The International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA), the largest professional academic organization in the field of textiles and fashion, has awarded Huiju Park, associate professor of fiber science & apparel design (FSAD), the prestigious Mid-Career Excellence Award.
Park’s research focuses on functional apparel design using emergent technologies and science to provide creative solutions to issues of human well-being, comfort and protection. In the nine years he has been a faculty member of the College of Human Ecology, he has secured $6 million in research funding from various agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the USDA.
Park has improved the design and design evaluation of personal protective equipment for first responders, military personnel and firefighters, as well as gear protecting greenhouse workers from pesticides. In 2015, in response to the Ebola outbreak, his team designed a unique closure system that allows a protective garment to fall to the ground in a single piece as the user takes it off, decreasing the movements that can lead to contamination of healthcare workers.
This is not the first time the ITAA has recognized Park’s contribution to the field, having given him the Rising Star Award in 2015 and the Paper of Distinction Award in 2011 and 2018. Park credits his multidisciplinary and problem-solving research approach with his ongoing success in the lab, the classroom and among peers in his field.
“Many things can be improved by collaborating with others, bringing synergy to the problem-solving process,” Park said. “In our department we have fiber scientists and we have designers, and throughout the college there are many people looking at the challenges we’re facing from a different angle. I’m always trying to work with engineering faculty and fiber science faculty, because the technical design and creative design solutions I’m working on to improve human well-being cannot be done solely from my own work.”
Park’s current projects include improving the design of facemasks for children ages 3-6 years old and, with PhD student Jeyeon Jo, developing a smart cap and smart sports apparel capable of detecting and measuring head rotation and joint movement with technology that is lightweight, invisible and affordable. The smart cap could be used to detect lateral glance in children with autism spectrum disorder and as part of a lightweight virtual reality suit.
“Apparel design is starting to absorb a lot of new technologies to make our lives easier, more convenient, comfortable and protected,” Park said. “I’m working with researches in other disciplines to combine emergent technologies and fashion design to develop unobtrusive, normal-looking clothing that can monitor things like respiration and body movement.”
This semester Park is teaching a course on the design and development of smart clothing for the first time. Students in his course are learning how to incorporate small electronics and sensors into everyday clothing to address both known human needs and whatever needs arise in a rapidly changing world.
“FSAD is probably the only fashion program that puts both fiber science and the design brain together in the Ivy League. All of our faculty members, including me, are very active in creating synergy through multidisciplinary approaches, so our work as faculty, and our student’s work, is quite different. As a unique hybrid using new technology, science and design, we are educating the future leaders in the fields of textiles and fashion.”