NanoJapan Research Overview
Going into my research internship was more intimidating the thought traveling to Japan for the first time. I started off reading pages and pages of thick scientific textbooks and materials. However, as a freshman without strong background knowledge in the area, it quite hard to understand the content of the material. In the beginning, my mind was weighed down by all the information I was learning. However, once I started asking Munekata sensei or other lab members questions, the material I was reading started to make more sense and the topic of (Ga,Mn)As started interesting me more and more. I never thought that I would be this interested in studying objects that I cannot see. But, I learned that such a small scale isn’t a hindrance to my interest in studying.
I studied how to improve the Curie temperature in the (Ga,Mn)As semiconductor ferromagnets. Although I learned the procedures and techniques to make and test the sample, my main task in the experiment was to analyze the data provided by my mentor. Analyzing data was something I realized I liked because I was able to use the knowledge I learned about the sample and my interest in programming to understand the results of the experiment. Experimenting in a Japanese lab proved a lot of my hypothesis and stereotypes of labs to be false and my interest in research grew stronger. Starting in the Fall 2008 semester, I will continue to do research on ferromagnetic semiconductors in the Kono Lab here at Rice University.
Meaning of NanoJapan
Before embarking on the journey to Japan, I had an idea of what I wanted from this experience. I wanted to do research in a lab, see what Japan was like, learn the culture, and broaden my view of the world. I believed that conducting a research internship as a freshman would give me a leg up in my future career path and help me learn which type of career path I want to take in the future. Learning the culture and broadening my view of the world has been my hobby since high school and I thought accomplishing these three goals were what I wanted from the program.
After returning from the program, I am sure that I accomplished all these goals, but these goals can’t sufficiently define the meaning of the program to me. I didn’t only accomplish my own research in the lab, I was able to observe and learn from other people’s projects and make friends in the process of understanding/accomplishing my own project. I didn’t only see the culture, I was introduced to the culture by my newly met Japanese friends. Japan gave me an insight to another country’s point of view, but the international students and NanoJapan students showed me other aspects of the world.
Spending a summer in Japan showed me how much more I can make out of my life. I became aware of the great number of opportunities out there, the influence one person can make on others, and the importance of exchanging information, thoughts, and friendship. I started looking for study abroad opportunities the first day of this school year, because I want to cherish and put to good use the time I have early in my undergraduate career before I must focus on my major requirements. I will definitely continue contacting the friends I have met in Japan, researching the topic I researched in Japan, and practicing Japanese.
NanoJapan wasn’t just a one summer program; it was a program that changed and shaped me into someone who I didn’t know I could be, pointed me to a direction that I wanted to go to, and much more.
Daily Life in Japan
Everyday, I had to get to school before 10:00am. Sometimes I would get up earlier and go to school before 8:00am to enjoy the serenity of the labs. Other times, I would lay awake in bed and listen to the older sisters in my dorm [I lived in an International dorm filled with Chinese graduate students, all of whom took great care of me] moving about, cooking breakfast, and chatting with each other. My Umegaoka dorm was exactly fifteen minutes from the train station if I walked at a leisurely pace. However, until the day I left, I was still not able to time myself to get to the 9:35 train I needed to be on in order to get to school at 10:00am. But, Munekata sensei wasn’t that strict about time. At first, the 15 mins walked seemed like a long walk, but many times, I would walk with other friends from my dorm to the station. Not as many students go to the Suzukakedai campus, so usually I would study Japanese on the train by myself.
Lab day varied from day-to-day. Most of the time, I would be working on my program. But, when people came around and talked to me, I would stop and chat. Once in a while, I would go around asking people questions about my experiment. During lunch time, most people in my lab went out to lunch together. The conversations over lunch time varied from the our research experiments to random funny things that happened in each person’s life. Most of these conversations were in Japanese. I would observe intently the facial expression of whoever was talking and try to understand the Japanese spoken. After lunch, we would always stop by the combini in the school to read magazines.
I would leave the lab around 6:00 if I had Japanese class in Yokohama. If I didn't have class, I would leave around 8:00. I usually grabbed dinner from the 100 yen store on the way home. In the dorms, I would usually chat with the group of graduate students cooking in the kitchen or talk to people from the YSEP [Young Scientists Exchange Program, a program which gathers college seniors from all over the world to study for a year at Tokyo Institute of Technology]. The most enjoyable part of my night was being able to chat with other NanoJapan students via Skype about the day. Because we had similar backgrounds, we could discuss our different experiences in labs and better appreciate everything we had.
My favorite experience in Japan was...
Going out to clubs, cruises, sightseeing with friends and Japanese students. The company of good friends made everything better.
Before I left for Japan I wish I hadn't...
Been so scared the experience of living in a foreign country. Everything turned out so well, there was no need to worry at all.
While I was in Japan I wish I had...
Been more careful how personal relationships developed.