People \\ 2009 Program Participant
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Chris O'Connell - NanoJapan 2008 & NanoJapan 2009
CC of Rhode Island/University of Rhode Island

2009 Host University: Chiba University
2009 Advisor: Yuichi Ochiai, Website

2009 Project: Fabrication and Characterization of Carbon Nanodevices
2009 Abstract & Poster:

2008 Host University: Tohoku University, Institute of Materials Research
2008 Advisor: Yoshihiro Iwasa
2008 Project: Inkjet Printing of Carbon Nano Materials

Major/s: Mechanical Engineering & Physics
Anticipated Graduation: May 2011

I would like to thank Sarah Phillips, Dr. Kono, Keiko Packard and Dr. Cheryl Matherly for 2 amazing summers of NanoJapan. I’d also like to thank the URI College of Engineering and Dr. Latina for their support.

Why NanoJapan 2009?
NanoJapan is a great opportunity for Physics and Engineering students in the U.S. to gain substantial research experience in nanotechnology while submerged in an international environment. No other program offers such a valuable experience to undergraduates. With the high quality facilities, precision instruments and the technology-powered economy, there may be no better place than Japan.

I applied to NanoJapan 2009 as an alumnus from the 2008 program for a few reasons. Simply, I wanted to do more nano research and this program has some of the most exciting topics. I personally have a strong interest in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) so it was natural for me to try to work with them again. I also have had lasting plans to apply to a few Japanese universities for graduate school. I plan to do nano-research as a graduate student and hopefully enter a good lab. Having the NanoJapan experience certainly helps to learn more about Japan and the academic structure. Furthermore, I'd like to continue my Japanese language study and nothing helps more than being immersed in the country.

This year I'm looking forward to a few new things. First of all, I'm excited to be in a new laboratory with Ochiai-Sensei at Chiba University and also excited to work with Prof. Kono again. Of course, I will again try to work towards some substantial results, but as I learned last year, there is almost no predictability to research. I also look forward to seeing some friends that I've met along the way last year and also meeting some new friends, including the new participants. I'll visit some new places this year, Yamaguchi and Fukuoka to name a few. Last but not least, I'm looking forward to eating delicious food again.

Chris O'Connell Presents at the 2009 RQI Summer Research Colloquium
Chris O'Connell gave a poster presentation on Fabrication and Characterization of Carbon Nanodevices at the 2009 RQI Summer Research Colloquium. To view his poster and abstract click here.

2009 Research Project Overview

My research project this year was at Chiba University under Professor Yuichi Ochiai. I studied “ESR Spectroscopy of a Single Carbon Nanotube”. One of the graduate students, Takashi Endo, served as my student mentor. My lab group members took a lot of time to help teach me how to use the various equipment and machines in order to conduct my research. I would usually spend about 10-14 hours in the laboratory everyday, usually learning the equipment and how to make samples. We were able to make some MWCNT samples through which I learned experimental techniques such as photolithography and vapor deposition. I also learned how to use the ESR spectrometer entirely through broken Japanese translation and hand gestures. The research ran into some technical difficulties but did not deter my learning and enjoyment in the laboratory.

I feel the character of my labmates made the experience really enjoyable. Although their English skills were not great, they were not so afraid to blurt out a few punch lines or practice some English. They often wanted to learn English slang and casual speaking. They also took me out for dinner often and even proceeded to badger me in bowling. My mentor, Endo-san, was extremely kind to me and became a good friend of mine. He more or less stopped his own experiment and trained me in experimental techniques for my research project. I would often come to lab in the morning only to discover him sleeping across 3 chairs after working on his experiment over night. Despite his English not being great, we still managed to enjoy each other’s company and eat together everyday. I feel I made some great friends and I plan to visit them during my next visit to Japan.

This experiment also allowed me to learn a lot about spectroscopy and carbon nanotubes, both of which I have an interest in for graduate studies. I still plan to apply to graduate school in Japan. I have been offered assistance from both Ochiai-sensei at Chiba and my previous mentor from Tohoku University for my graduate school applications. The last 2 years with the program have highly shaped my interests in research and my ability to conduct research and I look foward to taking the next step in applying to various graduate schools in Japan and the US - perhaps even Rice University!

