html prefix="og:"> NanoJapan 2015 Profile - Arthr Win
People \\ NanoJapan Undergraduates \\ NanoJapan 2015 \\ ARthur Win
Header Graphic

Arthur Win - NanoJapan 2015
The University of Tulsa

Major: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Class Standing: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation: May 2018
NanoJapan Research Lab: Prof. Taiichi Otsuji, Ultra-Broadband Signal Processing, Tohoku University
NanoJapan Research Project: Terahertz Emission and Detection in Graphene-Based van der Waals Heterostructures PDF Icon

Student Profile PIc

Why NanoJapan?
NanoJapan is a way for me to push my limits as both a researcher and global citizen.  It combines both the challenge of conducting top-of-the-line research while adapting to life in a country far different than our own.  Through these two challenges, the program aims to accomplish something that few programs attempt: create globally competent engineers and scientists.  With globalization, the scientific community is no longer homogenous and now depends on cross-cultural collaborations to innovate.  NanoJapan will allow students to better understand how a different culture interacts and communicates through immersing in Japan.  These skills are not only invaluable in conducting international scientific research, but in effectively working in today’s global society. 

I chose to apply to this program to better become one of these globally competent engineers. During the program, I hope to expand my physics and engineering knowledge through the field of nanotechnology.   This knowledge will help me solidify my research interests and give me a glimpse into the life of a grad student.  Perhaps I will even discover my future grad school in this program.  Additionally, I am looking forward to learning more about Japanese culture while working in a top-of-the-line lab.  While I have heard and read stories from previous NanoJapaners, I am eager to experience firsthand the advantages and disadvantages of Japanese culture in both a lab and daily life setting.  Most importantly, however, I am looking forward to the people and places along my adventure.  These shared experiences, like climbing Mt. Fuji, make any journey just as valuable as the destination.

My goals for this summer are to:

Research Project Overview

My research project was to look at the stimulated terahertz emission and plasmonic enhancement in terahertz detection from the double graphene layer heterostructure. As of now, most terahertz emitters and detectors have limitations such as range and power that prevent them from being commercially viable. Our goal was to investigate the possibility of researching the properties of this structure for next generation terahertz devices.         

This project related to my interests in terms of pursuing nanoscience and terahertz in graduate school. In the lab, I was able to combine both interests by taking graphene, a 2-dimensional nanostructure, and examining its optical properties by exciting it with terahertz. I faced many issues with samples and instruments that delayed or prevented many experiments, but this only made me more determined to perform an experiment. I am still uncertain whether either will be my specialty, but it will definitely be a field that I will heavily consider.

Overview of Lab Environment: The Otsuji Lab is a lot more relaxed than what I heard in orientation. People enter and leave the lab, as they can/need, and most people left at a reasonable time (if they weren’t buried in work). I’ve heard that many of the other NanoJapan labs typically work till after midnight, and this was almost never the case in the Otsuji Lab. In my project, I only worked with Arnold-san and Deepika-san, who both spoke fluent English, so I can’t speak too much about working with the whole lab. However, Arnold-san and Deepika-san are friendly and intelligent people who explained all the theory, machinery, and answered my infinite set of questions regarding my project. 

Daily Life in Japan: My daily life in Japan was typically waking up around 8 am, biking to the lab, and performing experiments until around 6 pm. For lunch, I would typically get something from the konbini next to the cafeteria and bring it back to the lab, or eat out at a restaurant with my lab mates. Thanks to them, I got to try a lot of different restaurants with absolutely delicious food that would otherwise have to struggle with my broken Japanese. Then, after work, I usually regrouped with Steven and Cole to get some food and snacks at the 7/11 or Seiyu, which was followed by Ping-Pong matches with people from our dorm. On weekends, Steven, Cole, and I were always either going on weekend trips or hanging around downtown Sendai.

My favorite experience in Japan was… visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park.

Before I left for Japan I wish I had…
packed a lighter laptop and hiking backpack.

While I was in Japan I wish I had…
visited Hokkaido and the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Excerpts from NanoJapan Weekly Reports


We finally did it. After 2 days of pre-orientation and a 12 hour flight, all of the NanoJapaners finally made it to the ultra-modern, never-ending city of Tokyo.  In a week, I’ve already been to the Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Shinjuku, Roppongi, and many more. Coming from the suburbs, one of the biggest changes that I enjoy is being surrounded by tall skyscrapers and having an infinite amount of activities to do.  Also, Japanese food is probably the greatest that I’ve ever eaten. I’ve already tried many dishes like takoyaki and authentic Japanese sushi.  Okonomiyaki is currently the next delicious looking dish on my list. 

Tokyo is far different than any city I’ve ever been to in the world.  The streets are virtually spotless, I can barely read any of the signs and billboards, and I’m surrounded by a vending machine at every corner.  At night, I can walk around the streets after midnight without the fear of getting shot or mugged.  We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore (The NanoJapaners have found that Ajay, the only Kansas native, has an extreme lack of humor with this phrase). 
Even after everything that I read and heard from past NanoJapaners, Jordan Hoyt and Vernon Londagin, there were still many things that I did not expect to find in Japan.  Based on my experiences so far, Japan appears to be simultaneously advanced yet behind in many aspects.  The subway system is far more efficient and cleaner than in New York and Chicago, toilets appear to have more electronics than an iPhone, and you can order sushi from a conveyor belt without any human interaction.  However, Japan seems to be lacking in fast and widely available internet, acceptance of credit cards, and wide or open rooms.  The internet issue has especially made it incredibly frustrating to read the news and contact any friends back home.  Also, the number of coins that I’m carrying is insanely high compared to America, so I’ve had to buy a Japanese wallet to accommodate.  Finally, the Sanuki Club’s rooms are ridiculously small and the walls are paper thin. To communicate with the other NanoJapaners, we have to meet in the lobby, conference room, or at breakfast.

So far, Japanese classes have not been too demanding. While we have homework and the classes are 3 and half hours long, the classes seem to go fast and have proven to be incredibly useful.  My name in Japanese is アーサー (Āsā), which sounds like the Japanese word for “morning” (朝 - asa). The Japanese language lacks an “r” sound at the end of syllables and the “th” sound, thus warping over half of my name. Among the NanoJapan students and Dr. Stanton, I’ve somehow been exclusively referred to as アーサーさん (Āsā-san).

