By Matthew Chin

Chang-Jin “CJ” Kim, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and leader in microfluidics and micro-eletro-mechamical systems (MEMS), has received the 2015 Ho-Am Prize for Engineering.

Established in 1990 by Kun-Hee Lee, the chairman of Samsung, the Ho-Am prize is considered the Korea’s highest honor for science, engineering, medicine, the arts and community service. The Prizes are named for Samsung’s late founder Byung-chull Lee, whose nickname was “Ho-Am.” The Ho-Am Prize for Engineering “covers the entire field of basic engineering and applied technology, and is presented to people of Korean heritage whose accomplishments have contributed to the development of industry for greater prosperity for humanity.”

Kim, who joined the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1993, is best known for pioneering work in microfluidic MEMS, specifically with the electrowetting on dielectrics or EWOD – that is, manipulating and moving micro-scale size droplets of fluids on surface using only electric voltages. Kim is continuing research in this field, which has applications such as lab-on-a-chip, camera lenses, and electronic paper.

Kim has also made major breakthroughs in creating micro- and nanoscale structures that control the solid-liquid interactions. Applications in this area include reducing drag of water vehicles, as well as preventing surface founding in biology and medicine. Most recently, he led research published in Science in 2014 that demonstrated the first true “superomniphobic” surface, which repels all liquids including those with the lowest known surface tensions.

Born in South Korea, Kim received his bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Kim, who was in Seoul during UCLA’s spring break, received an email last Friday from the Samsung Foundation which allocates the prize asking him to call them. Thinking at first, they might have been asking about his thoughts on potential candidates, he called them back. He did not know he was a nominee. The committee let Kim know he was this year’s laureate for engineering. He was overwhelmed.

“The individuals who have won the Ho-Am Prize are role models and even heroes to the Korean people, and to be named as this year’s laureate for engineering is both a tremendous honor and humbling one as well,” Kim said. “I want to thank the many amazing students that I’ve enjoyed teaching and mentoring at UCLA and my colleagues who are a pleasure and inspiration to work with.”

Kim is the third UCLA faculty member to win the prize. The previous two, also members of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, are J. John Kim, the Rockwell International professor, who received the prize for engineering in 2002, and H. Thomas Hahn, a distinguished professor emeritus, who received the prize for engineering in 1999.

Recipients of the Ho-Am Prize are each presented with Diploma, a pure gold medal (187.5g) and a cash prize of 300 million Korean Won (about $275,000). On days both prior to and following the prize ceremony on June 1, the laureates present a series of lectures at universities and research organizations for specialists as well as the general public and youth.