Daily Life in Chiba

Chiba University is a very comfortable campus located about 40 minutes outside of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture. It is a suburban setting with many local restaurants nearby. The campus had many student gatherings in the outdoor common area with musicians, hip-hop dancers and jugglers. My daily grind was going to lab via bicycle around 10am, stopping at a konbini for breakfast, doing research until about 9 or 10pm with a lunch and dinner somewhere in the middle. I always ate lunch and most dinners with Endo-san and some lab members. Weekends were usually spent outside of lab. I’d usually meet some friends that I met last year and hang out. On one weekend, I met with my friend, Ryusuke, along with his friends and went to explore Tokyo along with a relaxing visit to a great onsen in Odaiba. Another weekend, my friend, Emiko, gave me and a couple other NJ students a tour of Yokohama and Chinatown. Meeting people is one of my favorite aspects of living in Japan. There is also lots of good food to discover if you like to try new things. My lab friends took my out one night for my first Yakiniku dinner. We opted for the “tabehoudai”, or “all you can eat”, which composed of 6 different meats, rice and dessert. The meats come raw and you grill them on a small coal grill built into the table. It was well worth the 3000 yen for such delicious food and fun with my lab friends. Overall, I really enjoy daily life in Japan and hope to return once again.

My favorite experience in Japan this summer was...
The weekend of the Ajiro festival with Packard-sensei and other NJ students.

Before I left for Japan I wish I had...
Appreciated ordering Domino's Pizza at a normal price - it is very expensive in Japan!

While I was in Japan I wish I had..
More time.

Tips for Future NanoJapan Participants

NanoJapan 2008 Research Overview
The project I worked on at the Institute of Materials Research at Tohoku University was "Inkjet Printing of Carbon Nanotubes" and my advisor was Prof. Iwasa. Most of my project was based on graphene and consisted of the process of graphite to a printable graphene solution. A small portion was spent on SWCNT transistors. My project does relate to my major, but the experience in general gave me a better idea of what I want to work with and what I feel I'm good working with academically. Before applying to the program, I still wasn't 100% sure exactly which major to follow. So in that respect, the program surely made it easier to choose my academic path. I've had interests in grad school in Japan for quite some time and this definitely gave me a valuable experience of grad student life, which comprises konbini lunches and sleeping on a fold-out bed in front of your work space. There were about 18 people in my lab group, 5 were international students and the rest were Japanese. It was easiest to communicate with the international students as their communicative language was English but the Japanese students always tried their best. There were difficult times of communication between my mentor and I, but everyone in the lab was kind and always willing to stop their work and help if needed. It was surely a memorable experience.

Meaning of NanoJapan 2008
I chose this program because it was was unique from all other programs I had seen. No other program offered international research experience for freshman and sophomore undergraduates, let alone in Japan. I had personally had interests and plans to make a career working in Japan so this program was a no-brainer. I will continue my Japanese language studies at the University of Rhode Island this year and plan to pursue further opportunities in Japan next summer.

Daily Life in Japan 2008
Daily life in Japan is nice. I think the setting in Sendai is good for a researcher. It is relatively quiet and comfortable. Weekday activities comprised of eating a large breakfast from the dorm, riding to lab, doing various lab activities for 6-10 hours, riding back for dinner, study/ chat and sleep. On weekends, me and Daryl Spencer would usually hang out with his labmate and girlfriend. Sendai is close to the mountains and the beach so its a good spot for any outdoor activities. There are also a lot of musicians out and about in Sendai which I personally enjoyed. Overall, I was really comfortable in Sendai and hope to visit again next time I'm in Japan.

My favorite experience in Japan in 2008 was...
Hanging out with new local people I met while out and about in Sendai.

Before I left for Japan in 2008 I wish I had...
Not exchanged money at my US bank, you will get better rates at Narita airport.

While I was in Japan in 2008 I wish I had...
Gone to a livehouse. Daryl and Il had this on our list but never got around too it.

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