For me, Japanese grammar has been the most confusing part of the language. Every morning I wake up early to review all of the material from yesterday, but the grammar seems almost backwards from English. My strategy to improve my Japanese is to speak and read as much Japanese as I can.  Many people in Tokyo speak little to no English, so practicing is almost required to do anything.  To get closer to Japanese people, I would definitely suggest trying your best to learn as much of their language as you can.  Some of the KIP and Japanese high school students that we met last weekend were very shy, and when I speak Japanese, it always seems to make them smile or laugh (although it’s probably because I’m butchering the pronunciation).  In a week, I’ve made a milestone of ordering food and introducing myself entirely in Japanese.  At this rate, I’m really looking forward to how much Japanese that I will know by the end of the summer.

I have to ask: why are so many Japanese people so shy? I felt really bad for the KIP students and Japanese high school students who were incredibly timid and reserved around me.  If I had to guess, they were probably afraid of making mistakes in English or not understanding what I might say.  I find this incredibly surprising because I’ve always considered myself incredibly shy and introverted. After demonstrating my patience and humor around the Japanese students, I was really happy when many of them loosened up and spoke to me like I wasn’t their boss’s boss.  At least in America, my thin figure and 5’4 height sorts me among the least intimidating type of people.

Dr. Pepper
Dr. Pepper in Japan
This picture is a tribute to my friend and alumni mentor, Vernon Londagin. During orientation, his unfortunate times in Japan have been the source the many humorous lessons of what not to do in Japan.  Also, he managed to overcome his 15-20 Dr. Peppers a day addiction in Japan!

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Our Japanese language classes are right next to the Tokyo Tower. Every day we get to see it up close!

Sumo Wrestling!
During one of the matches, the NanoJapaners started a loud clap and chant for an underdog sumo wrestler named Endou. Many Japanese people were laughing and joining us in the cheer.

Intro to Nanoscience Lectures
This week, Dr. Stanton from the University of Florida, Kunie Ishioka from the National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS), and Saito-sensei from Tohoku University gave several nanoscience lectures. 

Dr. Stanton gave a brief overview of modern physics and its applications in nanoscience.  Fortunately, I took a modern physics course last semester, so many of the topics were already familiar to me. He detailed several aspects of modern physics including: basic quantum mechanics, energy quantization, pump probe and femtosecond spectroscopy, phonon interactions, scattering, and generating THz radiation.  In these lectures, I really enjoyed learning how to apply physics concepts in the real world, rather than only pure theory in a typical classroom.

Kunie Ishioka
is a Principal Researcher in the Surface Characterization Group, Nano Characterization Unit of the Advanced Key Technologies Division at NIMS.  Female scientists are rare in Japan, so learning about her career was incredibly fascinating.  Ishioka initially aspired to be an astrophysicist from her favorite childhood show, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.  However, she eventually found her true calling in Materials Science.  Ishioka credits her success as a female scientist to her supportive family and her birth in 1966.  1966 was the year of the Fire Horse in the Chinese Zodiac. It is said that a girl born in the year of the Fire Horse will kick her husband to death (?...!) which Ishioka took as being born with a strong will.  She also talked about her research in Femtosecond and Pump Probe Spectroscopy on different materials at NIMS, and the usefulness of these techniques.

Saito-sensei gave an interesting and light-hearted talk on nanoscience and carbon nanotubes.  He talked about the many difficulties with working in the nanoscale, and he gave us the example of a robotic nanoscale pill.  While many of us thought the difficulties in the developing such a pill were the material or process, we were all surprised to hear that the hardest part was developing a nanobattery.  Additionally, Saito-sensei explained many mathematical relationships and properties of C60 and graphene that can be used to improve current technologies.  Some examples he gave were drug delivery, stronger tennis rackets or ping pong paddles, LEDS, and transparent or foldable computers.  Despite hearing how Saito-sensei is a “very strict man” from Kono-sensei, I was surprised by his easy going attitude and jokes.  I’m sure this is different in his lab, but his lecture made nanoscience very entertaining and funny while being educational.

Research Project Overview         
During the internship phase, I will be working with Otsuji-sensei in the Ultra-Broadband Signal Processing Lab at Tohoku University.  Otsuji-sensei has informed me that my project will not be determined until after I arrive in Sendai.  However, based on the articles he has sent me, my project will likely be related to fabricating graphene based terahertz devices. Graphene is a semiconductor of high interest because of its many unique properties. These include: a zero bandgap, efficient thermal and electrical conductivity, high strength to weight ratio, and a one atom thickness (2D system).  Since my major is Electrical and Computer Engineering, I will most likely be investigating the electrical and optical properties of graphene. In the lab, I expect to use many of the same experimental methods that previous NanoJapaners, Vernon and Lila, used in the lab. Some methods include: Pump Probe Spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Far-Infrared Spectroscopy. 

Recent experiments with graphene under electrical and optical pumping have been successful in obtaining a weak terahertz gain.  Further experimentation could help open up the way to creating compact, room temperature THz lasers and devices.  One of the main challenges in THz devices is the lack of semiconductors that can absorb such a high frequency. As one of the few materials that can detect THz signals, experimentation with graphene can help improve the development of such devices.  Applications with THz devices include: improved food screening, homeland security, and broadband communications due to the non-ionizing nature of the THz signal.

>> Return to Top


Nagano is far different image of Japan than one might expect.  If you ask most Americans what they think of when you say Japan, you would most likely hear all about the mega cities like Tokyo or Osaka.  But unlike Tokyo or Osaka, Nagano [Prefecture] is home to small, rural-like towns.  It is far away from all of the shimmering lights and skyscrapers that we saw in Tokyo, and our ryokan was completely devoid of any form of Internet. Visiting Nagano made it clear that not all of Japan is the ultra-modern culture that we came to expect.

As we got off the shinkansen and drove into the Nagano, I immediately felt a new impression of the Japan that I hadn’t experienced so far.  Instead of skyscrapers and lights, Nagano is surrounded by a serene gaze of hills, mountains, and trees. There is a sense of peace and nature, opposite of the cramped and man-made features of Tokyo.  Looking back, I think this experience was a lot more valuable to us than we initially thought.  All of NanoJapaners had the experience of visiting a different and comparatively unknown side of Japan. We experienced a taste of Japan under the mega city surface.

With all of the scheduled activities in Nagano, one weekend felt like weeks (in a really good way).  On our first day, we went to see some stone buddhas in the forest (Although Katherine and I unfortunately had to pass on this. Katherine has a pine allergy, and I got horrible motion sickness from the twists and turns up the mountain on the stuffy bus), we planted in a rice paddy, bathed in a natural onsen, listened to a taiko drum performance, and finished the night with a taiko lesson.  The taiko was an incredibly eye opening experience for me.  I came in thinking “how can you make a performance with only one kind of drum?” and I was left blown away by the beauty, harmony, and hard work within each performance that we heard.  I especially appreciated the instrument after we were paired with a taiko student and taught the performances.  I found myself horribly lost, messing up a lot, and looking nearby at Rocco as to what to do.  Although, I found that Rocco was looking at me for help, and we both ended up embarrassed by our poor skills (although it was comforting that Rocco was equally terrible). 

