Rocco Vitalone - NanoJapan 2015
The Pennsylvania State University
Major: Physics and Mechanical Engineering
Class Standing: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation: May 2018
NanoJapan Research Lab: Prof. Ryo Shimano, University of Tokyo
NanoJapan Research Project: Searching for Two Higgs Modes in Superconducting MgB2 Using Terahertz Pump – Terahertz Probe Spectroscopy
2015 SCI Annual Research Colloquium Undergraduate Poster Prize: First Place
The beauty of the NanoJapan program is that it allows students to learn about and research nanotechnology while at the same time developing an understanding of Japanese culture and research. By exposing student researchers to a different culture, the students can gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the world around them. This understanding of Japanese culture prepares the participant for a future in international research. Since the world is growing more and more interconnected, the importance of international collaboration in research is growing and students today need to be prepared to work in an intercultural setting. I chose to apply to the NanoJapan program because it combined two of my greatest passions: Physics and Japanese culture. Since I was a junior in high school, I have had a desire to learn about the physical world around me and how it works. Additionally, from a young age I have developed a love of Japanese culture. When I saw that this program combined both of these, I was sold. I believe that the NanoJapan Program will develop my world view, help focus my scientific interests in my undergraduate curriculum, and affirm my interest in a future career in research while living in Japan.
I am incredibly excited for this program and am looking forward to numerous different aspects of spending my summer conducting research in Japan. The aspect of the program that I am most looking forward to is having the opportunity to completely immerse myself in Japanese culture and society. I have been interested in Japanese culture from a young age when I began reading manga and watching anime, and I am excited to experience Japanese culture firsthand this summer while exploring my host city and the surrounding areas. At the same time, I am really looking forward to conducting research for the first time in my academic career in nanotechnology. Terahertz (THz) nanotechnology is a relatively underdeveloped field and I look forward to delving into this interesting area of science.
My goals for this summer are to:
During my first week in Japan, I learned more than I ever could have expected. I had, for the first time, a taste of what it meant to be an outsider in another country. It was a humbling and enlightening experience to say the least. During my first few hours in Japan, Packard-sensei walked us around Azabu-juban to show us our home for the next few weeks. During this tour of my new home, I felt very much in the way. Everyone around me, sans my fellow NanoJapan students, simply went about their everyday lives without any hesitation while I had to consciously think about every little decision that I made to ensure that I did not do something wrong and stick out as a foreigner. I found this experience very taxing and enlightening at the same time, because I now understood, at least very slightly, what it meant to live in a foreign land with little to no understanding of the everyday life around you. This experience gave me a stronger appreciation of the foreigners in my own country and allowed me to empathize with the difficulties that I never knew they experienced – and this was only the first day on a summer long journey. Throughout the rest of the week, my initial expectations of the things that I would experience in Japan changed and I began to learn Japanese at a rather rapid rate.
When I boarded the plan for Japan, I expected to head to a new country and fully immerse myself in that country’s culture. I planned to see all of the beautiful sites that I could, eat only authentic Japanese food, and simply fall in love with the culture from the start. I was quite wrong in most regards. First, I did not travel around Tokyo seeing all that I could, because I realized that I was going to be very busy for most of the summer and sightseeing would have to wait until my schedule opened up a little bit. Before I came to Japan, I lived in some delusion that this was a summer vacation and not an intensive summer internship. However, I could not be happier with the fact that I am kept incredibly bust with so many activities because I feel that I am learning so much. I have still had the opportunity to sightsee around Tokyo and Nagano. My fellow NanoJapaners and I visited Tokyo Tower on our first night in Japan and the sight from the base afforded us a picturesque view. We also attended a Sumo match, which I found pretty interesting. Each bout itself takes no more than a minute, but the ceremony surrounding it really makes for an interesting experience. We also got to meet the KIP students, who were kinder and more welcoming than I ever expected. Additionally, although we come from very different cultures, we still have quite a bit in common as university students. The big sightseeing adventure of my first week though was our trip to Nagano. However, since my reflection next week will focus on Nagano, I will not discuss it here.
Second – food. I remember telling my mom before I left that I would not eat any ‘American food’ until I returned home in August. That lofty ideal lasted about three days, at which point I could no longer eat Udon or traditional Japanese breakfast for breakfast anymore. I needed something that appealed to my American taste buds, and the Western breakfast did the trick. Although not completely western by any means, it helped me feel right at home and gave me exactly what I needed when I could no longer eat such a different breakfast. However, the food here completely lives up to my expectations and I have had some truly incredible meals here, especially on our Nagano trip.
Finally, total immersing myself in the culture proved significantly more difficult that I had anticipated. Before heading to Japan, I idealized Japanese culture. I thought of it as a near perfect culture with so many great components. However, after living in Japan for only a couple of days, I began to realize that, like with everything, there are pros and cons to Japanese culture. For instance, the culture instills a sense of working towards having a harmonious community from a young age, which serves the country well and is something I really adore about Japanese culture. You never see, at least from my one week perspective, serious arguments in public or people yelling. In fact, unlike America, you do not really hear people that much unless you are talking with them. Although quite different, this quieter culture feels more relaxing or calming. On the other hand, Japanese culture contains a lot of rules and regulations that people must follow in order to truly conform to Japanese culture. Although these rules are not wrong in any sense, coming from America makes some of them very difficult to conform to. Also, these rules create quite a bit of pressure because I always find myself worrying about offending someone. Additionally, it does not seem that sarcasm is common in Japan, which proves quite difficult for me because I utilize it a lot. In fact I have started to consciously work on not using sarcasm, so that, again, I do not offend someone. Overall though, I still really love the culture here and I am adjusting quite well I think.
While I learned a lot about Japanese culture this past week, I also learned a ton of Japanese. Incredibly intensive, the language classes pushed me to learn quite a bit of Japanese in a very short period of time. Even though the classes are rather long, they never feel that way. I always enjoy going to class and learning more Japanese to help make myself more independent and at the same time make myself less of a foreigner. I notice the progress that I make each day, and it is very encouraging to feel that I am continually getting better at Japanese. Although I still have a long way to go, I feel that these classes serve as invaluable tools to gaining a strong foundation in Japanese language for future work in my research lab.
Question of the Week
After living in Japan for a week, I have one question that I keep thinking about. I keep wondering whether the Japanese people I talk to would prefer me to just speak in English rather than butcher my way through their language, and take a lot more time doing so? I feel like sometimes it makes things more difficult for them, and if I were to just use English and point at things, it would make things easier for them. Especially when I go out to eat, I feel like ordering in just Japanese takes up too much of the waiter’s time and they become impatient. I hope that as my Japanese gets better, this dilemma will resolve itself.
Intro to Nanoscience Seminar
I found all of the lectures this week interesting, and I feel that I learned a lot from them. Ishioka-sensei’s talk provided quite helpful information about spectroscopy, but her description of her life as a woman in the male dominated field that is science in Japan proved incredibly enlightening. Saito-sensei’s talk also provided very helpful information regarding carbon nanotubes, and although I will not be working with them this summer, I found the talk rather interesting. Finally, Dr. Stanton’s talks outlining some important modern physics topics and also going into great detail in regards to semiconductors and femtosecond spectroscopy were incredibly helpful. Reminding us of the background physics, and then delving into topics more related to what we would be working on in our labs was very helpful. Overall, the science talks the first week provided useful information in terms of both science and culture.
Initial Research Project Overview
As for my research project, I am currently reading and rereading papers that my sensei gave me to look over to prepare myself to enter his lab. Even after the second or third reading, I still am having some trouble understanding exactly what the papers are talking about, but I can tell that I am developing more and more understanding and I hope that by the time I reach my lab I will be well enough prepared to enter the lab. In my lab, I will work with some superconductor, but I do not yet know the exact material. During my research, I will study its optical, electrical, magnetic, and thermal properties, and how they change when the phase change occurs (from conductor to superconductor). To study these changes, the dynamic order parameter, and the Higgs Mode in the superconductor, I will use terahertz pump-probe time domain spectroscopy. Using this method of THz pump-probe, I will hopefully be able to gather data on what happens in the superconductor around its phase change at incredibly short time scales. Superconductors have a wide range of applications since they exhibit no resistance under certain conditions. However, we still do not know enough about how superconductors work, so hopefully this research will help explain some of the fundamental properties of superconductors, or at least eventually lead to that explanation.
During our first weekend in Japan, we traveled to Nagano to see a different side of Japan and get away from the giant concrete jungle that is Tokyo. It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to travel there on the Shinkansen; the high speed bullet train that covers much of Japan and a luxurious form of travel. Arriving in Nagano, we were greeted by giant mountains, a beautiful valley, and a much more relaxed atmosphere than the one provided by Tokyo. We spent three very busy and enjoyable days in Nagano that introduced us to another side of Japan.
