International scholars pursue research in engineering, literature at Brandywine

MEDIA, Pa. — This spring, Penn State Brandywine is hosting two international scholars: Jaime Mesa of Colombia and Hojin Oh of South Korea.

Mesa is a doctoral student from Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia — a university that requires each student to complete an international internship. He heard about Brandywine through Associate Professor of Engineering Ivan Esparragoza, a Brandywine faculty member, fellow Colombian and Universidad del Norte alumnus.

“Ivan Esparragoza has been a great help,” said Mesa. “He works on many interesting topics and his experience has been very useful to me.”

Mesa’s own studies focus on design using principles of modularity and sustainability.

“I’m working to develop design methods that use fewer resources, yet retain functionality and better features,” he said. “I hope to work with prosthetic hands for children that can be used to play sports or ride a bicycle, not just for lighter tasks.”

Mesa plans to write a portion of his thesis during his six months at Brandywine. He will also work on creating prototypes of his product designs, aided by Esparragoza.

“It’s easier for me to find information and databases here than it is in Colombia,” he said. “The point of view in terms of research is much broader.”

Although Mesa jokes about the woes of adjusting to the cold Pennsylvania climate, he has found a dependable, welcoming support system at Brandywine.

“I like it here,” he said. “Most of the people know each other, including the professors and staff assistants, so it’s easy to meet new people.”

The second visiting scholar, Hojin Oh, is a professor of English literature at Hanbat University in South Korea. During his year in the United States, he will conduct research on the poetic imagination and writing processes of John Keats and John Clare. He will also work on a British poetry textbook for Korean students.

“Comparing British and Korean poetry is quite popular in the English department at my campus,” Oh said. “Both forms make similar points about life, but from different psychological points of view. The religions, traditions and folklore in my country are different and that influences how we write.”

Oh chose to study in the U.S. for two reasons: access to a plethora of literary research materials and the chance to reconnect with Byeong Chul Ben Park, professor of human development and family studies at Brandywine.

“Dr. Park and I are old friends from my undergraduate days,” Oh said. “It’s been good to be under the same sky as him again.”

Although he already has one good friend on campus, Oh has quickly found a home away from home among the faculty and students of Brandywine.

“I love this campus and the Brandywine people I’ve met so far,” he said. “Everyone is so kind and friendly. When I visited for the first time, it reminded me of my undergraduate campus in South Korea.”

While in the U.S., Oh plans to finish at least one article about the works of Keats and Clare. He also intends to study the relationship between British romantic poetry and environmentalism. When he returns to South Korea next year, he hopes to facilitate a continued relationship between his own university and Brandywine.

“I want to be Brandywine’s ambassador to South Korea,” he said. “I will try to keep in touch and support conversation between this campus and Korean students.”