For me, the greatest impact of the trip was interacting with Japanese students on the last two days.  On the second day, we had a forum with KIP and Shinshu University students over the usage of cell phones in the classroom.  I explained that cell phone usage was typically okay in my classes back home, as long as you weren’t distracting anyone, and most of my professors didn’t care.  When I fully explained my thoughts on the issue, one of the KIP students pointed out that my opinions and classes were very “American style.” This statement really shocked me at first.  I really began to feel how different my mindset is from the Japanese way of thinking.  I learned that in a typical Japanese class, use of cell phones is almost always considered disrespectful, even if the use is somehow beneficial to the learning experience.  I asked them how they felt about this policy, and while most of them desired for cell phone use, they also found it acceptable because the policy has always been the case.  I immediately thought to pre-orientation, and the Japanese values of kata (form) and wa (harmony) became much clearer in my mind.

On the final day of the trip, we made soba noodles in Aoki Village (we also discovered that our noodle cutting skills are subpar), visited a nearby shrine, and had a tour of Ueda City by some high school students.  I mentioned these high school students briefly in my last report, as their fear of me was appalling.  At the end of the tour, I could see that they were a lot more comfortable and happy around me. It was presumably after they realized how much of a goofball that I am. Eventually, I felt safe enough to ask them if they thought the NanoJapan students were strange.  Their response was along the lines of:  “You American students seem to have a lot of fun and are very friendly.  We Japanese people are very shy and reserved.”  Again, I thought back to the collectivist society lectures during pre-orientation.

Overall, I think this excursion had really highlighted how American I truly am.  Those two experiences allowed me to feel first-hand how American and Japanese values clash.  I was quick to judge those high school students as unusually shy, and I was appalled by the opinions of several college students. However, I need to keep reminding myself that I am in a different culture.  For the rest of the summer, I’m hoping to prevent myself from only seeing Japan through the American lens.

Ryokan Window
Just outside of the Ryokan window: An incredible view to wake up seeing in the morning.

Taiko Drumming Lessons! The girl on the right had the unfortunate luck of being my taiko partner.  If you somehow end up reading this on the NanoJapan website, I’m terribly sorry about my horrible performance and incoordination. I am definitely not cut to be a performer/musician.

Ueda HS
Ueda City High School Baseball Field: These mountains can be seen just outside the high school. Man, why couldn’t my high school have this gorgeous view in the distance? :(

Intro to Nanoscience Lectures
This week’s nanoscience lectures were from Tonouchi-sensei from Osaka University, Kono-sensei from Rice University, and Kyoko Ishizaka from the University of Tokyo.

Tonouchi-sensei’s lecture covered more information about the THz range.  He talked about the properties and generation/detection of THz signals, THz Time Domain Spectroscopy, and an incredible variety of applications in the THz band. I found it really interesting when he talked about using a THz signal to differentiate the different polymorphs of the same drug from different companies.

Kono-sensei talked about THz science in carbon based nanomaterials.  As my project will likely be related to graphene, these lectures have so far been the most useful.  Kono-sensei delved into solid state physics, emphasizing carrier transport and electron dynamics in graphene and carbon nanotubes.  In his second lecture, I was amazed by the amount of material properties gained from measuring the Hall Voltage and Resistance vs Temperature.  I had briefly learned about them in my Modern Physics class, but now I really understand the potential behind them in research. 

Kyoko Ishizaka is the first female faculty member in the history of the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Tokyo.  Like Kunie Ishioka, she represents a part of Japan’s growing acceptance of women in the workforce and STEM field.  She talked about her research using Angular Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy (ARPES) and the technique’s ability to obtain lots of information, including obtaining information about a material’s band structure and spin.  However, I felt most of the material that she presented required a more advanced background to fully understand.  At the end of her presentation, she mentioned her progression as a researcher at the University of Tokyo.  In under a year, I found it incredible that she went from an empty room to having just fewer than 20 grad students working in her full functioning lab. Ishizaka-sensei truly poured her heart and soul to forge a lab from scratch.

Preparation for Research Internship – Article Review
In Otsuji-sensei’s first point contact email, he sent me the article, “Superradiant terahertz lasing with graphene metamaterials” regarding his research in fabricating a terahertz laser using plasmon dynamics in planar, population inverted graphene.  The main purpose of this research project is to fabricate a laser that operates at room temperature that lases across the entire THz spectrum. 

T. Otsuji, V. Popov and V. Ryzhii. "Superradiant terahertz lasing with graphene metamaterials," 28 May 2013, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.1201305.004892.

Graphene is shown to have a negative dynamic conductivity, or THz gain, under optical and electrical pumping due to its zero band gap.  However, the stimulated emission in graphene is limited due to restrictions in the interband transition, as graphene’s absorbance is only 2.3%.  To help overcome this obstacle, the Otsuji Lab researched excitation of surface plasma polaritons (SPP) on a micro-ribbon, population inverted, array of graphene. SPP excitation utilizes the resonant plasma absorption in graphene, achieving THz super radiance. 

The graphene microcavities were placed between metal contacts on top of a silicon substrate, where the opposite ends of each cavity adjacent to the metal contacts are p and n doped.  Then, optical illumination or electron injection is performed to create population inversion in graphene samples.  This is followed by an external THz wave incident on the graphene, normal to the plane, and a THz signal is amplified by the graphene.  This amplification and absorbance was then measured as a function of the Fermi energy and dynamic conductivity. 

They found a negative dynamic conductivity across most frequencies and optical pumping strengths.  The data found that the lasing occurred when the plasmon gains balanced the scattering loss, showing that the plasmon oscillations are highly coherent.  These oscillations are in phase, creating a single collective plasmon node which is distributed across the array, performing superradiant THz emission.  Additionally, they found a stimulated gain coefficient of 104  cm-1  in a wide THz range.  The conclusion was that stimulated emission of graphene using photons or plasmons is a promising option for designing room temperature terahertz lasers. 

>> Return to Top


One of the most striking differences that I’ve found in Japan lies in the Tokyo subway system.  The first thing that I noticed getting onto the train was the deafening silence.  Aside from the quiet conversations and people getting on/off the train, there isn’t much to hear other than us obvious foreigners.  I swear, every time that we got on a train, our loud voices were comparable to waving a giant American flag. 