On the first day in Nagano, I had a lot of first experiences. First, we went to a shrine up in the mountains and walked through part of a forest filled with hundreds of little handmade statues placed there by people long ago as a form of worship. It was a very tranquil place, but unfortunately we could not spend much time there because we had to head to the rice paddy to have a small snack and plant some rice. At the rice paddy, we had a lot of fun planting rice and meeting the locals who, like most everyone I have met in Japan, were incredibly hospitable and helped make the whole experience an unforgettable one. If you’ve never planted rice in a rice paddy before, it is quite the experience. The paddy itself is completely submerged in about eight inches of water and the rice seeds are planted in the muddy paddy floor. Before getting there, I thought that the entire experience was going to be a bit of a chore, but after getting in and getting dirty with the one of the locals and my fellow NanoJapaners, I had an absolute blast. After planting rice and feeding some of the livestock, we all went back to the Ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn, where we spent the first night. Luxurious and peaceful, the Ryokan was nothing short of amazing. Walking through its narrow corridors in sandals to our spacious rooms made me feel like I was transported back in time. Also, the ryokan had an onsen, a traditional Japanese bath, which was simply blissful. For the onsen, you first take a shower to clean your body of any impurities and then you get into a very hot bath. This particular ryokan had both an indoor and outdoor bath, and the outdoor one provided magnificent views of the mountains. After relaxing in the onsen for about forty five minutes, I ate one of the best meals I have ever had in the Ryokan. It was not just the food, but the entire experience that was truly amazing. Quite different from a meal in America, the presentation was clearly designed with care and really added to the overall experience of the meal.
After dinner, we went to watch a Taiko performance and then we actually participated and played the drums with the performers as our personal teachers. The performance was incredible and even though I was terrible at playing the drums, it was still a blast. Plus, Arthur was next to me and he was equally bad, so it made me feel a little more comfortable with my woeful performance. That’s actually one of the things that I have learned throughout my experience in Japan. I have learned not to feel so uncomfortable just because I am bad at something, but rather to just have fun doing it anyways, be it practicing my Japanese with the locals, playing Taiko drums, or singing Karaoke in a large group (which is an absolute blast). After the drumming, we went back to ryokan and most people went to bed because we were all really tired. However, before I went to bed, a couple of us walked a little way up the road towards the darker mountains to stargaze. Being in such a small town with such little light pollution, we saw hundreds of stars, more than I have ever seen before, and it was a great way to end such a fun day.
Sightseeing in Nagano
On the second day, we met up with a bunch of KIP (Japanese) students, ate lunch, and had a discussion at Shinshu University on the use of cell phones in Japanese universities. Although not a major issue in the U.S., it is apparently a large problem in Japanese universities, at least in the eyes of administration. From my perspective of the talks and what my group and all of the other groups said, it seemed that most people do not think cell phones in the classroom are a major issue. Some people said that they help add value to the class, while other said that they have little merit in a classroom, but many did not argue for outright banning cell phones in the classroom. Furthermore, it seemed like the students did not really have much vested interest in the debate and that it was more of an issue being artificially created by old guard university administrations. One thing, though, that I found far more interesting than the cell phone issue was the KIP students’ opinions on Japanese lecture classes as a whole. It seemed to me that they thought the style of Japanese university classes was inferior to U.S. classes since in Japanese classes the professor does not expect or encourage students to ask questions. Instead the professor just talked at the students for the duration of the class, and from what I could tell, the students did not like this style of teaching and most of our discussion boiled down to the idea that Japanese university classes need to develop and become less rigid and unimaginative. To be fair, I only heard a small sampling of student’s opinions, definitely not enough to call it data, but rather anecdotal evidence. None the less, it was interesting to see this point of view, and to see that the students cared much more about improving their classes than they did about cell phone usage.
After the cell phone discussion, we went back to the ryokan and met with some of the local farmers and discussed the current state of their town and their current population issues. The talk was really quite interesting, but unfortunately it did not last very long at all because we were already running late for our next event. After quickly talking with the farmers, we all went up into the mountains and the locals built huge bonfire and cooked us a wonderful BBQ. It was very nice to relax with my fellow NanoJapaners and the KIP students. I met a lot of new people and it felt much less rigid than the rest of the program up until that point. Up until then, most of our time had been filled with events planned for the program, and although all of it was incredibly fun for the most part, it was just ‘go go go,’ with little time to just sit around lazily and make friends in a more natural way. After the bonfire, the girls went back to the ryokan while the boys stayed up in the mountains and slept in the bungalows. The bungalows were not nearly as nice as the ryokan, but the views of the valley below were pretty amazing, so that helped make up for it a little. All of the boys got together and we played liars poker for a little bit before going to bed. Liars poker has become the game of choice for most of us NanoJapaners, and it was fun teaching and playing with the KIP students.
Learning to Make Soba
After two fully packed days, we still had one more jam packed day ahead of us. We woke up early and learned to and made soba noodles in Aoki village. After making the soba noodles, we ate them for lunch. There is something about eating food you made from scratch for lunch that just makes it so much better. After our soba lunch, we went to Ueda High School, and the English club there set up a whole tour of the city for us. After initial introductions, we split up into groups and they took us around the city. We saw a castle which was really cool and then we walked around Main Street for a little bit and grabbed a small snack. This part of the weekend was particularly interesting because we got to meet some younger students and see how much different their lives are from American high school students. Particularly amazing was their work load and how little free time they had. They seemed so busy, had class six days a week from eight in the morning to five in the evening, and overall just seemed more dedicated than most American high school students. It was such a different atmosphere and it was really cool to experience. After that, we took a bus ride home to Sanuki club and, after a much needed bath in the hotel’s onsen (there were not easily accessible showers at the bungalow), I went to bed.
Me and Julia and one of our Ueda High School Student guides
Intro to Nanoscience Seminar
All of the lectures this week were very interesting, although some of them were rather difficult to follow simply because of how advanced the topics were. Tonouchi-sensei’s talk on Terahertz photonics was interesting because it covered a lot about generating and detecting THz waves, a rather important concept for anyone wanting to work with THz waves. Ishizaka-sensei’s talk on investigating electrons in materials was really interesting as it involved a lot of deep, fundamental physics. However, because it involved such deep physics, it became very complicated at points. Finally, there were Kono-sensei’s talks which were nothing short of amazing. They were a great overview of THz TDS, band gaps in semiconductors, conductivity, intraband vs. interband absorption, and a lot of other great topics. Most helpful though was when anyone asked him a questions because his answers were always very helpful and informative. He helped me develop an understanding of superconductors and why they have zero resistance. Along with many other things, he also helped me understand that the scattering normally cause by phonons now helped with conductivity in generating cooper pairs. In the end, all of the talks were quite interesting and helpful in exposing us to topics that we will see in our labs.
Preparation for Research Internship - Article Review
As for my particular research, I have read quite a few research papers and textbook chapters provided by Shimano-sensei, the leader of the lab that I will work in, and Matsunaga-san, my mentor, in preparation for my research project this summer. The most recently published paper that I read was entitled “Light-induced collective pseudospin precession resonating with Higgs mode in a superconductor” by Matsunaga-san et al. I remember thinking the first time I opened the document back in April that I did not know half of the words in the title; the rest of the paper was much the same the first time through. However, after working through it and looking a lot of terms and ideas on the internet, I was able to decipher most of the paper and in the process I learned an incredible amount. One piece of advice for any future participants, never get discouraged by the difficulty of some of the readings your mentor may send you, because although they might seem difficult at first, with enough effort you will grow to understand it and feel really amazed about it.
Anyways, now that I have preached a little bit, I want to explain some of the main features of the aforementioned paper. To begin, the lab was studying the effects of subjecting a thin superconducting film to a strong terahertz light field near the critical temperature. The thin superconducting film was an NbN sample of 2nm thickness grown on a MgO substrate. The critical temperature is the temperature at which the film changes from a conductor to a superconductor (just like the critical temperature where liquid water turns to gaseous water). One of the main purposes for doing this was to develop an understanding of superconductors and how their order parameters react when they are subjected to strong ac THz light fields. Order parameters represent the state of the system, and change radically at the phase change. They can be looked at as a measure of the change break in symmetry of the system that occurs when the system undergoes a phase change. Furthermore, another purpose of this research is that it allows for great insight into the fundamental physics behind superconductivity and could help lead to progress in the field of nonlinear quantum optics.
To study these ultrafast changes in the order parameter to gain a greater understanding of our superconductors work, the Shimano lab used THz pump – THz probe time domain spectroscopy. They utilized the tilted-pulse front method with a LiNbO3 crystal to generate a monocycle pulse. This method makes use of nonlinear optical effects such as optical rectification. They fire a Ti:sapphire laser with pulse energy of 1mj, duration of 90fs, center wavelength of 800nm, and a reputation rate of 1kHz at the crystal and the optical rectification cause the generation of a monocycle THz probe pulse. The probe pulse then goes through a band pass filter to create a narrow-spectrum multi-cycle pulse. A similar method is used to generate a monocycle THz probe pulse. The THz pump pulse causes ultrafast oscillations of the order parameter, and the probe pulse, entering collinearly with the pump pulse, measures the ultrafast oscillations. Then, the pump pulse is removed by a wire grid polarizer, and the temporal waveform of the probe pulse is measured using an optical gate pulse and the electrooptic sampling method.
From this method, they found that order parameter oscillated at twice the frequency of the terahertz field and that this effect was caused by the precession of Anderson’s pseudospins. Additionally, they found that the pump pulse experience third harmonic generation since its frequency triples when it goes through the system. From observing this third harmonic generation, they believe that this could lead to a new way to probe ultrafast dynamics in the order parameter in superconductors. This could therefore lead to much greater insight into the high Tc superconductors and how they work fundamentally.
Overall, the piece was incredibly interesting and although I still do not have a complete grasp of the total value of it, I feel that I have gained a strong understanding of the basics behind it and I cannot wait to get started in the lab in a little under a week.
