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LETU Engineering Professor Wins $400,000 NSF CAREER Grant


LeTourneau University Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Seung Kim has been awarded a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award (CAREER) of $400,000 over the next five years, beginning June 1, 2014. The NSF CAREER Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards for early career faculty.

The grant is in support of his biomedical research to develop a low-cost, highly sensitive and portable biosensor device which will be able to test for multiple diseases such as cancers using a small amount of a biological sample, usually blood.

"Research work like Dr. Seung Kim is doing here at LeTourneau University is a great example of the cutting-edge research and hands-on education that our students participate in, even as undergraduates," said LETU President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford. "The work he is doing could have a life-changing impact on our students as well as on people in developed and developing countries around the world."

Dr. Kim's design is composed of a biosensor with a simple, two-reflecting-mirror structure (optical resonance cavity) constructed using well-known microfabrication processes. The simple design of the device ensures it will be low cost, making it accessible to patients in both developed and developing countries.

Since early detection of diseases is key to treating them effectively, it is crucial for patients to be tested regularly. This device will enable tests to be conducted by patients in their homes or at a physician's office, in lieu of extensive and time-consuming tests, allowing the patient to regularly monitor for the presence of diseases.

Enabling patients to test themselves regularly will allow diseases to be discovered early and allow for more effective and less expensive treatments.

"My educational goals are to educate engineers with a very strong background and hands-on experience in the demanding fields of micro-, nano-, and biotechnology and to provide female and minority high school students the opportunities to learn about this exciting field," Dr. Kim said.

To accomplish these goals, Kim will provide summer research experiences for undergraduate students at LeTourneau University as well as local high school students through this grant. He also will offer a course in microfabrication and semiconductor/microfluidic processes and a senior design capstone course through which undergraduate LeTourneau students can gain broad knowledge and hand-on experience in the micro-, nano-, and biotechnology fields.

Kim received his bachelor's degree in Physics from the University of Suwon, South Korea, and his master's degree in Electrical Engineering and his doctorate in Optical Science and Engineering both from University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"Dr. Kim's is the first NSF CAREER grant awarded to an engineering professor at LeTourneau University, and may well be the first NSF CAREER grant awarded to any professor in the Council of Christian Colleges and Schools, which comprises over 100 universities," said Dr. Ron DeLap, dean of engineering at LETU. "We are extremely proud of the work he is doing and the educational opportunity it affords to our engineering students to be involved in this cutting-edge research."

The first year of this faculty early career development grant provides over $140,000 for equipment, with funding for the second through fifth year contingent on progress reported in annual reports due to the NSF each March. For more information on Dr. Kim's research at LeTourneau, visit: www.letu.edu/biosensors.

About LeTourneau University
LeTourneau University is a Christ-centered, interdenominational institute of higher learning offering more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a range of academic disciplines and delivery models. Students are enrolled in programs on ground at LETU's residential campus in Longview, Texas, as well as hybrid and fully online options at educational centers in Dallas and Houston.

Academic majors include aviation, business, communication, computer science, criminal justice, education, engineering, health care administration, health science-nursing, human services, kinesiology, the liberal arts, psychology, the sciences and theology.

Claiming every workplace in every nation as their mission field, LeTourneau University graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christlike character who see life's work as a holy calling with eternal impact. For additional information, visit www.letu.edu.

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