Unfortunately, I cannot speak about the Tokyo Subway during the rush hours. I walked to language class early in the morning, or I was catching up on sleep during the weekends.  However, from what I’ve heard from some of the KIP students, some trains get crowded enough where an officer needs to push people in.  Almost everyone in Tokyo uses the subway to get around, so this is not too surprising. Those people driving on the roads make a very small minority. (Especially in Azabu-Juban, where you’ll see sports cars like Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches everyday)

I think the main “rule” that everyone adheres to on the subway is to make as much space for everyone as you can.  Although I did not experience rush time traffic, there were still many times where there weren’t any seats available, and you had to keep moving down the train as people got on/off.  If there is an elderly or disabled person entering a train, it is expected that the people sitting down will offer their own seats to them.  Typically, the person offering their seat sits close to the door of the train, where a sign on the window will mark that seat as a “courtesy seat.”  This seat offering process appeared to happen regardless of the number of people on the train.

In my experiences, I don’t think I’ve seen a single person eat/drink on the train.  There is a culture of cleanliness reflected in all of the Japan and few attempt to eat during a train ride and run the risk of getting the place dirty (that would be us Americans). Also during a train ride, almost everyone is either looking down at their phones, sleeping, or reading books.  These people are making long commutes on the subway, and this is their ideal time to browse the internet, send emails, and relax before they get back to their long jobs. Regardless of the activity, people on the subway will always sit up or stand up straight so that they do not take more space than they need. 
When I visit Chicago, I always end up using the CTA to get around.  I have to say, Tokyo’s subway system is streets ahead. The CTA is usually dirty, off schedule, and full of panhandlers. Also, I always have to prepare for a fairly rough ride along the bumpy tracks.  While there are a few bumps on the Tokyo subway, 99% of the ride is incredibly smooth and on time.  This is probably why it is so easy to sleep on the train. I’m not saying the CTA is a bad system, but after you have ridden the Tokyo subway, you start to wonder “why can’t our public transportation system be like that?”  

The Tokyo subway makes it evident that Japanese culture tends to keep others in mind when performing an action.  As I mentioned above, these activities included: people making space for others, not eating or drinking to keep the train clean for everyone, helping the elderly and disable by offering your seat, and being quiet to not bother others.  Unlike in America, all of these actions are not done to make themselves feel better, but are the natural action to perform.  I suppose this is highly reflective of the idea of wa (harmony) that we learned during pre-departure orientation.  Japanese culture seeks to keep everyone as comfortable and peaceful as they can through unspoken rules (even if an officer has to push them into a train).

Mori Arts Building
52nd floor of the Mori Arts Building
Rocco, Alena, and I went to the Mori Arts Building to see the Naruto Museum.  We experienced our first earthquake in Japan up here, and I managed to snag this pic.  Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in the museum.

Shinto Wedding
Shinto Wedding
On our trip to Kamakura, we got to witness this wedding performed near a shrine.  I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be strange to have your wedding in a public space like this.

Every NanoJapaner has got to have a pic of this.  I would not recommend going inside of the Buddha though.  Granted, it was only like 10 yen, but I was still pretty disappointed that there wasn’t anything.

Intro to Nanoscience Lectures
This week, we had several nanoscience lectures by Dr. Bird from SUNY Buffalo and Aoki-sensei from Chiba University. 
Dr. Bird’s lectures have been the most fundamental during orientation.  He started from the basics of semiconductor physics and delved more into graphene physics.  In Kono-sensei and Dr. Stanton’s lecture, we had already covered most of the material, but I think you needed previous knowledge to follow those lecture.  Personally, I think this lecture would have benefitted them a lot if it were at the very beginning.  In Dr. Bird’s second lecture, I found it really interesting that he found it unlikely that graphene would fully replace silicon for transistors.  Although electrons can most at relativistic speeds in graphene, the zero bandgap appears to be its Achilles’ heel.  Being unable to turn off a graphene based transistor isn’t viable in today’s electronics.

Aoki-sensei’s lecture was over microscopy techniques. He explained briefly about tunneling microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and a few others.  I thought it was interesting to see the kind of image is generated based on the different responses of a material.  While I don’t think I will be doing much microscopy, I thought the lecture had a lot of good content to know. 

>> Return to Top


My first day in the lab was very relaxed.  Kasuya-san, a first year Master’s student in the Otsuji Lab, came to pick up Steven and me from the dorm.  Steven and I are on the Katahira Campus of Tohoku University, which is about a 30 minute walk away from where we live.  But right after our long walk to campus, Kasuya-san handed me the keys to a shiny bike to use for the summer.  When I got to the Otsuji Lab, I was introduced to all of my lab mates and some senior researchers.  I had read and heard all about the members from Vernon and his reports, so it was great to finally meet these people face-to-face.  They are all friendly and easy going, but many are definitely on the shy side.  It was especially amusing because some of them hid behind a corner when I walked in.  Fortunately, they managed to climb out of their shell after some talking, and then they gave me a quick tour of the lab.  For lunch, several of us went out to eat some delicious okonomiyaki. 

Okonomiyaki! Another check off my list for the summer

I have two mentors in the Otsuji Lab.  The first is Kasuya-san, who will be helping me with any day-to-day issues in Japan.  He’s very helpful and approachable, although a little shy at times.  His English is really good and I rarely have communication issues with him.  Apparently he’s also a really skilled ping pong player (I think him and Saito-sensei should face off).  My other mentor is a second year Masters student, Arnold-san.  Arnold-san is originally from Indonesia, and he will be helping me with anything research related.  He is really friendly, but also extremely busy. Between working in the lab, he has been job hunting before he graduates next March.

Japanese language is the norm in the lab.  Even so, the English speaking level is still high among my lab mates.  There are still some gaps in communication, and I do have to think a bit of how to phrase my sentences, but the message gets through.  Also, it’s never occurred to me before how much slang and colloquial phrases that I actually use (which they obviously don’t understand and now that I think about it, they don’t make much sense in English).  But later that same day, I also met Chris, a study abroad student from UC San Diego.  He has been studying Japanese for two years, so he’s been giving me a lot of tips to improve my Japanese with my lab mates. 
For housing, the Sendai Squad is staying in Urban Castle Kawauchi.  It’s a very international dorm with people from many different nations living there.  Just sitting in the common room, you can hear the exchange of many different languages going on.  The people are friendly and very willing to help newcomers out.  However in terms of facilities, UCK is pretty average for a dorm.  I currently live in an apartment at Tulsa that includes my own bathroom, kitchen, and living room, so this change is a bit of a downgrade.  The rooms are very tiny and the beds are a little hard, but I can live with it. 