Getting around Tokyo is incredibly easy and convenient thanks to the highly efficient and expansive subway and rail network. However, new customs and rules accompany this useful form of transportation. For instance, people stay very quiet when riding the trains, for the most part. Talking, especially loudly or obnoxiously while on the train, is looked down upon and thought of as being rude to the other passengers. At the same time, a significant amount of people spend the entire train ride staring at their phone, especially younger people, so people tend to be quite anyways. Although some people spend most of their journey on their phone, no one talks on the phone, and if they do it is a very short, quite conversation. In general, it would seem that the Japanese tend to think more about their fellow passengers when using public transportation and do not want to do anything that might annoy them, so they remain quite. This probably stems from the Japanese value of ‘wa’ or harmony where the main goal is to keep the peace and not create tension. Additionally, people tend to keep to themselves while using public transportation. After riding the subways and trains for three weeks, only one stranger spoke to me, and he seemed rather intoxicated at that point in the evening. As a general rule, I think it best not to approach a random stranger on the train and strike up a conversation with him or her as they would probably be made quite uncomfortable by the whole ordeal. Although the rules on the train seem rigid, there is no denying that it creates a rather nice atmosphere when you are tired after a long day of work.
Coming from America, many of these rules seem a little overbearing or rigid, but at the same time they do make for a nice environment on the trains in their own ways. To start, this idea of keeping quiet while using public transportation was at times hard to adhere to, but at the same time the silence that can be found on a train, even in the middle of rush hour, is quite peaceful, especially when traveling alone. However, even though silence creates a nice environment, when we were all together as a group, we almost always ended up talking. Unfortunately, once 14 people start talking, the volume increases pretty rapidly. I can remember many occasions when we were the loudest people on the train and we could be heard throughout the entire car. Thankfully, when we reached this point, the entire group took notice and actively tried to be quieter. Also in America, it is more common to start conversations with strangers on public transportation. While living in the states, I never really liked this aspect of public transportation because the conversations, for the most part, felt forced and meaningless. For this reason, I really quite like this Japanese custom, but I do find myself missing the warmth that the American atmosphere provides for. I guess I would prefer to reach some kind of middle ground in respect to the customs and rules of public transportation.
Overall, I really like Tokyo’s public transportation network and think that it will easily be one of the conveniences that I miss the most when I return home. Although some of rules that need to be followed to make yourself fit and not stick out as a foreigner are a little strict, I like the reasons behind the rules. I think that the rules exemplify some aspects of Japanese culture. The idea of keeping quite in order to not irritate your fellow passengers exemplifies the ideal of wa while the idea of not interacting with strangers exemplifies the ‘private life’ culture. Also, the whole idea of having these rules relates to the cultural ideal of form. There is a way everyone should act when using public transportation, and by adhering to this form, harmony is maintained.
Me standing in front of a gate in Kamakura on my second weekend in Japan
Daibutsu in Kamakura
Major intersection in Morishita: my new home for the next 8 weeks
Intro to Nanoscience Seminar
Similar to the previous two weeks, this week we heard talks from two different researchers, Professor Jonathan Bird and Professor Noboyuki Aoki.
In Professor Bird’s first talk, he provided a nice overview of semiconductors and how they work at a more basic level than Professor Stanton and Professor Kono’s talks, which was a nice change of pace and helped fill in some of the gaps. He spoke about Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit double about every 18 months. This ‘law’ has held true for the most part, but as these transistors get smaller and smaller, it gets harder and harder to keep up with this prediction. Therefore, it will soon reach a point where this prediction is no longer a possible goal. Additionally, as semiconductors shrink down to the nanoscale, some quantum effects become important. One quantum effect that becomes important is quantum tunneling in which electrons can tunnel through a potential barrier greater than their energy. This effect could be used to control the gate channel in transistors. During his first talk, Professor Stanton also spoke a lot about bandgap engineering with semiconductors, which, although it had little to do with my research this summer, was very interesting. He spoke about top-down and bottom-up nanostructures and new ways to go about making better transistors.
In his second talk, Professor Bird described his experiences in Japan as a researcher. He told the story of how he ended up in Japan and how important it was in the course of his life. Seeing his perspective and hearing his advice helped a lot with some questions I had wondered about. It was also reassuring to hear his advice on many of the things that he thought we may struggle with when we conducting research this summer. I only started in my lab yesterday, but I have already found some of the advice quite useful. For instance, he said that we should try to speak Japanese with our lab mates as much as possible, even though we would certainly struggle, because doing so would make them more comfortable with us since they have to struggle to speak English. I followed his advice, and spoke pretty broken Japanese with many of my lab mates and shared with them some of the struggles that I had with the language. In turn they helped me with some of the problems I was having and shared with me some of their problems with English. It really helped bridge the cultural gap and made us more comfortable with each other. I think this talk about interacting in a research environment was just as helpful, if not more so, than the talks about the science of the research.
In his third and final talk, Professor Bird spoke about graphene and its role in nanoelectronics. He spoke about how good of a conductor graphene was and that its high electron mobility made it an interesting and useful material. However, since graphene has a zero band gap, it cannot serve, by itself, as a semiconductor. Without the energy gap, it is hard to turn the transistor off, and turning off the transistor is just as important as turning it on. Overall, Professor Bird gave interesting and helpful talks in terms of both science and culture.
After Professor Bird’s third talk, Professor Aoki presented on the fundamental physics behind different microscopy and imaging techniques. He spoke at length about how many forms of microscopy work and the value of using one type over another. Highly fundamental, his talk was interesting, but at points difficult to follow and well over my head.
Overall, these last three weeks of science lectures have given me an abundant amount of knowledge about a lot of cool topics in nanoscience today. However, I am researching the Higgs amplitude mode in superconductors this summer and, although I did not expect to hear anything about the Higgs amplitude mode, these talks covered very little about superconductors in general. At the same time, a couple of the talks did cover THz-TDS quite extensively, which is the method I will be using in my lab to study the MgB2 superconductor. In the end, even though the talks did not cover my research very much, I found them very interesting and am glad that I got to learn about a lot of other topics before spending the next eight weeks on one specific topic.
On Sunday, all of the NanoJapan students left Azabu-Juban, our home for the past three weeks, and travelled to universities all across Japan. I myself, along with three other NanoJapan students, stayed in Tokyo since my research lab it at the University of Tokyo (Todai). Although a somber atmosphere surrounded the day when we all went our separate ways, it was, at the same time, exciting to finally begin the research portion of this summer program.
On Monday, my first day in the lab, Tomari-san, a member of the Shimano Laboratory where I will be working for the remainder of the summer, came to Morishita Station to guide me to Todai and the research lab. Upon arrival, the entire lab greeted me with so much warmth and kindness that I felt right at home almost immediately. A rather small lab, with only about ten members, the Shimano group exhibits a rather close-knit atmosphere, which I like very much. They also seemed to really like speaking and practicing English with me, even though it was a points hard for them. Everyone in the lab is really quite good at English and I am really grateful for their willingness to speak it with me. They also help me with my Japanese and teach me new words and phrases whenever the opportunity arises, which is really nice too because I want to learn their language just as they have learned my native language. After meeting the lab, we all went to lunch together and talked about common interests, what I liked about Japan, and my interests and questions about my research project for the summer. Then, I met with my Shimano-sensei and talked for a little bit about my research project for the summer and when I would begin working on it, which would not be until the following week. After meeting with Shimano-sensei, we had a group meeting and seminar (in English) wherein the members of the lab talked about their research from the previous week, how things were going one, and one of the lab members, Hamada-san, presented a seminar on quantum magnetic critical points. The topic was highly fundamental and very complex, but Hamada-san did a good job of handling the difficult concepts. Also, at this meeting, I introduced myself to the group in Japanese and they all seemed to really like that I was capable of speaking even a little Japanese. Afterwards, my one mentor, Matsunaga-san, gave me some more papers to read and I read those for the remainder of the day. Then, around seven, Matsunaga-san and Sekiguchi-san took me out to dinner to this awesome little place with great food. Now, every day around seven, they take me out to dinner at a different place each night and it is always a wonderful time. We talk about research, common interests, Japanese culture, American culture, the difference, and the two languages. These dinner talks every day enlighten me to new things that I did not know about research, Japanese culture, or Japanese language and have really helped develop my relationship with the other members of the lab.
I have two designated mentors in my lab, Matsunaga-san and Tomita-san, both of whom are incredibly helpful and just great people in general (although, to be fair everyone in my lab is really helpful and really nice). During the first couple of days, Tomita-san taught me about the program that I will be using throughout the summer (Igor) and some of the early analysis methods that I will need to analyze the data that we collect. Starting next week, I will begin working with Tomita-san doing THz pump – THz probe TDS on MgB2, a two band gap superconductor, looking for the Higgs Amplitude Mode in that type of superconductor. I believe that this will be my research project for the summer and I am really excited to get started working on it. After learning about the analysis methods form Tomita-san, Matsunaga-san, in the process of helping Tomari-san set up his experiment for the week, taught me the general process for setting up a THz TDS experiment, which is similar to what I will be working with this summer. I learned about attuning the system to generate and detect the strongest THz waves possible with the set up and collecting data. Also, during the downtime in the lab while setting up the system and collecting data, Matsunaga-san taught me about the fundamental physics at play in BCS superconductors and explained a concept that I had been struggling with for a while – the Higgs Amplitude Mode in BCS superconductors. He helped me develop a much stronger understanding of that concept, and in the process, a ton of other concepts. This interplay between experimental research and theory discussions is awesome and allows me to see both sides of physics research. Also, both of my mentors really like and are really good at chess which is great because I love chess and it gives us something to bond over. Even though these two are my designated mentors, everyone in the lab teaches me about research concepts, Japanese language, and Japanese culture. They are all incredibly kind and I could not have asked for better lab mates.
