Professor Su-Moon Park (1941 - 2013)

Su-Moon Park in his labProf. Su-Moon received his undergraduate chemistry degree from Seoul National University in 1964.  Immediately after college he worked in Korea for the Choong-Ju Fertilizer Corp. (1964-1967) and the Yong-Nam Chemical Co. (1967-1970). During this period he spent much of his free time studying, with the dream and end goal of someday pursuing further degrees in the United States.
In due course he moved to the U.S. and received an M.S. degree in organic chemistry from Texas Tech University in 1972 and then completed his Ph.D. in 1975 with Prof. Allen J. Bard (The University of Texas at Austin) in the field of electrochemistry.

During his Ph.D. studies Su-Moon was an exemplary graduate student. He was part of a group investigating the mechanisms and applications of electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL), a technique in which light is generated from electron transfer reactions of reactants in an electrochemical cell.  ECL later became an important analytical method in clinical chemistry for immunoassays and is still widely used.  Su-Moon’s work involved the generation of excited state complexes, called exciplexes, (AD)^.  He was the first to demonstrate that exciplexes could be produced electrochemically by reaction of A- and D+ to form (AD)^ and that such reactions could be observed in solvents with high dielectric constants where formation of (AD)^ by the usual approach of reaction of A*and D was not possible.  His work resulted in his Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Exciplexes in Electrogenerated Chemiluminescence” and four research papers in peer-reviewed journals.

In 1975, Su-Moon and his family packed their bags in Austin and drove across West Texas to join the chemistry faculty at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.  He remained at UNM for 20 years, and it was during this period that he established his international reputation as an electrochemist and raised his three children.  At UNM he published nearly 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles in the best national and international journals in his field.  Starting at the beginning of his independent career and continuing until his death, he was a leader in the study of electrically conducting polymers.  During his earliest days at New Mexico he also developed his interest in in-situ spectroelectrochemistry and impedance spectroscopy; methodologies he pioneered and which he subsequently applied to other electrochemical systems and materials.  Indeed, his careful experimental studies, framed with the appropriate theory, of fundamental electrochemical process in the 1990s have had an important impact on our understanding of energy storage materials, corrosion, and organic electrochemistry.  As an assistant professor, one of us (Crooks) had the privilege of being Su-Moon's colleague at UNM, and they held joint weekly research group meetings for four years.  It is difficult to imagine a better senior colleague (in every way), particularly for a new academic scientist finding his way, than Su-Moon.

Su-Moon was not all business during his time at UNM.  Indeed, he was a man of many talents and interests. While in Albuquerque, he spent hours tending to his vegetable garden.  He was a runner before running was cool and could be observed jogging around his neighborhood in the evenings (not so easy at 5000 feet!). He also enjoyed the intricacies of American football, and in particular his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys. Whenever a conference or symposium took him to a state with an NFL football team, he would return with that team's jersey for his young son, Ilsun. Summers were spent on coast-to-coast tours of the USA with his wife and children in the family station wagon. Wherever he was, Su-Moon had a knack for discovering the best fishing spots and the most scenic hiking routes.

In 1995 Su-Moon returned to Korea, where he joined the faculty of Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH).  He continued his studies of conducting polymers during this period, but he expanded his research into the fields of chemical sensing, electrochemistry in ionic liquids, and development of new electroanalytical methods.  In addition to his scientific research, he contributed his administrative talents to POSTECH as Department Chair, Dean of Sciences, Director of the POSTECH Basic Sciences Research Institute, and Director of the Center for Integrated Molecular Systems.  He was Editor-in-Chief of Bulletin of the Korean Chemical Society from 1999-2003 and President of the Korean Electrochemical Society from  2004-2005.  Throughout this period he continued to teach, and in 2005 was recognizedwith the award for best teacher from the POSTECH chemistry department.

In 2009, Su-Moon moved to Ulsan National Institute of Science & Technology (UNIST) as Chaired Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy and Director of the World Class University (WCU) program.  His contributions to research, administration of scientific research, mentoring of his junior colleagues, and teaching continued until his death. 

Su-Moon was a member of the American Chemical Society, the Electrochemical Society, the Korean Chemical Society, the Korean Electrochemical Society, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and Phi Kappa Phi. He was a Fellow of Korea Academy of Science & Technology.  During his life, he was honored with the T. K. Rhee Award of the Korean Chemical Society (2000); the Q. W. Choi Award in electrochemistry from the Korean Chemical Society (2001); The Khwarizmi International Award from the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology and UNESCO (2008); and the Sudang Prize from the Sudang Foundation (2010).  He was recognized as one of the Highly Cited Researchers in Materials Science by ISI-Thomson Scientific and as one of the 25 most prolific authors for the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.  Altogether he published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles and book chapters and was awarded 12 patents. He co-authored two books: S.-M. Park and C.-H. Pyun, "Microcomputers in Laboratories" (1989); and W. Paik and S.-M. Park, “Electrochemistry – Science and Technology of Interfaces and Electrode Processes” (2001). He presented more than 400 scientific lectures around the world.

Although he had a great passion for research, study, and expanding the knowledge of his field of electrochemistry, Su-Moon's greatest love and passion were for his family: his wife, Sunhee; daughters Hyesun and Minsun; and his son and daughter-in-law: Ilsun and Eliza. He often entertained his family with his singing and dancing, which would always bring laughter. He regaled his children with tall tales from his own youth, and encouraged them to be imaginative free thinkers.  He always enjoyed conferences and traveling more when his wife, Sunhee, was able to accompany him, and in 45 years of marriage he never once forgot her birthday or wedding anniversary.  His passion for his students was a very close second to that of his family.  Despite his many other professional responsibilities, he always found time to meet with his students to discuss their professional and personal concerns.  He cared about people around him and wanted them to enjoy a life as happy and fulfilling as his own.  Indeed, Su-Moon was a bit of an amateur philosopher. He said “No man grows by himself. A man is delicately raised by absorbing benefits from people and their society. Once he is grown up, he has to return those benefits to the society and is obliged to grow another him by doing the same things. This is the way of making the world better generation by generation.”  Su-Moon was a humble and highly respected man, and yet his influence on those who knew him was profound. 

On January 15, 2013, Prof. Su-Moon Park was laid to rest in Chungju, South Korea, on the hillside where he played as a child, overlooking the house where he was born, next to his mother.  He will be missed.  However, for those of us who had the honor to call him father, husband, friend, colleague, or mentor, it is easy to close our eyes and see the honorable professor in a neat and humble suit with grey hair, warm smile, soft but persuasive voice, and compassionate eyes.

Ilsun Park
Allen J. Bard
Richard M. Crooks
Byoung-Yong Chang

Su-Moon Park in his lab