did not ask for you to put this one up.”
“Is that so? Jungwu ssi, do you have any comments about this one?” asked Manager Jun.
The attention of the other researchers who were observing became refocused at this question.
“I kind of do,” said Jungwu.
“Must you do things this way? It’s me, Head of Material Sciences Center. We ought to research a 100 point project together.” Jongsun glared at Manager Jun as he asked, “And aren’t we out of presentation time anyway?”
“We have 3 minutes and 23 seconds remaining.” Manager Jun answered as if he was expecting the question.
The temp researchers who were sitting right by the podium from some time ago sported smiles, too busy watching the expression of the Heads as they struggled because of Jungwu.
“About Adhesive Tape…”
“I don’t remember.”
There was a round of laughter when Jongsun immediately denied any knowledge.
“Not just adhesive, but you know that wrinkle that can be seen on the underside of a Lizard’s feet? It’s called Setae right? If this fine unevenness can be utilized to make an adhesion reaction, then would it be enough to make it a research project?”
“It isn’t enough with just those two.”
“Of course, I also agree that two is not enough. So I was thinking, what about also making it adhesive in visible light and fall off when exposed to UV ray by using Photocurable Resin?”
Jungwu checked the structure of the gigantic atomic constellation that appeared before his eyes before continuing. “Azobenzene becomes straight in Visible light, and bends under UV, you know.”
“Is it still not enough? I guess I still have much to learn.” Jungwu was completely unhesitant in each and every one of his replies. Jongsun was particularly impressed by this point and exclaimed.
“No, it’s not bad. It is plenty worth researching. I give 85 points after all these changes.”
When even Jongsun acknowledged it, the Senior researchers who outranked even the Heads began to give applause.
“Intern Jungwu Han.”
Taesun who was the first to be embarrassed by Jungwu’s comments had been quiet for the most part, but after all other Heads were similarly humiliated, he had begun to grin widely and opened his mic.
“Let me just ask one question. All of these changes and comments to the research proposals. Did you come up with all of these ideas?”
“Strictly speaking, I wasn’t alone.”
“I learned from the comments of the Heads of the centers. I am very thankful for the lesson.”
“You pushed Professor Huh to the corner and now you’re being humble? You’re exactly what Fundamental Elements Lab needs. Since our line of research usually begins with questioning existing materials.”
All the other Heads were shocked at the face of Taesun’s brazen attempt to steal away Jungwu’s favor with a compliment.