As for my housing for the rest of the summer, it is not great but I am content with it. It is small and not the homiest place, but it is relatively cheap for Tokyo, so I am happy with that. The Wi-Fi is among the best I have ever had access to, so that makes up for some of the shortcomings of this housing. Also, all of the other people that I have met in the house are awesome and incredibly kind which makes for a nice atmosphere. I do miss Azabu-Juban though. At the same time, I spend the majority of my time in lab, so I cannot complain too much about my housing and it is more than reasonable for a poor college student living in Tokyo.
Assessment of Orientation Program and Language Classes
I really loved the entire orientation program. One of the best parts about the orientation program was getting to spend so much time with the other NanoJapan students and getting to know them very well. Also, meeting the KIP students and discussing with them about some current issues in Japan helped me learn about some aspects of Japanese culture that I would not have known otherwise, while at the same time getting to meet lots of incredibly friendly and fun people. Traveling and seeing a lot of interesting places, especially Nagano, during the first three weeks also really added to the entire orientation program. Honestly, I liked most everything about the orientation program.
Along with all of the fun stuff mentioned above, the intensive language classes during the orientation program were invaluable (and pretty fun too). They helped me improve my Japanese language ability from absolute zero to still quite bad, but at the same time able to get by and understand a handful of things. I think that is a pretty good improvement overall, especially in just three weeks. My goal for the summer is to keep up with learning Japanese through self-study and practicing when I get a chance, but I feel that most of my time is going to be taken up by research. I am hoping that I can find time and motivation to do self-study and while at the same time practicing my skills with my lab mates and house mates.
Also, during these first three weeks in Japan (4 now actually), I think that I learned a lot about the world and myself. One of the most important things that I have learned in this first month in Japan is the value of having compassion for strangers. Japanese people are known for being very polite, but they are more than just polite – they are truly kind people (at least the ones that I have met are). Simply walking around Tokyo, trying to find my way home in a train station, or eating dinner at an unknown restaurant, I have never felt like I was completely on my own. When it is obvious that I am struggling, normally due to the language barrier, strangers have helped me with many of my problems. While in a train station coming home from Shibuya one night, a Japanese man approached me, since he could tell I was clearly confused as to how to get home, and asked me where I was going. He then proceeded to look it up on his IPad and gave me the directions that I needed. Just the next evening, all of the NanoJapaners in Tokyo and Chiba went out to dinner for Kat-san’s birthday and we chose a place with very little English. However, the wait staff was very patient and helpful with all of our questions. They never seemed to be upset by the fact that we did not speak Japanese, nor did they seem upset that we were taking up a significant amount of their time. Rather, they only seemed concerned with helping us. I thought about this experience, and how it likely might have gone a very different way in America. Being the foreigner, I am very grateful for all of the help that random strangers have given me, and I think that ideal has rubbed off on me, at least I hope it has for the long run.
NanoJapan Research Project Update
From what I have been told thus far, my research project will revolve around attempting to detect the Higgs Amplitude mode in MgB2. Last year, the lab detected the Higgs mode in NbN, a normal Low Tc BCS superconductor, and now they are looking for the Higgs mode in other more unique superconductors. MgB2 is unique in the fact that it is a two band gap superconductor, so we are curious about how the Higgs mode would act in such a superconductor. We are also curious to see if there are two Higgs Modes in such a two band gap superconductor and how these two Higgs Modes interact. This could help lead us to understanding other multi-band gap superconductors and the underlying mechanisms that facilitate superconductivity in these unique S.C.’s. Additionally, this research is to test our ability to detect the Higgs mode in other, more complicated S.C.’s, since being able to detect and measure the Higgs Mode gives us the ability to directly measure the order parameter, and its dynamics. This can allow us to study spontaneous symmetry breaking phase transitions (of which superconductivity is one, another is quantum phase transitions), and develop a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms at work in such phase transitions.
As for detecting the Higgs mode in MgB2, I will work with Tomita-san and use THz pump – THz probe time domain spectroscopy. Most of the system is already built, but we will have to align and attune the system to allow for the best collection of data possible. The system utilizes a Ti:sapphire laser and anisotropic crystals (both LiNbO3 and ZnTe) with optical rectification to generate intense THz pumps and probes (respectively) that irradiate the superconductor sample and measure the ultrafast excitations in the superconductor respectively. Then, the pump pulse is removed from the system by way of a wire grid polarizer, and another anisotropic crystal (ZnTe) utilizes electro-optic sampling with an ultrafast gate pulse to map out the time domain of the pulse wave form. After collecting data for multiple different temperatures up to and exceeding the critical temperature, we will use Igor, the main program that the lab uses, to help us analyze the data. As mentioned above, I was trained in alignment, attunement, Igor, and some basic analysis this week but I am sure that I will need more training in analysis when the time comes. However, since my research project is working with my mentor to detect and analyze the Higgs mode, I think that additional training will come when needed as determined by my mentor.
Tentative Summer Timeline
Week 1: Read papers, experimental and analysis training for TDS systems
Week 2: Conduct feasibility experiment to test ability to detect Higgs Mode in MgB2
Week 3: Analyze data from previous experiment
Week 4: Okinawa Conference
Week 5: Conduct comprehensive experiment to detect Higgs Mode in MgB2 (if feasibility experiment and analysis deemed it possible)
Week 6: Analyze data from comprehensive experiment
Week 7: Tentative on previous two experiments. If all goes well, begin preparing my final report for the summer
Week 8: Finish my report and poster for my summer research project
While in Houston for pre-program orientation, we were told that sometimes people respond and present their opinions differently due to different cultural communication norms. When I arrived in Japan, I noticed many differences, and a few similarities, between American and Japanese cultural and it was really enlightening to see these differences – to see how different life can really be. However, throughout my time here, I have not really experienced any major conversation or situation in which I recognized that I and the other party involved were communicating from different cultural perspectives that caused a misunderstanding. Maybe I am too socially and culturally aware to let such a misunderstanding occur, or, quite possibly, I was too dense and remained oblivious to the fact that there was a misunderstanding in the first place. Either way, no real resolution to such a major eye opening situation ever occurred.
Although I never had any major experience like this, there is one event I can remember when a misunderstanding did arise and was then quickly resolved. At my welcome party all of my other lab mates ordered a myriad of incredibly delicious foods and I had the opportunity to try them all. At one point, my sensei, Shimano-sensei, ordered a very nice plate of sashimi with some fatty tuna that he told me was delicious. I responded by saying, “Really? It does look pretty amazing” but I did not take a piece at that point. He then again told me about how delicious the fatty tuna was and I again responded in a similar manner. Finally, he said outright that he would like me to eat a piece. At this point, I realized that was why he kept telling me about how delicious it was and that I had been slightly rude by not taking a piece at his recommendation sooner. I happily complied with his request and ate the piece of tuna; easily the best piece of tuna I have ever eaten.
Now, maybe after reading that you are thinking, “Wow are you dense? It was clear he wanted you to take a piece,” which I agree, in hindsight, it was. However, since he was my sensei and kept telling me how much he enjoyed this particular type of fatty tuna, I wanted him to take the first piece. I do not think this has much to do with my “American culture” but more so with how I was raised to be polite to those older and wiser than you. Additionally, I think I was thinking a lot about Japanese culture and how the Sensei always goes first and leads. I had every intention of taking a piece after him, but I wanted him to take one first because I thought that was the way it should be in Japan. I thought that I was showing respect to my Sensei. At the same time, I realize now that he was trying to be polite, just as I was, and since it was my welcome party, he thought I should have the first piece. Overall, I think we both had good intentions and I am pretty sure he realized that I did not understand he wanted me to try a piece because he did end up just saying “I would like you to try a piece please.”
Even though this is not a major eye opening experience in which I realized our cultures style of communication led us to a misunderstanding, I think it shows something. I think it shows that even though we are from two very different cultures, we are still people with a similar ‘social code’. We were both just trying to be polite to each other which is certainly not unique to any one culture.
Clock Tower at Todai. My lab building is the glass one right behind it.
My lab office
My new favorite konbini. Located a mere 50 feet outside of my lab building
NanoJapan Research Project Update
This week, my mentor, Tomita-san, and I started setting up the experiment that would be my project for the summer. There was a bit of a delay early in the week since one of the other lab members needed more machine time to take better data, so we did not start setting up the system until Wednesday. Starting later in the week did not leave us enough time to start running the experiment until next week unfortunately, but I did learn a great deal about the experimental setup and all the work that goes in to simply aligning and attuning a fully built system.
From Wednesday to Friday, we set up, aligned, and attuned the system to ensure high quality data come experiment time next week. Although it took a significant amount of time to prepare, it did not take much longer than expected. We had a hard time with detecting and improving the pump pulse early on, which cost us some more time than we had hoped, but overall it was not completely unexpected. From what Tomita-san has told me, sometimes attuning the system can work really well, and other times it takes more time and effort; this time clearly went the way of the latter. However, now with most of the system ready to go, we are almost ready to start taking data. We have to attune the system one more time to ensure the data collected will be useful. Then we need to prepare the sample, cool it down, and then take TDS transmittance measurements at a handful of temperatures ranging from 50K to 4K. Doing this will allow us to choose the best time delay to set the gate pulse to for the tptp experiment. Once this gate delay time is fixed, we can start the tptp measurements, which should be next Tuesday. After the initial data run, we will analyze the data and from that determine if detecting the Higgs Mode in MgB2 is feasible. If it is, we will conduct a far more comprehensive experiment to more fully and completely detect the Higgs Mode.