Otsuji-sensei has given me a tentative week-by-week schedule for the summer. For the first few weeks of the internship period, I will be learning more about semiconductor and graphene physics.  He has been giving me a series of lectures, and Arnold-san has recommended several chapters in a few textbooks.  Next week, Arnold-san will train me to use the instrumentation for my project. 

Otsuji Lab Window
View outside the Otsuji Lab’s Windows

Sendai Statue
Sendai Daikannon
Apparently no one in Sendai actually goes here.  Saito-sensei took the Sendai Squad here when we arrived, and he was shocked when he saw a couple of tourists.  The statue was recently built with the purpose of drawing in people, so many don’t find it interesting. I still think it’s pretty cool.  Also, it’s the 6th largest statue in the world!

Assessment of Orientation Program and Language Classes
The orientation program was a fantastic introduction to Japan and nanoscience.  Even though it may have felt overwhelming at times as we had activities scheduled from dusk to dawn, everything we gained was worth it. For me, I really enjoyed all the moments when we interacted with other Japanese students.  Through the KIP discussions and the trip to Ueda High School, I was able to talk individually with students about our cultural differences and similarities.  Also, it was great that we got to make connection with students from across the ocean.  During pre-departure orientation, I believe President Leebron meant forging these friendships were what made his international experiences “unforgettable.” These relationships will last when we return to America, and I will certainly think about the people that I’ve met in Japan for the rest of my life. For the least helpful portions of orientation, I think some of the nanoscience lectures from a few of the Japanese professors were a bit too difficult to understand.  It was clear that there is a large cultural difference in presentation styles, and I think many high level concepts in nanoscience were lost from this boundary. 

I started from virtually zero Japanese and now I can order food and make basic small talk.  The AJALT professors in Tokyo are the best language instructors and I only wish we had more time to learn from them.  I am currently self-studying using internet resources and practicing with my lab mates, but it’s a bit difficult while working in the lab.  I want to learn the language enough to have a conversation without switching to English, but I don’t want to push myself too far as research is the main focus.  Burning out is the last thing that anyone wants to do. 

So far I think the most important thing I’ve learned while in Japan is try to speak the language as much as you can.  There were plenty of times I struggled to find the right words in Japanese, and while I felt dumb, the natives corrected or finished my sentences with a smile.  To anyone in a foreign nation, I think this is the easiest way to start breaking down the cultural barrier and make a new friend.

As for questions I still have about Japan:

Research Update
For my research project, I will be looking at terahertz emission and detection in graphene-based van der Waals heterostructures.  The setup utilizes photon assisted quantum resonant tunneling, which is a promising method to detect/emit THz radiation.  The big picture is to develop a room temperature laser that operates across the THz band.  Otsuji-sensei has given me a detailed week-by-week schedule for the summer, and I will begin by receiving a series of lectures from him.  Arnold-san has also given me some chapters to read in some semiconductor textbooks.  After better understanding semiconductor physics, I will move on to learning more about graphene and terahertz science.  Then, I will fully delve into my project. 

As far as I know, I will be doing electro-optic sampling to detect terahertz radiation from a double graphene layer heterostructure.  The instrument is not prepared yet, but I will begin my learning how to setup the machine from Arnold-san next week.  First, I will experimentally show that graphene’s absorbance is 2.3%.  Afterwards, I will move on to THz emission/absorption for my research project.

>> Return to Top


Fortunately, I have not been in any significant cross-cultural miscommunications yet.  I have fought with the language barrier a few times, but I can usually get away with hand gestures or suddenly remembering some of my limited Japanese vocabulary. 

My main cross-cultural miscommunication seems to be over my racial/national identity.  As an Asian-American, I have found that the question, “Where are you from?” requires an extended explanation.  I’ve run into a similar predicament in the United States, where people were really asking about my ethnic background, but my American-ness seems to be more difficult to grasp for some Japanese people.  A typical conversation may go something along the lines of this:

Random Person: *starts speaking incomprehensible Japanese* (Also, I’m often mistaken as Japanese)

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Do you speak English?”

Random Person: “Oh, I’m sorry! Where are you from?”

Me: “I’m from America.”

Random Person: “…but you’re Asian.”

Me: “My family emigrated from Myanmar, and I was born in New York. I don’t really consider myself Burmese though.”

Random Person: *begins to start asking me a series of questions about Myanmar that I can’t answer*

The conversation usually ends with apologizing for not knowing anything about Myanmar and insisting that I am American.  And eventually, I convince them that I am just your average, pizza-loving American.  (and I definitely miss American pizza right now) Next time, which will surely occur, I’ll just have to give the full explanation at the start.  If I give only my ethnic background or national identity, I always end up explaining the other part as well. 

I don’t speak any Burmese, know any related history, or have any real opinion about the country’s current political/social status, so having to continuously defend my American identity does get a little frustrating at times.  I assume this confusion lies in the homogenous nature of Japan.  A Japanese person is almost always associated with tan skin, black hair, and other typical Asian features. But in America, people of all backgrounds can be accepted as American. 

Fortunately though, it seems that Japan is becoming more accepting of other races identifying as Japanese.  A few months ago, a half-black and half-Japanese woman was named Miss Universe Japan, and I think this shows that Japan is publically recognizing members of other ethnic groups as Japanese.  I am eager to see how this acceptance grows in the next few years. 

I got to try this dish for the first time at my welcome party.  Another delicious Japanese dish to check off.

Sendai Samurai
Sendai Samurai
It was a bit dark when Steven and I got there, but I still had to take a picture. The picture makes it look more like his silhouette with the sunset in the background.

Arnold-san: That day, my mentor, Arnold-san, showed me a delicious and cheap chahan (fried rice) place. It’s only about 500 yen for a dish and the portion is huge!

NanoJapan Research Project Update
So far, I have been continuing to learn more about semiconductor, graphene physics, and my experimental setup.  Otsuji-sensei has given me several lectures over my research project, and I have been continuing to read more papers regarding graphene.  Also, Arnold-san has been training me to use the electro-optic sampling (EOS) instrument. The EOS instrument hasn’t been used in some time and Arnold-san isn’t 100% familiar with it, so both of us have been calibrating it and running measurements on samples with existing data.  Eventually, we will use this instrument to measure the THz gain from graphene-based plasmonic heterostructure in time domain.

