People \\ 2008 Program Participant
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Tolulope Ogunbekun - NanoJapan 2008
Mount Holyoke College

Hokkaido University
Advisor: Masafumi Yamamoto
Project: Spin-dependent tunneling in Heusler alloy-based magnetic tunnel junctions

Major/s: Physics & Mechanical Engineering
Anticipated Graduation: May 2010

Alumni Update
Tolu graduated with a BA in Physics from Mt. Holyoke College in May 2009 with honors for her senior thesis research on Dynamics of Defects in Thin Film PolyStyrene - Poly MethylMethacrylate (PS-PMMA) Diblock Copolymers at High Temperature. >> Read More

NanoJapan Research Overview
The purpose of the project was to understand the key factors that influence spin dependent tunneling characteristics in Heusler alloy-based MTJ and then further enhance the TMR ratio. At the beginning of the project I had very little quantum background so I spent the first month attending the undergraduate and graduate quantum courses taught by my professor at Hokkaido University. I was very grateful that science symbols and equations were universal because both classes were taught in Japanese, and I understood what was being taught only by following the equations. I also had one on-one seminars/lectures with my professor Yamamoto-sensei, and he answered all my questions from the quantum class lectures and also explained everything I needed to know about the science behind the research (in English). Prior to starting my project I was very nervous and didn't think it was a good match for me because I didn't have a good quantum background but now looking back, I can confidently say the project was a good match for me and it was very related to my
academic interest. I learnt a lot of physics!!!

I had previous research experience before going to Japan but on getting there, I realized that there was still so much I had to learn about my research project and generally about conducting scientific research. My professor and all the graduate students were very eager to teach, so that was good. Learning from my professor was very easy because he spoke English really well, but at first it was a bit hard to communicate with the graduate students because of their limited English vocabulary and my limited Japanese vocabulary. I learnt to be patient with them and just keep listening and with time through back and forth in English & Japanese I could understand them all. This summer, I experienced the huge benefit, motivation and inspiration gained from really understanding the science behind the research. In addition, I learnt how to interact, work with and learn from people from an entirely different culture. I will definitely continue on the research I was doing at school before I left for Japan. I will also keep in mind and practice all I learnt in Yamamoto sensei’s lab, even to the tiniest detail. This summer helped me realize that I really do enjoy nanotechnology research and it is definitely one of my options for graduate school.

Meaning of NanoJapan
The NanoJapan program gives rising physicists and engineers the opportunity to learn first hand from the top professors in the nanotechnology research field in Japan, one of the leading countries in nanotechnology research. It teaches students to adapt to living in a different culture and interacting and working in a team with people of an entirely different background, language and upbringing. It is an opportunity to share and bring together these different ideas and ways of life to an end result of something new and exciting for both parties. This can be observed in the experimental room, the office, the classroom, interacting with Japanese friends and generally in everyday life. The experience I gained from participating in the NanoJapan program goes with me in life. Presently, I have an increased my knowledge on conducting research including understanding the science behind the research, thinking about the results and being creative and experimenting with research. I have also learned a lot about interacting effectively with people from a different culture, even with the existence of a language barrier.

Before I left Japan, I had already started looking into other international opportunities like NanoJapan for next summer. I also hope to visit Japan again for further study or research collaboration sometime in the future, which is also a good part of my motivation to continue studying the language.

Daily Life in Japan
In Sapporo, I was generally in lab at 9 or 9:30am (8:30am on Mondays for lab cleanup). I had lunch at the school cafeteria everyday with other lab members. In the evening, for the first month, I left lab at about 6 pm, rode my bike (about a 10min ride) back home (Minami-shinkawa residence) and cooked dinner with Amal, Norman, and Nick. We made jap-nig-erica dinners (an interesting combination of Japanese, Nigerian and American cuisine e.g. jollof soba with cheese) . It was always fun to experiment with dinner. On some evenings though, some of my lab members took me to their different favorite restaurants for dinner. Later, in the second month, I left lab, at bout 7:30 or 8 pm, in the last week sometimes around 11 pm. However, this was entirely my decision because I actually started experimental work and generally chose to stay in the lab and keep working with other lab members. I enjoyed being with the other people in the lab. On Saturdays, I either went touring the city on bike with the other NanoJapan students or went out with my Japanese friend, Yurika. On Sundays, I biked (about 30 mins) to church and stayed over for lunch and other fun activities they had. My day usually ended sitting around and talking with the NanoJapan students in Sapporo or on Skype sharing the best and worst parts of the day with NanoJapan students in other parts of Japan.

My favorite experience in Japan was...
Nikko. Nikko is a very cultural place and we got to visit the expensively decorated Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nikko National Park, and also saw Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls amongst others. The traditional Japanese hotel we stayed at was gorgeous. We had an amazing Viking (buffet) dinner and karaoke afterwards. Even though I missed out on the real (public) Onsen experience, I enjoyed a private one in my room.

Before I left for Japan I wish I had...
Before I left for Japan I wish I had finished my end of semester exams and rested well. The first week of the program was intense and I felt like I wasn't getting the most out of it because of the examps and papers I still had to complete. I was also exhausted even before arriving so be sure to get lots of sleep the week before you go.

While I was in Japan I wish I had...
While I was in Japan I wish I had spoken mainly Japanese with my lab members.

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