I cannot believe that I have already been in Japan for six weeks now, and that I only have five weeks left here. With how fast these first six weeks went, I can only imagine how fast my last five week will go, especially with how much work I will have to do during the weeks and how much traveling I plan to do on my remaining weekends. Even though these first weeks have gone fast, I have learned and experienced more than I ever could have imagined and am really excited for what these next five weeks have in store.
I think my greatest personal accomplishment at this point, outside of research, revolves around the idea that for the first time in my life I have experienced and come to understand, albeit slightly, ‘adult life’ and what that mysterious phrase actually entails. Developing this understanding and successfully adjusting to ‘adult life’ was something that I had not expected to gain from this program, but I am grateful and better off for it. Learning what it means to be on your own and working long hour days developed my understanding of what the real world is really like and that routine in your work life makes the days fly by. Learning and adjusting to this completely different lifestyle comprises one of my greatest personal accomplishments thus far this summer. It showed me that I have what it takes to enter the real world and work for a living. At the same time, this experience has taught me that even though you may spend a rather extensive amount of time working in your adult life, you can enjoy doing so if you really have a passion for your work. Coming to understand and adapting to this way of ‘adult life’ comprises what I believe to be one of my most substantial and, hopefully, long-lasting accomplishments.
Usually accompanying learning and developing from new experiences, personal challenges have been rather frequent throughout this summer program. Of all of the challenges that I have faced, the language barrier has challenged me, and continues to challenge me, the most. Not as prevalent as I expected, English is rare and something that I miss a great deal. Not knowing the native language of the country that you live in can really make you feel alone sometimes. Even though I am surrounded by people, I cannot easily express feelings or ideas with them and it makes meeting and getting to know people quite difficult. It also makes simple tasks like eating dinner or shopping more difficult and a bit of a game of chance where you just hope that what you point at and order is something good (although this can be fun sometimes too). These little difficulties along with the alienation brought on by not speaking the language cause some personal difficulties such as homesickness or frustration with being a little helpless at points. However, even though not speaking Japanese can make me feel at times, I am surrounded by a myriad of people that help make me feel welcome and at home, which helps me overcome this challenge each day. My lab mates really help me feel welcome during the week when we all spend the majority of our day and night in the lab. By taking me out to dinner, playing games with me, and just simply talking about our common interests or challenges, it feels like I am no longer a foreigner but rather a welcome member of the lab. At the same time, spending the weekend catching up with my fellow NanoJapaners in Tokyo helps remind me that I am not alone here in Japan and that all of us are experiencing similar difficulties. Both of these two groups of people help me feel at home here and help me overcome the language barrier that I face here in Japan.
As for my research, I think that it is progressing well. I am still on my projected timeline, even with some of the problems that we encountered last week. Last week, as I detail below, I conducted my first experiment and analyzed the data, like we had hoped to complete before I left for Okinawa. I am not sure exactly where we are headed yet, but, according to what my sensei told me at the beginning of my research project, I believe that my mentor and I will conduct a more comprehensive experiment when I return from Okinawa next week in which we will hope to detect the Higgs Mode.
Meeting Robin Hood at Tokyo Disney. If you’re wondering, yes that is one of the famous waffle hats I am wearing.
A rather majestic picture of us in Goofy's car in Tokyo Disney. (Photo credit to Jackie)
A view from Shinjuku Gyoen.
Wagashi at a tea house in Shinjuku Gyoen.
NanoJapan Research Project Update
This past week, my mentor and I conducted our initial experiment to detect the Higgs Mode in MgB2. On Monday, we had a group meeting and seminar, so we did not have time to do any work in the lab, and therefore we waited until Tuesday to begin. On Tuesday, we encountered a problem with our alignment and were unable to detect the probe pulse at the very last step of alignment. Consequently, we spent all of Tuesday realigning the system and adding further stabilization to some pieces of the setup, namely the cryostat. On Wednesday, we made sure everything was still aligned and when we found that it indeed was, we purged the system and began cooling the sample using liquid helium. Once cooled to 50K, we conducted a simple TDS measurement without the pump pulse to get a waveform of the transmitted probe pulse. (The critical temperature of our MgB2 sample is about 35K). As we continued cooling down to 4K, we repeated this TDS measurement multiple times at a handful of different temperatures. We conducted these measurements to map out how the probe pulse changes with temperature. We used this data to determine the best gate pulse time delay to set the system at for the THz pump-probe experiment. With this value obtained, we set the gate pulse time delay and began taking tptp measurements at 4K. We first collected data with a full strength pump, and then we used a wire grid polarizer to adjust the strength of the pump to ¾ strength and ½ strength. After collecting this data for a very long time, we found some interesting results that are possibly caused by the fact that there are two superconducting bands in MgB2. To see how this changed with temperature, we raised the temperature of the sample to 28K and 29K and repeated the experiment. With all of this data taken, we decided that we had enough data for our initial experiment and we shut down the system. On Thursday and Friday, I began analyzing the data, which was quite difficult since I had never analyzed real experimental data before. Also, what we think might be happening in the data is rather complicated, making analysis more difficult as well. Although challenging, analyzing data that I took myself was really enjoyable and rewarding. On Monday, I will present our findings to the entire lab at our weekly meeting and hold a discussion on where to go from here.
During my first three weeks in Japan, I had a very positive experience learning Japanese and I fell that my skills progressed rather well. However, looking back, I wish the language classes had done a couple of things differently. First, I wish they would have taught us in kana, because I think that would have helped increase our literacy and also our understanding of the structure of the langue. Second, I wish they would have taught us the root form of the verbs first, and then move on to the conjugations of the verbs. Since we started off with just the masu form, I did not learn many of the root forms of the verbs and consequently I could not conjugate to other forms of the verbs easily. Also, since the masu form is not frequently used in general conversation, I have trouble picking up on what verbs people are using. I do understand the reason why we learned the masu form, since it is a polite way to speak and it helps us avoid offending people, but at the same time it makes understanding native speakers more difficult.
Since the first three weeks, I think that my language skills have remained rather stagnate, if not slowly deteriorating. Unfortunately, I do not have the time nor self-discipline to continue with independent study, which is significantly harder than I anticipated. However, my fellow lab mates do teach me a lot of new vocabulary, especially with a strong emphasis of the culture surrounding some words. Although my grammar skills may have decreased, I have learned a fair amount of vocab along with a lot of the culture of the language, which is really cool and interesting to learn about from native speakers. Additionally, after living in Japan for almost two months now, I think that I really want to continue my study of Japanese in college so that when I come back I will be able to communicate more effectively.
As for this week in particular, after working in the lab for two days, I travelled to Okinawa to meet up with all of my fellow NanoJapaners for the mid-program meeting. I really enjoyed seeing all of my fellow NanoJapan students again and hearing about their research and experience since we last saw each other. We also met with and touched base with Sarah, Dr. Matherly, and Kono-sensei during our time in Okinawa, since that was after all one of the main reasons we were there. I really appreciated talking about how our first six weeks in Japan went and receiving some advice on how to proceed with the last four weeks. The other main reason we went to Okinawa was to attend the international MTSA conference at OIST (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology). While at OIST, we toured a handful of labs and heard about their internship and graduate programs. The university is quite new, only about four years old, and highly international with over 50% of their faculty coming from outside of Japan. The whole design of the university was something incredibly different from any other university that I have ever visited and it amazed me. Not only did it overlook the ocean, a view that I cannot ever imagine getting tired of, but it also has a rather unique concept of interdisciplinary graduate research programs that seems like a fresh new take on graduate school. After touring OIST and doing some private research of the university, it is certainly on my list of graduate schools that I am considering applying too. Also, on the last day of the conference, there was a student workshop in which all of the NanoJapan students, a handful of interns at OIST, and some Japanese students from other universities around Japan presented on their research for the summer. Seeing everyone else’s research was interesting and having the opportunity to present on my research was fun too. Overall, the mid-program meeting was very interesting and informative and seeing all of my fellow NanoJapan students again was very nice.
View from one of the lab buildings at OIST
A really cool show at the conference banquet dinner
Me at the beach in Okinawa. It has become a running joke in the program that in every picture I am in I am wearing something Penn State. We Are
Research Project Update
Since I was only in the lab for two days this week, there was little time for me to accomplish much in terms of my research. However, at the weekly lab meeting on Monday, I presented on the tptp experiment that Tomita-san and I did the week prior and my initial analysis of the data. This was a good experience because I finally had the chance to present my interpretation of research data for the first time. The results of the data were very interesting and I am still not entirely sure what they mean yet. After the presentation of our experiment, I spent the rest of the two days reading papers about MgB2, its electron structure, and some of its interesting properties resulting from its two-band structure.
After working in Shimano-sensei’s lab for a little over five weeks now, I have developed a basic understanding of how a Japanese research lab operates. However, having never worked in a research lab in the U.S., I cannot really speak to the similarities and differences between the two. All I can do is talk about the research lab atmosphere here in Japan, and some of my speculations of similarities and differences between the two countries’ labs from what I have been heard about U.S. research labs.