>> Return to Top


My biggest personal accomplishment has been being a little more adventurous and stepping out of my comfort zone more often than usual.  As I reflect on my experiences so far, I think of all of different things Japan that I thought I would never consider doing in Japan, and how glad that I decided to try it for the first time.  From everything between late night karaoke and going to a maid café, I think these experiences have given me a new sense of courage and adaptability that I didn’t have before.  My alter-ego, Asa-san, has definitely pushed my limits to create some of my happiest memories in Japan!

That being said, I think my biggest challenge in Japan is the language barrier.  While I’ve learned a great deal of Japanese from orientation, there are still many moments when a non-English speaking Japanese person and I struggle to understand each other.  Most recently, Steven, a few friends from UCK, and I went to the Japanese restaurant chain, Yoshinoya, to grab some dinner. None of us are close to fluent in Japanese, and the waiter knew no English.  Normally in these situations, Steven and I just point to some picture of food and say that we want it, but our friends from the dorm are kosher and vegetarian, so we had to make sure the food was okay for them to eat.  After a good 15 minutes of struggling with our order, we eventually receive some bagged up food and discovering that we ordered from the take out menu.  The moment we began eating at our table with the bagged bento boxes, I looked at the waiter, and saw that he was incredibly exhausted from our conversation and confused as to why we stayed in the restaurant to eat.  It was a bit embarrassing, but this experience has definitely been motivating me to improve my Japanese language skills.

In terms of research, everything has been going to schedule. My first few weeks were dedicated to learning about my project and instrumentation, which have proven to be infinitely helpful.  I was fairly worried about coming to the lab and not knowing anything, but the lectures from Otsuji-sensei and the training from Arnold-san have helped me become more confident working in the lab.  Most of my experiment is scheduled after the Okinawa Meeting, so I have been taking it easy these past weeks by studying and taking some basic measurements.  However, when I return, I’m definitely expecting some late nights in the lab. 

Research Project Update
Arnold-san and I are continuing to fully understand the electro-optic sampling instrument. We have been running measurements on monolayer graphene, both with and without the SiO2 substrate. Some of our recent measurements have been showing a lot of noise and strange spikes in the signal, but we have been slowly reducing them with needed adjustments to the machine.  After that, we will begin to perform measurements on a graphene-based heterostructure. For that sample, we will begin to talk about the measurement setup after I return from Okinawa.  It requires a THz pump and a few other modifications the current EOS system lacks, so the setup requires some thinking.  Then, I will begin to write my abstract and obtain the data for my project.   

>> Return to Top


Learning Japanese has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had.  Through middle school and high school, I took 4 years of Spanish classes and I never felt compelled to go beyond what I was taught.  I treated Spanish class as a tedious chore to boost my college application, but fortunately, I see Japanese as something exciting.  My feelings toward Spanish weren’t from any negative feelings towards the language – but rather I think it stems from never being in a position where I’ve needed to use it.  In America, I’ve rarely faced any language challenge, and I think that’s what I originally hoped to happen for the rest of my life– to never be in any awkward or frustrating situation where the other person won’t understand what I’m saying in English.  But now after living in Japan for almost 2 months, I’m truly seeing the beauty of such having such an obstacle.  You gain a whole new perspective of a culture by learning how their people speak. 

The Japanese language is very backwards from English grammatically, and most words sound nothing like their English equivalent.  I started knowing absolutely no Japanese, and now I know enough to have a simple, small conversation.  While that statement sounds like nothing, ordering a meal from McDonalds or asking someone about their weekend in Japanese is equally rewarding each time I say it.  Expressing ideas is another language is an incredibly difficult challenge, and when I return to America, I will respect non-native English speakers more than ever.  In terms of my language skills, I feel that I know enough Japanese to survive in Japan, but not enough to have a deep conversation over anything.  There is a pretty shallow, fundamental limit that I reach (more in understanding what the other person is saying), but I will definitely continue to learn Japanese in hopes to go past that level.  When I return to the US, I also plan to self-study and maybe find an online teacher on  I plan to return to Japan in the future, and I hope I know more Japanese than I do by the end of this summer!

My lab situation is almost too fortunate that my Japanese skills have not progressed too much since orientation.  Since everyone speaks English pretty well, anytime I’m struggling to communicate in Japanese, we just switch to English.  I’ve been learning a few phrases here and there, and I’ve been learning vocabulary on my own, but my Japanese is still pretty elementary.  Cole and I have been using Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar and Memrise to help with our vocabulary and grammar outside of the lab, but with my lack of free time, I cannot delve too much into these resources.  

I wrote about my most challenging linguistic experience last week, and it has by far been the most impactful.  I think having experienced this slow, difficult communication over the contents of food had made it clear that I have a long ways to go with Japanese.  I have been studying a few phrases that can be used in any context to prevent such situations – regardless of my understanding of their Japanese – so that I can better defuse a situation.  Even though this experience was incredibly frustrating, it has been motivating me to improve my Japanese than ever before. 

After the Mid-Program Meeting, I realized how fortunate my lab situation has been so far.  My sensei and lab mates have all been very helpful, clear, understanding, and I cannot really complain about anything so far.  I can tell that many of my fellow NanoJapaners have had it rough – but I think reuniting and sharing our experiences with the staff and each other have helped us tremendously.  Many have been struggling with cultural/language issues and others have had issues with their senseis or mentors, so I am thankful for being placed in a fortunate situation at the Otsuji Lab.  While we were separated for only three weeks, it felt like an eternity that the Sendai Squad last saw the Tokyo/Chiba Team, Kansai Krew, and Dylan.  And while the Mid-Program Meeting was short, our Hiroshima/Kyoto trip plans will reunite most of us in the next week or two.  Then, finally, Dylan will reunite with most of us at Fuji-san. 

After presenting at the MTSA Conference and seeing OIST, I’m definitely jealous of Dylan’s situation.  I originally thought he was merely trapped on an island, but it’s clearly much better than that.  The ample beaches, ocean view, and warm temperature are something that I lack in the center of continental USA.  Additionally, OIST has been the most fascinating school that I’ve ever visited.  I’m particularly interested in looking at OIST in the future because of its unique philosophy and exponential growth (The school only started classes only 3 years ago!)  The idea of starting from the ground up from what students want, requiring cross-discipline graduate studies, and the school’s small community make OIST a very unique school.  I’ve always seen graduate studies as getting narrower in your own field, but OIST also desires to broaden their students’ knowledge beyond that as each grad student must spend a year of research in a lab different than their own field.  I’ll definitely think about applying to their internship program for next summer, and possibly grad school. 

