Dr. Sunho Choi joined the Department of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor in September 2011. The rapid growth in education and research and the department’s focus on nano, energy, and environmental research areas are factors that influenced Dr. Choi’s decision to come to Northeastern. He believes it was a perfect match for him, his family, and his work.
Dr. Choi received his B.S. degree in materials science and engineering from Hanyang University in Korea in 2000 before going to the University of Minnesota (UMN) to pursue his doctoral degree.At UMN he worked on making novel nanocomposite membranes for gas separation and proton-exchange membranes for fuel cells, such as those for H2 separation from CO2 and other gas mixtures targeting the pre-combustion CO2 capture.
Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 2008, Dr. Choi went to the Georgia Institute of Technology for his postdoctoral research where he spent three years before coming to Northeastern. At Georgia Tech he continued to work in the same research area and his work was focused on developing novel adsorbents and heterogeneous catalysts with tailored nanostructures for the application of post-combustion CO2 capture and air capture, as well as biomass conversion for fuel production.
Dr. Choi hopes to contribute to the department’s advanced materials research by introducing new aspects including the use of nanostructured materials for the energy and environmental applications. He also hopes to extend his research theme and specialties toward broader areas of clean energy research, including the development of novel nanostructured materials for the production/purification/storage of renewable energy such as hydrogen. Based on the fundamental understanding of nanostructured frameworks and their hybrids, Dr. Choi’s group is developing novel strategies for catalysis and advanced separation, which could provide breakthrough technologies for clean and alternative energy employment. For instance, one of the projects within the research group includes the development of advanced hybrid adsorbents that could find its applications in CO2 capture from the environment.
In the fall of 2011, Dr. Choi taught the undergraduate level course Conservation Principles in Chemical Engineering. Although he has teaching experiences from previous institutions, he experimented to find the best way to provide fundamental understanding of the key concepts and basic principles of the course.
Throughout the semester, he tried to develop his own way of teaching and find the perfect balance between efficiency, personal style, and students’ needs. He implemented different methods of teaching such as the traditional chalk talk and power point slides to find the best way to interactively teach. From this experience, Dr. Choi believes he has learned a lot about teaching and significantly improved his skills in the field. Since his first class of teaching and meetings with students, he advised all of his students to try and “taste” both fields of academia and industry during their undergraduate career to find what it is they truly “love”. For instance, students “could utilize two of the co-op opportunities in research labs at Northeastern and in companies that would help them to decide on what they want to do in the future with a minimum amount of trial and error”, he says. Dr. Choi’s door is always open to anyone who is struggling with these life-depending choices.
In the future, Dr. Choi hopes to develop a new course in polymer science to further expand the current educational course list. As for the role of an advisor, Dr. Choi believes students will learn best through their own experiences, trial and error, and failures and successes just as he did when he was a student. He hopes to be an advisor who would provide the big picture and would help his students to become self-standing and independent researchers upon graduation. He also hopes that his students would be capable of designing and solving scientific questions with unique engineering approaches whether it will be in academia or industry. He expects students who join his group to be self-motivated and ready to learn and experience the fundamentals “beyond the buttons”. Currently, the research group already collaborates with other departments at Northeastern, such as Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. They also have a mutual agreement with Dr. Mukerjee’s lab in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology to allow students of both groups to freely use the instruments and characterization tools in each lab in addition to research-wise collaborations. Dr. Choi is open to any interested undergraduate student who is seeking research opportunities. Also, there is the possibility for the group to grow by two or more graduate students this upcoming academic year.
When not researching or teaching, Dr. Choi spends most of his free time with his family. He enjoys swimming, playing soccer, and visiting libraries and museums with his kids.