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Renowned physics professor Moo-Young Han remembered for his passion for the field

<p>Moo-Young Han taught physics at Duke for 44 years and was the founding chairman of the Society of Korean-American Scholars.</p>

Moo-Young Han taught physics at Duke for 44 years and was the founding chairman of the Society of Korean-American Scholars.

Moo-Young Han, professor emeritus of physics, passed away May 15 due to heart complications. 

Han began teaching in the physics department in 1967 and after 44 years of teaching, he retired in 2011. He was a recipient of some of the highest faculty honors, including the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1971. Lawrence Evans, professor emeritus of physics and former chair of the physics department, noted that Han would be missed.

“Han was a student favorite in introductory physics courses," Evans said. “He had a flair for surprise and humor.” 

According to his family, Han taught himself physics while growing up in wartime Korea with the goal of someday coming to the United States.

“He was part of the lucky few in the first wave of immigrants to America after the [Korean] war," his son Tony Han said.

Han completed his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of Rochester, and he became well-known in the physics world in 1965 when he introduced a hidden symmetry among quarks which became the basis for the quantum chromodynamics theory describing strong nuclear forces in the Standard Model of particle physics.

While teaching at Duke, Han maintained strong connections with the Asian scientific community. He served as the president of both the Association of Korean Physicists in America from 1985 to 1986 and the Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association from 1991 to 1992. 

"His presence, leadership and mentorship will be missed by many younger scholars, especially among the Korean Americans," Jungsang Kim, professor of electrical and computer engineering, said.

According to his wife Kay Han, Han’s proudest honorary position was as the founding chairman of the Society of Korean-American Scholars, an organization whose primary focus is "to inform, enlighten and empower" the global Korean community by providing a platform for intellectual exchange. For over two decades, Han’s leadership of the Society of Korean-American Scholars helped to broaden his influence across the globe. 

Han wrote numerous books for lay audiences covering topics in the field of quantum physics. 

"He was dedicated to making physics knowledge more accessible to all," his son Chris Han said.

Han’s children said they remember their father as a peaceful man who had a profound appreciation for amusing stories and the natural world. In their description of Han, they emphasized his sense of humor, as well as his love for scenic photography and travel. His family described his retirement as a quiet one in which he was able to do the things he loved most.

“He was particularly fond of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, and he often spent his summers traveling with the family and enjoying the outdoors,” Chris Han said.

Han’s memorial service will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. June 25 in the rotunda at the Washington Duke Inn. His family has invited all members of the Duke community to attend.


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