To begin, during the orientation program, we heard talks about what it may be like in our research labs. I say ‘may be like’ because, as we were told, every lab is different. After experiencing the lab for this past month and a half, I would say that my expectations of the lab were in some regards met and in others, not so much. For instance, I expected the polite hierarchy of the lab, but at the same time the close knit atmosphere of the lab surprised me in the best way possible. This close knit atmosphere is one of my favorite parts of the lab and I am truly grateful for it. I know this subject keeps coming up in my weekly reports, but that is because it has made me feel very welcome and at home here in Japan. My expectations for my lab experience this summer were not only met, they were exceeded greatly.
Shimano lab is a somewhat formal lab in which the sensei, Shimano-sensei, is the leader of the lab with a clear hierarchy underneath him. However, the lab is not a strict hierarchy in which there is a full professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and a stream of graduate students in which each member reports to the member directly above them. Instead, the lab operates under a rather freeing atmosphere in which group discussion is common and everyone is asked their opinion as it pertains to their research. In this regard, I think that Shimano-lab is quite similar to a research lab in the states. Additionally, while we all show a great deal of respect to Shimano-sensei, it never feels like anyone is above us, leading the lab from a distant position. Instead, he is always available and highly involved in all of the members of the labs’ daily research. I do not know if this is something ordinary or rare for a lab setting, in any country, but I hope that it is. Also, while the lab does not operate under a strict hierarchy, there still exists unspoken rules regarding speaking to each other with respect. Everyone address their seniors with san and their juniors with kun, which obviously does not happen often in an American research lab. Although this ideal of respect for ones’ seniors permeates the lab, it never feels as though anyone acts superiorly towards their juniors. Everyone in the lab is incredibly friendly and always willing to help someone else when they need it. Simply put, the lab setting is amazing.
Personal disagreements in Shimano lab rarely occur and since the lab is quite small, everyone seems fairly close. When personal disagreements occur, they usually do not amount to anything and resolve themselves; similar to the way I imagine it works in America. On the other hand, research disagreements, in terms of interpretations of unexpected data, occur from time to time, but everyone seems to listen and consider everyone else’s interpretations of the data. Once this initial consideration of the data finishes, usually Shimano-sensei and Matsunaga-san will determine the best next step. Additionally, from my experience, they usually end up deciding to run more tests are to determine the correct interpretation. One thing that I think may be different from an American research lab is how the lab members go about voicing their disagreements on interpretations of data. In my lab, people rarely speak with full confidence in their interpretations. I believe they do this because, when they voice their interpretation, they are still unsure of the correct interpretation. I speculate that this is not the case in an American research lab and that there people voice their interpretations a little more vehemently. To be fair though, I base this speculation entirely off of my experiences in other fields of work in America, and not research.
In terms of value in the lab, I think, at least for my lab, hard work and dedication is most valued. Even when the results do not turn out the way we you expected or wanted them too, Shimano-sensei and Matsunaga-san always tell you to be too disappointed and let yourself become discouraged. They talk about how it is just a part of research and that we can always learn something from the experiment even if it is not exactly what we wanted to learn. This mentality really makes for a pleasant laboratory environment.
Research Project Update
This week, I worked on two related experiments. First, Tomari-san and I ran a simple THz time domain spectroscopy experiment to characterize the band pass filters that my mentor and I will use doing our third harmonic generation (THG) experiments for this past week and the next. After collecting data on Tuesday, we analyzed the data on Wednesday and determined how many band pass filters my mentor and I would need to use during our THG experiments. Then, on Thursday, my mentor and I conducted our first THG experiment on our sample of MgB2 at 0.6 THz. My mentor had already completed this experiment before my arrival at the lab, but we had to test the reproducibility of the data after he received some unexpected data during the week that I attended the mid-program meeting in Okinawa. Unfortunately, we were unable to reproduce the data and on Friday determined that our sample of MgB2 was damaged and no longer had two distinct band gaps. With this realization, we determined that we can no longer use the sample and must start working with a new sample. As a result, we must now re-conduct four comprehensive THG experiments on the new sample of MgB2 over the next one and a half to two weeks. With this set back, I will not have time to conduct another TPTP test on the new sample of MgB2 and, consequently, I will not have the opportunity to detect the Higgs Mode in MgB2.
After speaking with Shimano-sensei about this setback, we have determined that I will present on my data from my optical conductivity tests and my initial TPTP test of the previous MgB2 sample, which did display some interesting features. We know that the sample was not damaged during that test because we conducted the optical conductivity test at the same time, and the Pi band was still there at that time. Therefore, the TPTP data from my initial experiment is still reliable. Additionally, I will work closely with my mentor these next couple of weeks, conducting the many THG experiments that we need to run. I will then work with him to analyze the data and, if all goes well, present on that data as well at the symposium at Rice on August 7th.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at great length with my sensei, Shimano-sensei, about his career path as a Physicist. Since I am considering becoming a physicist, I found this conversation enlightening and quite helpful for making my career decisions moving forward. In our talk, we started talking about how he became interested in Physics and how he pursued it at a relatively young age. Then we talked more in depth about the career path that he took and how it differed significantly from the normal and he provided me with advice on choices to make as I move forward, while, at the same time, telling me about some of the differences and similarities he noticed between U.S. and Japanese research labs.
To begin, Shimano-sensei told me about how he planned to become a scientist when he was just a high school student. I found this confidence in his career decision from a young age quite amazing since I, a rising junior in college, am still unsure of what I want to do for the rest of my life. He then told me about how he had also conducted research when he was a sophomore in college just like me, and that experience helped him figure out what type of physics he wanted to study. This fact surprised me because, although common in America, young undergrads doing research is quite rare in Japan. We talked about the research project he worked on that summer and how it revolved around detecting muons, a subject I learned about in my first year of college that really peaked my interest and love of physics. I talked with him about that for a while and how I came to understand special relativity and the connection of time and space through the rather common, but still really cool, example of muons. I enjoyed talking about that with him and found it pretty cool that we both had some similar interests. I then went on to ask him about how he specifically chose solid state physics and superconductors in particular, since I have been wondering how someone chooses one out of the many interesting fields in physics. He told me that he originally wanted to study particle physics, but then, after his research experience as a B2, he decided against that because he did not like the environment of working on huge teams that is common in particle physics research. At the same time, high Tc superconductivity was discovered right around his time in college and he became interested in the complexities of solid state physics. This narrative of picking his field of interest helped me understand how one goes about doing that. It showed me that it takes some experience, trial and error, and awareness of the environment of research fields at the time you make the decision.
After talking about his initial interests in physics and his days as an undergraduate at the University of Tokyo, we talked about his transition into graduate school and his career as a professor. He attended graduate school at the University of Tokyo in the College of Engineering and Applied Physics. Although it is rare in America to stay at you undergraduate university for your graduate studies, it is quite common in Japan. While a graduate student, he studied and researched in a solid state physics lab and decided to remain in the field ever since. Additionally, while Shimano-sensei was a PhD. student, the assistant professor of his lab left for a promotion at another university and the professor of the lab offered Shimano-sensei the position of assistant professor. I thought this was pretty amazing because he was still a student and had not yet received his Ph.D. or held a post doc position. However, he told me that this early promotion caused him to miss out on being a post-doc and having the opportunity to branch out and do research abroad. Once he became an assistant professor, he was expected to stick around since he had to teach and mentor as well as do research. He did eventually get the chance to work abroad in the U.S., though, and told me that it was a different and enjoyable experience. He told me that he found funding and payment for graduate students quite different between United States and Japanese universities. In the U.S., the professor must pay for the researchers in his lab whereas in Japan, all of the students in the lab are self-funded.
Finally, we moved on to the later part of his career. After about ten years as an assistant professor, he was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Tokyo. Unlike the traditional hierarchy of research labs in Japan where Associate Professors still work under a Full Professor, at the University of Tokyo, just like in America, once a researcher attains the rank of Associate Professor, they become a primary investigator. I asked him about what it was like starting your own lab from the ground up, and he told me about how, at that level, everything is on you. You are completely responsible for yourself and attaining funding which can make for a very stressful life at time, but he also said that he loved that kind of freedom and thought that it was the best way to continue moving forward in science. He then built up his lab and in about another decade, he attained the rank of Full Professor, which is the position he currently holds.
Overall, my conversation with Shimano-sensei was a really enjoyable experience and I learned a lot about the career path of a research scientist. I also learned a lot about Shimano-sensei in particular which was really cool since he has led quite an interesting life as a scientist.
A very hungry snow money in Kyoto. Notice the baby on her side.
Arashiyama bamboo forest
Research Project Update
I started this week by working with Tomari-san to test the optical conductivity of our previous 60nm MgB2 sample to ensure that it was damaged as our tests from the previous week had led us to believe. After confirming this damage by seeing the significant shrinking of the band gap, we determined conclusively that the sample was no longer useable. After reaching this conclusion, I spent the rest of the week working mainly on characterizing a new 50nm sample of MgB2 with my mentor. Tomita-san and I ran three different third harmonic generation (THG) tests on our sample at 0.6, 0.5, and 0.3 THz while Hamada-san helped us greatly and ran the 0.4THz test that we needed the data for. Unfortunately, at all four of these frequencies, we detected only one distinct peak for THG, while we were hoping to detect two peaks since MgB2 is a two band superconductor. Since we could not detect the two peaks, we think that the 50nm sample of MgB2 is also damaged and consequently we cannot use it for further experiments. This was quite disappointing since it took up the majority of our time this week and we are still at basically the same place we were at last week. After running all of these tests, we tested the optical conductivity of the sample to ensure that it was damaged as we believe that it is. However, we ran this test on Friday and have yet to analyze the data. If, after analysis, we determine that the sample is damaged, we will have to order a new sample and that will likely not be ready before I leave the lab. If that is the case, I will likely spend the next two weeks analyzing my previous data further and constructing my poster for the colloquium at Rice on August 7th. At the same time, I will likely help my lab mates with anything that I can.
