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Chemical engineer receives prestigious Korean honor

April 3, 2013

Sangtae Kim, who has held both faculty and leadership positions at the UW–Madison, has received the 2013 Ho-Am Prize in Engineering, the highest honor from South Korea for research accomplishments in science, engineering, technology and math fields.

Photo: Kim

Sangtae Kim in 2009

Photo: Jeff Miller

Samsung chairman Kun-Hee Lee established the prize, which is awarded in science, engineering, medicine, the arts, and community service categories, in 1990, in honor of Samsung founder “Ho-Am” Byung-Chull Lee. The engineering prize recognizes Kim’s global leadership in microhydrodynamics (now known as microfluidics) research, which deals with fluid behavior and control on tiny scales. Kim has developed new mathematical models for pharmaceutical informatics and improved microfluidic self-assembly processes for inexpensive radio-frequency identification tags.

Kim since has applied his advances in the field to create multi-scale approaches to rational computer-aided drug design. In January 2013, he launched ProWD Sciences, a drug design and development company based on those approaches.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, who was raised in Canada, Kim earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in 1979, in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He received his PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton in 1983 and joined what now is the UW–Madison Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, holding the title Wisconsin Distinguished Professor from 1991 to 1997.

In 1997, Kim left UW–Madison to work in the pharmaceutical industry, first with Parke-Davis and later with Eli Lilly and Co. Later, he spent 18 months at the National Science Foundation as the first director of the Division of Shared Cyberinfrastructure. He became a professor of chemical engineering and mechanical engineering at Purdue University in 2003 and returned to UW–Madison in fall 2008 to lead the Morgridge Institute for Research, the private side of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID). Currently, he is a visiting professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW–Madison.

Kim, whose honors include induction in 2001 as a member of the National Academy of Engineering, says the Ho-Am prize is a great honor. “I hope that this can draw attention to the innovation and drug discovery initiatives, not just in my company, but throughout the region,” he says.

Kim will receive the Ho-Am Prize at a ceremony May 31 in Seoul.

—Renee Meiller

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