Shisa (Okinawan Lion Creature)

There was an Okinawan dance that everyone watched on the first night of the conference, when all of the sudden a Shisa popped out of nowhere!

View of the Ocean from one of the Sky Bridges
Research Project Update
There isn’t much to report this week, as all of NanoJapaners were in Okinawa.  While I was gone, Arnold-san continued trying different positions for the pump and probe to reduce the signal noise, and he is completing our report on those now. Since Otsuji-sensei is gone for this week, I will be meeting with Stephane-sensei instead to talk about my project and the set up. 

>> Return to Top


My experience in the lab is pretty accurate with what my NanoJapan Alumni mentor told me. Everyone is really friendly, speaks English pretty well, and they are all laid-back. I can feel the lab’s strong sense of camaraderie every time I’m in the lab.  Just listening to their conversations on any given day, there’s always laughter and playful teasing among each member. Aside from the senseis, Watanabe-san, and Adi-san, everyone else calls each other with the suffix “-kun.” I think that my lab is a lot different than what I heard from orientation. It may be true that there is a hierarchy, as Otsuji-sensei is clearly the one calling all of the shots, but even with the hierarchy, everyone seems unafraid to approach a sensei and offer their opinion.  While the final word is determined by the senseis, I often see my lab mates throw in their two cents regarding a project. I don’t feel the distance between students and senseis that I expected from orientation.  Similarly, in disagreements, people will directly confront each other about their issues. They will ask why someone did what they did, but none are ever particularly angry at each other.  My lab acknowledges that everyone is human and makes mistakes.

I believe hard-work is the most valued quality of academic research in Japan.  The entire lab – including myself – has experienced obstacles in our experiments. Be it setbacks, unusual data, or faulty equipment and samples, the senseis are more appreciative of one’s efforts than results.  I can see that this value over hard-work can be perceived as discouraging progress, but I don’t that is the case. I feel that research in Japan emphasizes more of a thorough understanding of an experiment or problem rather than diving into data collection. Research meetings may be slow at times, constantly deliberating over the ideal setup rather than the “let’s try this” approach that happens in the US, but I don’t view it negatively at all.  Sometimes, I think it is better understand a problem to continue, rather than to brute force a solution. 

In the US, my understanding of my research projects have happened as I collected data or built the necessary circuits. My US research advisor would give me a brief idea of my project, and while I went through each stage of the project, I learned the theory.  However in the beginning, Otsuji-sensei gave me several one-on-one lectures about my research topic, and Arnold-san assigned me chapters to read before starting my project.  Compared my US research experiences, I really enjoyed this approach to research, as I have a better understanding of what I should do before I progress.  I think US research seems more self-driven: requiring an individual to understand a project on their own, and a researcher moves at their own pace.  In Japan, it seems that research appears is more team oriented: everyone helps each other out to learn everything, and the sensei has a hand in everything.  I can’t say that I have a personal preference between Japanese or US research, but there are advantages and disadvantages of both.  Based on my experiences, I think that someone who wants more freedom should do research in a US lab.  Otherwise, if someone wants lots of guidance, a Japanese lab would suit them well. 

I can think of only one anecdote that illustrates a rule in the lab. The specific rule in question is: Otsuji-sensei is at the top of the chain.  The day before the lab visit from Sarah, Dr. Matherly, and Packard-sensei, Otsuji-sensei told Suemitsu-sensei to include Arnold-san and Kasuya-san for the NanoJapan dinner the next night.  Arnold-san and Kasuya-san were cc’d in the email and were surprised that they were notified about the dinner only one day in advance.  Fortunately, both of them were free that night (and ended up having a lot of fun!). However, while Otsuji-sensei was gone at a conference, he still called the office to personally tell them to go to the dinner.  I think even if Arnold-san or Kasuya-san had their own plans that night, that call from Otsuji-sensei basically meant that they had to drop them.  As I’ve said above, Otsuji-sensei is supreme.

Peace Dome
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome

This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2.  Rocco, Anish, Steven, Jackie, and I journey to Hiroshima over the weekend to visit the Peace Park and Miyajima.  The museum on the opposite end of the park easily showed some of the most powerful images and stories I’ve seen.  Japan’s image of the atomic bomb drop is far different than what we are taught in the US.  

Tori Gate
The Great Torii Gate from Itsukushima Shrine
As one of the Three View of Japan, Miyajima holds true to its title. In the next two weeks, I’m hoping to see the other two: the pine-clad islands of Matsushima (near me in Sendai!) and the sand bar of Amanohashidate (near Kyoto, where I’m heading to this weekend for Gion Matsuri!).

Me posing next to this giant figure of Goku from Dragonball Z near the Jump Store in Hiroshima.

Research Project Update
Last week, Arnold-san and I met with Stephane-sensei to discuss the monolayer graphene data from our EOS measurements.  We were having some trouble with the low signal-to-noise ratio, so before I left for Okinawa, we decided to try different positions with the probe to examine the effect on the noise.  So while I was in Okinawa, Arnold-san continued to trying more positions for the probe, with multiple measurements in the same pump position, and found that there was no reproducibility in the data. We presented this information to Stephane-sensei, and he suggested that some of the peaks may be due to imperfections in the pulsed laser, and that we may want to use the pre-amplifier and make a few other alterations to reduce the noise.  Since Arnold-san has been absent for his last job interview, Stephane-sensei is now having me work with Deepika-san on the photo-detection setup.  We will be looking at the plasmonic effect on DGL, using a uni-traveling-carrier photodiode (UTC-PD) photomixer as a THz source to hit the sample at various angles, and then looking at the tunneling current.  I have been helping Deepika-san with the mechanical work and now we only need to setup the vacuum system to hold the DGL in place. 

Otsuji-sensei returned this week from conferences, and we discussed the setup for the DGL’s stimulated emission.  With the current EOS setup, we cannot place a DGL sample under the CdTe crystal, as wires coming out of the sample will damage the crystal.  Otsuji-sensei suggested placing the DGL sample next to the crystal and using the pump to create a reflected THz field to interact with the sample. However, the DGL sample has a plastic container surrounding it, so the THz cannot reach it.  Stephane-sensei suggested using a vibrating apertureless scanning near-field optical microscope (Vibrating ANSOM) probe to focus a THz field on top of the DGL sample.  However, Stephane-sensei is now ordering the parts, and we do not know if I can make these measurements before the poster/abstract deadlines.  My project will now focus on Deepika-san’s photo-detection setup and I will possibly use the data collected from the monolayer graphene on my poster.

