Kristina is currently working as a consultant with EnerG2, a company that engineers advanced nano-structured materials for energy storage breakthroughs. She is completing her Associate of Applied Science in Nanotechnology degree at North Seattle Community College and is in the process of applying for admission to the University of Washington, Seattle to pursue a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering.
NanoJapan Research Overview
I had no research prior experience prior to my internship, other than the fact that I had used some of the equipment before. In fact, when asked what lab/research topic I wanted to participate in, the one I got wasn’t even on the list. At first, I was very leery, as my research topic was ballistic rectifier semiconductor devices, and I hadn’t had any physics or any classes on anything other than a basic materials class that covered semiconductor materials. After reading up about my topic, I got more and more interested. My project was the fabrication and characterization of InAs ballistic rectifiers. A rectifier converts AC voltage to DC voltage, and used in many various electronics, such as computer processors. Ballistic rectifiers, unlike standard diffusive rectifiers, are much smaller, and much faster. Fabrication utilized wet chemical etching, photolithography, e-beam lithography, and thermal deposition to name a few of the processes. The fabrication process was the easiest for me, as I had prior experience with a lot of the equipment that I was to be using. The analyzing was a bit harder, as I had little to no theoretical background. My mentor was extremely helpful and always willing to explain why things worked the way they did to me. In fact, his explanations were so good, and interesting, I’m currently thinking about switching to a double major with a semiconductor focus.
The best part of working in the lab was definitely working with the other people. The people in the Sasa lab were great. Although for the most part they spoke very little English, and I spoke very little Japanese, we communicated pretty well. It was great fun trying to ask where the organic waste was stored. I invested in an electronic dictionary, and after that, there were almost no communication problems at all.I do plan on continuing my education in nanotechnology, with the intent of getting a doctorate in it. Currently I’m finishing up my prereqs and will be transferring to a university to finish up my bachelors and masters. I am also continuing with my Japanese studies by self study and reading the massive amounts of manga and books I picked up while I was in Japan. I hope to do my doctorate research overseas, preferably in Japan, so having the chance to work in a lab in Japan this summer was priceless. After being a part of the NanoJapan program, I want to do more international research internships, and hopefully finish up my schooling overseas.
Meaning of NanoJapan
The NanoJapan program is a wonderful opportunity for those that participate. I’m so very glad I was chosen to be a part of it. I’ve always been interested in Japan, and have always wanted to go, and I’m currently a nanotechnology major at my community college, so combining both of my passions together was great. One of my nanotech classmates had happened upon a link for this program, and shared it with the nano students at my school, which is how I found out about this program. Originally, I wasn’t sure I would get in, being a community college student, and a bit older (28) than the standard freshman, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try and I am so very glad I did. Being able to experience and conduct real research in an international lab experience was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had. Seeing the difference in how international labs operate compared to the labs at home was interesting, and extremely helpful. The cultural differences between American labs and Japanese labs were interesting, and I learned a lot. Such as you don’t need to be able to speak the same language to share interests and that can facilitate communication all on its own. Also having the opportunity to experience cultural differences allows almost priceless knowledge. I look at my own lab and research through a new light, and on a more international level.
Daily Life in Japan
Daily life in Osaka was great. I was staying in a dorm about a block and a half away from campus, right next to a lovely park. The room was lovely, and the building staff was great. My room had a mini fridge, so I would hit the store and get some yogurt or something similar for breakfast for the week. Then I’d walk to the lab and work until lunch. Lunch was usually a quick run with lab mates to the conbini (convience store) or the store, to grab something, and then back to the lab to eat. For the most part, I stayed quite late in the lab, so dinner was also a quick con-bini stop and then back to my dorm for the night, or a walk around the area I was staying in before turning in for the night. The weekends were usually free for exploring, and I was lucky enough to have a great person in my lab that took me sightseeing to some of the best places in Osaka. I traveled a bit around the Osaka area on the weekends, usually just taking the subway around the city to various places such as Denden Town (the main electronics area), or Triangle Park (Osaka’s ‘Harajuku’ type area) and Shinsaibashi. Visiting the Dotonburi area with my husband when he came to visit me and a couple of my Japanese friends was great. I think my favorite trip was to the 48 Falls of Takihata with my mentor Koyama-san though. Most of the falls were closed, but the one I did get to visit was beautiful.
The most challenging aspect of living in Osaka though was definitely the language barrier. I’ve had previous experience with Japanese, but I was not prepared for Osaka-ben, the version of Kansai dialect used in Osaka. It was difficult talking to people in the area, but it was worth it. Between my pidgin Osaka-ben, standard Japanese, and the little bits of English used, ordering in restaurants, and talking with people was great fun. I plan to return to Japan to visit my friends and see more of the country.
My favorite experience in Japan was...
Definitely my favorite experience while I was in Japan was hanging out with my labmates outside of the lab. Interacting with local people was great. My absolute favorite time I think was going to a DJ event called Scream Real Loud with Taichi from my lab. He invited me to go with himself and a couple of his friends. It started at 11 pm on Saturday, and ended at 5 am on Sunday, and was worth every minute. I hope to get to go to another on when I return to Japan.
Before I left for Japan I wish I had ...
Brushed up my Japanese a bit more. I was very rusty when I got to Tokyo, and the 3 week orientation allowed me to catch back up to where I had been. If I had done that before I left though, I would have been much better off, and would have been able to pick up on Osaka-ben much faster, and had an easier time communicating.
While I was in Japan I wish I had...
I wish I had made more weekend plans with my lab mates. I also wish I had practiced more of my Japanese with them in the lab, even though I did like helping a couple of them with their English.