When I first arrived in lab, my mentor Matsunaga-san asked me if I had heard about Haruko Obokata when he told me that I must take detailed notes in the lab to avoid any issues, and that I should develop good laboratory record keeping skills now. I told him that I had heard about her and how there was some sort of a research misconduct issue, but at the time, I did not know the entire story, nor did I understand just how major of an issue it really was in both the international science community and Japan as a whole. After reading a myriad of articles this week about what had happened, I came to understand the severity of the scandal, the terribly sad aftermath, and the importance of ethical behavior in the lab. At the same time, by reading through the trajectory of events from the initial publication to its tragic end, I learned a lot about the culture surrounding women in science in Japan.
In respect to the controversy, reading through primary documents published throughout the scandal, I gained a deep understanding of how it all unfolded. Frankly, it was crushing to read through the story for the first time and see this beacon of light for women in science in Japan fall from grace. All of the press at the time prior to when the questions of misconduct arose heralded her discovery as one of the most important in the history of stem cell research and defined her as an idol for women in science throughout Japan. However, as experts failed to reproduce her results and her work was brought into question, the praise ceased, but the media coverage certainly did not. For months after the initial whispers of unethical research, the media reported on the scandal continuously. Eventually, a committee made up of a handful of researchers at the Riken institute found Obokata guilty of research misconduct. With shame building up against her, all those involved in her research, the Riken institute, and Japan overall, her mentor, a brilliant scientist in his own right, committed suicide out of shame for his and his mentees major mistake. After reading about this tragic event, I came to understand more about the culture surrounding dishonor in Japan and how it could lead to something as terrible as suicide. Unfortunately, the story does not even end there. After all of the questioning, the inability of other experts to reproduce her results, and the guilty verdict on her research misconduct in writing her acclaimed paper, Obokata was given one final chance to reproduce her results and prove her method worked. However, in December of 2014, less than a year after Obokata published her paper, her final chance was cut short as she showed no signs of progress in reproducing her original results. At that point, filled with tears, sadness, and exhaustion, Obokata resigned from the Riken institute and left the media spotlight.
Throughout the scandal and up to the very end, Obokata claimed that although her original paper was flawed, it was not done with any malicious intent, and although she could not reproduce her results, she claimed that she did in fact create stem cells in the way that she detailed in her paper. I do not plan on discussing the validity or believability of such statements since I that is too much speculation from my relatively minor knowledge base on the actual research side of the scandal. However, I do think it is worth pointing out that there seems to be a problem with ethical behavior in science as a whole. From my initial readings of the scandal, it became clear to me that Obokata felt immense pressure to publish and that she had faced significant hardships getting her research to the quality required to publish. Additionally, I do not believe this is a totally isolated incident as my previous studies of current ethical trends has taught me that unethical behavior is not uncommon in the scientific community today. I think that in science today, a culture exists in which scientists face enormous pressure to publish often, and eventually people become desperate. This desperation leads to normally ethical and upstanding individuals to commit unethical actions in order to publish and continue to grow in the scientific community. I think this pressure to publish that pervades science today leads to a dangerous research climate where ethical bounds are pushed, smeared, and crossed. This must be changed in order to avoid tragic events like the entire Obokata scandal.
Furthermore, from my readings and spending time in Japan, I have learned a lot about the difficulties women face in science, and I have gained a strong appreciation for those who continue to push the bounds and help make a place for women in science. I remember during my first week in Japan, I heard a talk by Ishioka-sensei in which she detailed her experience as a women research scientist and the difficulties she faced. It was then that I began to understand just how difficult it was for women in a field dominated by men. Then, I entered my lab and noticed the lack of female researchers at Todai and the apparent lack of anyone tacking note of the issue. It seemed like everyone was alright with it being dominated by males. Through this, I began to think back to the United States and realized that although gender equality is an issue which people throughout the science community are working on, there still exists a major gender gap. I feel stupid that it took me coming to Japan to notice the major gender issues in my own country. It took seeing the severe gender gap here in Japan to wake me up from my illusion that everything was alright in terms of gender equality in the states. This is actually one of the things that I learned through this program that I never expected to learn, but am incredibly grateful for such learning. Seeing the gender inequality here in Japan was an eye-opening experience and one that I will not soon forget.
Research Project Update
This week was my second to last week in lab and it was only a four day week since Monday was a national holiday. On Tuesday, I finalized my abstract and began working on my poster after receiving some helpful feedback from Shimano-sensei, Matsunaga-san, Tomita-san, and Kono-sensei. Then, on Wednesday, our lab held an extra-long meeting in which the undergraduate students who had worked in the lab all semester presented their research and Tomari-san gave a seminar. Since this took up much of the day, there was no time for me and Tomita-san to conduct an experiment, so I worked on preparing my poster. On Thursday, Tomita-san and I conducted an optical conductivity experiment on the 50nm capped sample of MgB2, but determined that something did not seem right. We then checked the alignment of the system and discovered that the entire THz pulse did no pass through the sample. Consequently, we had to realign the system on Friday morning and on Friday night, Tomari-san reran the experiment for us, which we greatly appreciated.
Overall, as my time in lab comes to a close, I will spend most of my time working on my poster and determining the best way to present complex physics concepts to non-experts, which I am rapidly discovering is far more difficult than I had expected earlier in the summer. At the same time, I will likely help Tomita-san with optical conductivity testing next week on a new 60nm MgB2 sample.
Wow, I cannot believe that it is over. My summer in Japan came and went so quickly that I can clearly remember my first days in Japan and how amazed I was to see what it was like for the first time. Now, after two and a half months, Japan no longer feels as foreign as it felt that first week, but rather it feels more normal to me now. I think that I have not quite yet realized how different it is going to be when I go home. How much about daily life in Japan I am going to miss; the incredible service, the quiet and peacefulness, the convenience, and the general kindness that pervades most all of the society. At the same time, I am excited to go back and see all of my friends and family that I have missed quite a lot this summer, although being so busy, having a lot of great friends in this program, and having an amazing and welcoming lab really helped with any sort of homesickness I felt. Overall, I can tell that I have changed a lot from this experience as have my perceptions about Japan and the United States.
First, before going to Japan, I did not know a great deal about Japanese culture outside of anime and manga and business and work ethic. Since going there, I learned that there is a lot more to Japan than manga and working. The people are incredibly kind and polite. The entire country is amazingly convenient, especially for someone who does not even speak the language. However, one of my perceptions about Japan has remained unchanged; I still think Japan has an amazing yet rather different culture and I definitely want to return to work there again.
At the same time, by spending a summer in Japan, I learned a lot about my home country. I learned to appreciate the individualism of the United States. While the group mentality in Japan has incredible benefits, I still prefer the individual thought prevalent in American culture. Both ideals have advantages and disadvantages, and I can see and understand those differences better now. I have also learned to appreciate the diversity in America. I never fully understood the idea that America is a melting pot of cultures and peoples until I went to Japan and saw the other end of the spectrum. However, not all of my changes in perception towards America were positive. After living in Japan, I began to wonder why my own country is so dangerous by comparison. In Japan, a place so foreign to me, I felt safer than I ever did in America. I rarely worried about walking around at night in Tokyo or locking my door every time when I left – two things that I think about far more often in the United States. I still have yet to figure out why Japan and the United States, two highly developed, first world countries, have such varying levels of crime. Another perception of mine that has changed is that people in the United States do not always take their jobs seriously. In America, if someone does not like or enjoy their job, it is common for them to do it poorly due to lack of interest, whereas in Japan everyone takes their job incredibly seriously, from the McDonalds fast food worker to the president of a Japanese company. This pride and work ethic is one of the things that I think I will miss most about Japan, because it pervades all of Japanese society and plays a role in much of Japanese culture. While I learned a lot about the United States during my stay in Japan, I also learned a lot about myself.
I personally changed a great deal during my stay in Japan. I think that I became more accepting of other people and learned to understand and appreciate other peoples’ viewpoints more. I also learned the value of diversity and how much I really like it. Being in this program with a group of such different people was really interesting and enjoyable because they all taught me so much about different ideas and viewpoints. In fact, I commonly spoke about throughout this program how I wish Penn State was more diverse because it really allows for you to learn so much about the world. Going off of that point a little, seeing Japan made me really understand some of the hardships women in STEM fields face. Before this trip, I use to think “Ya, that’s unfortunate, but is it really that bad,” but now, after seeing the extreme side of it, I can no longer think that way. I see the major difficulties that women in STEM face and I think that it is certainly something we should be concerned about. Additionally, I think I became I kinder person on this trip and learned to think more about the group than myself. As I said earlier, both individual and group mentality have their advantages and disadvantages and that falling somewhere in the middle is best. I think after spending two and a half months in Japan, I have moved more towards the middle and have adopted some of that Japanese group mentality. Overall, I think I have changed a lot and I cannot possibly write about all of it here. The changes I mention above are just a few of the most important changes to me.
Actually living in Japan and not just visiting it was a very special experience since I had the chance to adapt to and adopt the culture rather than just being a tourist in a foreign land. There a many things that I will miss about Japan, but I will miss my lab mates the most as they really made me feel at home in Japan and welcomed me into their lab with open arms. My final week in lab was rather busy for the most part; preparing my poster while also conducting experiments with Tomita-san took up a great deal of time, but my lab mates helped make it really enjoyable. On Monday, they all took me to Tokyo station to go have lunch at Ramen Street, a place I have wanted to visit since I arrived in Japan. Then, throughout the week we ate at my favorite places that they took me too throughout the program which was wonderful. Then on Friday, we had my going away party. Tomari-san planned a wonderful party for me and the lab and my mentor gave me some really wonderful gifts. Two of the gifts were especially wonderful. One was a large piece of green construction paper folded in half with little boxes on the inside filled with messages from each member of my lab. The other was a letter from my mentor Tomita-san in both Japanese and English that was very touching. All of the gifts I received were great, but these two were especially meaningful.
I plan to stay in touch with my research lab and I hope to return there some day to continue doing research with them, be that next summer or some years down the road. Additionally, I plan to look for a position in a similar field at Penn State so that I can continue working and growing.
During my final weekend in Japan, I hiked Fuji-san, the tallest mountain in the country. It was an absolutely amazing experience and a great way to close out my summer long adventure in Japan.
Huddling together for warmth: The top of the mountain was very cold
A couple of my great hiking buddies. Also, guess where I go to school
Sunrise at the top of Fuji-san
Going away party
Searching for Two Higgs Modes in Superconducting MgB2 Using Terahertz Pump – Terahertz Probe Spectroscopy
2015 SCI Annual Research Colloquium Undergraduate Poster Prize: First Place
This summer, I had the greatest pleasure of conducting research in Shimano Laboratory at the University of Tokyo where Shimano-sensei graciously welcomed me into his lab and taught me a great deal about the theory of our research and about the research landscape in general. On the day to day level in the lab, I worked directly with Tomita-san to detect two Higgs modes and their interaction through Terahertz Pump – Terahertz Probe spectroscopy while Matsunaga-san served as my more senior mentor, teaching me a lot about fundamental physics that we were studying and some great experimental techniques. For all of their help and welcoming nature, I am truly thankful.
Now, to begin talking about my actual research. My summer project eventually took on the title “Searching for Two Higgs modes in superconducting MgB2 using Terahertz Pump – Terahertz Probe Spectroscopy.” The goal of this project was to utilize the two band structure of MgB2 and TPTP spectroscopy to detect two Higgs modes and study if and how they interact. Additionally, beyond developing a fundamental understanding of multiple Higgs modes by irradiating a 60nm sample of MgB2 with an ultrafast monocycle THz pump pulse, we hoped to induce relaxed oscillation of the order parameter (Higgs mode) and then measure this oscillation with a THz probe pulse. I spent my first week in lab reading papers and learning the basics of alignment in general. Then, I began working on our TPTP system. This work consisted of repeatedly aligning the system and checking to see if it was sufficient for our experiment. After we finished aligning the system, we conducted both a linear optical conductivity test and a TPTP experiment to characterize the sample and test for the two Higgs modes respectively. For the optical conductivity test, we simply used THz time domain spectroscopy without a pump pulse to determine the critical temperature and the order parameter of our sample while also determine the gate time delay at which the sample is most temperature dependent. This second piece of information was important because it allowed us to determine at what time to fix the gate delay at for the TPTP experiment. Once the optical conductivity test was completed, we conducted the TPTP test at three different temperatures and three different intensities at each temperature. The data showed a large overshoot signifying the forced oscillation of the Pi band order parameter, while it also showed a higher frequency oscillation throughout the overshoot. At first, would could not determine why this high frequency oscillation existed and had to analyze the data further to determine its origins. After finishing the test, I analyzed the data, with a great deal of help from my mentors and sensei, and then presented on our results to my entire lab. However, I still had yet to determine the origins of this high frequency oscillation. At this point, I then went to Okinawa for the mid-program meeting.
When I returned from the mid-program meeting, my mentor informed me that the sample was no longer showing signs of two peak THG and that I needed to conduct an optical conductivity test on the sample to determine if it was damaged. After conducting said test, I determined that the sample was in fact damaged and that we could no longer use it for further testing. At this point, my mentor and I began testing the other samples in our lab to hopefully find one that worked so that I could continue with my project, but unfortunately, after weeks of testing all of our samples, we found that they were all damaged and that our lab would have to order a new sample. At this point, which was my last week in lab, my project ended and I spend the rest of my time preparing my poster and helping my mentor with some tests he was conducting.
During my last week in lab, while preparing my poster with my results from my initial TPTP experiment, I reanalyzed our data, with the help of Matsunaga-san, and discovered something that I had missed in my initial analysis. We found that the high frequency oscillations in the lower frequency overshoot were caused by the chirped pump pulse forcing oscillation in the Sigma band. With this analysis, we determined that we had generated forced oscillations in both the Pi and Sigma band, but we were unable to observe relaxed oscillation of either Higgs mode. To move forward, our setup must be adjusted to have a better signal-to-noise ratio and a better overlap of pump and probe pulse. Additionally, we must run more comprehensive tests on a new sample to characterize it and then hopefully observe relaxed oscillations in both Higgs modes. Then, we want to study the interaction between these two Higgs modes to help understand the interaction between two symmetry-broken systems.
Overall, although my project faced a lot of problems this summer, I had an absolutely amazing time working in my lab. I learned more than I ever could have expected and had the opportunity to work and become close with the amazing, awesome, wonderful people that worked in the lab.
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Now that I have been back in the states for a little under a month, I can begin to comment on my overall NanoJapan experience and how it has affected my life back here at home. Below, I discuss some of the most important and meaningful lessons I learned through this program. In doing so, I group the lessons into who I talk about each lesson with according to I think cares most about each particular one. All of them are incredibly meaningful to me, and it would be hard, if not impossible, for me to order all of my experiences by importance. However, I understand that when talking about the program, people care to hear about some experiences and lessons more than others, and consequently I talk about different aspects of the program with different groups of people.
To begin, when speaking with family about my experience, I tend to focus heavily on how it opened my mind to the rest of the world and that there is so much out there. It taught me that to truly grow and develop as a person, I need to experience the world from a number of different viewpoints that only experiencing other cultures can allow. This program taught me to value these different viewpoints since only when I begin to look at the same thing through different lenses can I begin to see the whole picture. At the same time, this program afforded me some insight into the real world and what it means to work for a living. Achievable only through experience, this understanding of the real world has helped clear my head and guide me in the direction I want to head with my future. Also when speaking with family, I comment that this program really made me appreciate home just as much as it made me appreciate other cultures. While alone in a foreign country, I tended to get a little homesick from time to time, and this longing for home helped me understand the importance of home. Overall, although this list does not comprise everything I talk about with family in regards to my experience, it encompasses the most important ideas.
Unlike speaking with family, when I speak about my experience with a professor, I talk far more about the research side of the program. I talk about what working in my lab was like and how I learned about real world research was like. I tell them how for the first time I saw how the knowledge and skills that I developed in classes applied to the real world of research. Additionally, I get to talk to them about my specific research because they are the only people that will really understand it. I say ‘I get to’ because I feel very lucky to talk with experts about my research, and, at the same time, I really enjoy talking about it. Finally, I also talk with them about how I learned the importance of international collaboration in research this summer and that as I move forward in my career, that I want to work either with or in collaboration with an international lab.
Continuing, when speaking with an employer I talk about yet again a different, but still very meaningful, group of lessons I learned through my experience. I talk about how I learned the value of working in an international setting. That when you work with people from different backgrounds and cultures, you can learn and accomplish more than if you work in a homogenous setting. I also learned how to work on a team in which you must work together to solve problems. Additionally, during my summer in the Shimano lab, I learned how to deal with unforeseeable and unavoidable obstacles. My research hit a number of roadblocks that my mentor and I had to work around by redesigning our original goals. Although it dealt a blow to what I could accomplish in my short time there, it taught me the valuable lesson that the real world is highly variable and you need to be capable of adjusting to such problems to keep moving forward. Finally, I learned how to work independently and seek help when I needed to. I believe that all of these experiences will help me in any future career, and I am happy to have had them at such an early point in my life.
The last major group of people that I talk about my experience with are my friends. With them, I talk about a handful of the lessons above, along with the immense value and importance in traveling and studying abroad. I tell my fellow classmates that they should, if at all possible, take part in some study abroad program, regardless of their field. All majors can learn a great deal from studying abroad and everyone should do everything possible to take advantage of their inherent free time that comes along with youth and college to immerse themselves in other cultures. I tell them about how my experience really opened my eyes to the world around me. That it showed me that there is more to the world than just America. I also talk about how living in Japan showed me the unfair and absurd climate for women in STEM fields and that this issue cannot be ignored. These two lessons comprise what I found most important for myself to learn in terms of developing as a young human and a citizen.
Overall, I really cannot put into words all that this incredible experience gave to me, but just that I am grateful for it. This program helped me come to understand what I want to do with my life. It helped me decide that I want to go to graduate school to then develop the skills necessary to contribute to science and society. It also made clear to me that I want to travel abroad and experience as many new cultures as I can. Living in another country has shown me the tremendous value of experience and adopting another culture rather than just being a tourist. Finally, one last thing that this experience showed me was that I really do love Japan and Japanese culture and that I certainly will return there someday not too far away.