>> Return to Top


For this report, I decided to interview Deepika-san, a first-year doctorate student from India; Arnold-san, a second-year master’s student from Indonesia; and Satou-sensei, an assistant professor, overheard the interviews and joined in on a few questions.  My interviews with them lasted over 20 minutes each, so the below is a condensed version of their answers and the interview.

Why did you decide to study your field?

Deepika-san (Electrical Engineering):When I was in high school, I was only interested in electricity and magnetism, specifically electronics. Aspects of electronics like transistors have always fascinated me. Also, I have a lineage of engineers.  My father was an engineer working for the Indian Air Force.  I got to watch him work in a clean room, work on guided missiles, aircrafts, microchips and all of that was really cool. I knew I wanted to do that for a career.

Arnold-san (Electrical Engineering): My background is actually in Information Technology Systems, and more on the software side.  I actually don’t want to do anything with Electrical Engineering in the future.  After undergrad in Japan, I didn’t feel like I knew enough to start a job, and so I chose Electrical Engineering for the career prospects (laughs). I plan to work in an IT company after I graduate, doing something unrelated to my master’s topic.

What is like to be a student in Japan?

Deepika-san: People are very hard-working.  In India, people do hard-work, but not as much as people in here.  Doctorate classes are in very specific fields and about complex topics.  I was expecting something more difficult, but I’m managing fine.  Classes are not overwhelming, so everything is good.

Arnold-san: In Indonesia, I think the people are generally much lazier than Japanese people.  Japanese people have so many tasks as a student, and I think because of the horrible Indonesian heat (laughs), Indonesian students cannot work as hard as Japanese people.  Also, a major difference that I’ve noticed is that when Japanese students are bored, people sleep.  In Indonesia, we like to make noise when we’re tired.

How would you describe working in the Otsuji Lab?

Deepika-san: I think it’s really good. Everyone is really friendly. If you are in an environment where no one talks to each other, it’s terrible.  When I am in Otsuji Laboratory, I feel like home.  I feel comfortable in what I want to do. 

Arnold-san: The lab is very home-y.  Even if Otsuji-sensei is really busy, there are many other assistant professors that you can consult with.  Everyone is always looking out for each other.  I think this is atypical of a Japanese lab. Usually there is more distance between everyone else.

How do you think a Japanese lab differs from…

Deepika-san: I worked in an Indian Laboratory and had a research internship at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. [Dylan actually knows her former advisor!]  I think the biggest difference is that, in India, people did not stay beyond the necessary hours. In the Otsuji Lab, people will stay in the lab for as long as they need. Some people in the lab will stay here until 9 or 10 o’clock. For US labs, I think the biggest difference is that you don’t often get to see your professor.  You get a meeting maybe once a week, which is not so good I think. But in the Otsuji Lab, the senseis are always here to talk to you.  You don’t need to make an appointment: you can just walk in and ask them any questions.  I think that the US is more formal.  I rarely got a chance to interact with my supervisor at NJIT.

Arnold-san: I’m wouldn’t know what to guess. I’ve never been in a non-Japanese lab.  I heard that US labs have more freedom than Japanese labs.  In Japan, you must work in a lab if you are an aspiring scientist/engineer when you become a fourth year student.  I also understand in the US, research is optional. Even if you do research on the topic, you aren’t confined to your professor’s area of specialty. You can do pretty much any research topic you want or none at all. 

How do you think the internationalization of research has affected your work?

Deepika-san: I think every lab has their way of doing research. Performing international research is good to enhance one’s skills.  There are different techniques and different ways of thinking that you can get from labs of different countries.  In working with these people from different cultures, you can learn and obtain the best traits from each culture.  Japan emphasizes working in groups.  I think this is a good skill as many minds are better than one.  Compared with the US, I think Americans value independence more.  I find that many Americans keep to themselves instead of having large, open discussions like in the Otsuji Lab.  I prefer the latter.

Arnold-san:  People from different countries means that there are different ways of speaking and interacting with each other.  It takes a group of people from different countries and cultures to make a change. They break the thought loops that a culture cannot think beyond. 

(Assistant professor, Satou-sensei, gets interested in the interview and joins us)

Satou-sensei: Internationalization is also good for local Japanese students. In Japan, the culture is homogenous.  It’s good for Japanese students to be presented with people of different cultures, as they present new ideas and ways of thinking to them.  Also, they can practice their English.  Japanese schools emphasize reading and writing, but not speaking.  If you enter research as a career, English is an absolute necessity.

What is the typical career path of a researcher in…?

Deepika-san: For researchers in India, there aren’t many other options other than academia.  India is still a developing country, so there aren’t many companies that can fund research and development.  I’d say about 80% of researchers in India end up as a professor.

Satou-sensei: In Japan, getting a PhD is not very common.  Most people stop at Master’s level, as most jobs will offer the same pay for Master’s and PhD graduates.  The people who obtain PhD’s almost always become a professor or work in some laboratory.

How did you know you wanted to be a researcher?

Satou-sensei:I decided I wanted to be a researcher when I was a sophomore in my undergrad. I was studying mathematics and it made me happy. I enjoyed it.  Unlike most people in their undergrad, I knew at that point, very early, that I wanted to become a researcher.  I never had any second thoughts.
What advice would you give people pursuing a PhD or professorship?

Deepika-san: Choose a topic that you are interested in.  If you don’t, it will be disastrous.  You cannot contribute to your research area if you are not genuinely interested in it.
Satou-sensei:  Read many books, study on your own outside of the classroom, and be able to think by yourself.  The latter is very important as often, people will rely on others to answer a question and have no mind of their own.  Consulting is fine, but you should learn to be able to analyze data on your own.

Thanks for your time! お疲れ様でした!

Monkeys in Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
A hike up this small mountain got us to see some monkeys! We could feed them peanuts or apples, and they clearly like the apples more. When we presented peanuts, they just slapped them out of our hand rather than pick them up

Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari
We couldn’t take a weekend trip to Kyoto without going here.

Rocco befriends a local deer

Research Project Update
I have been working with Deepika-san on the photo-detection setup for the past week.  We finished the mechanical work and collected some data for my poster.  However, most of the G-DGL samples are defective and the only functioning DGL sample has an angle misalignment between the graphene layers that was needed for a different experiment. As new samples take 3-6 months to arrive, we are going to use the sample anyway. We took the IV curves of the sample at different gate voltages, with and without the UTC-PD directed at the sample.  In the setup, we have an adjustable Indium Tin Oxide mirror to alter the incident THz angle.  The angle that we set the ITO mirror at was 90 degrees.  With the data at that angle, we are now plotting graphs and analyzing the data.

>> Return to Top


Female researchers are incredibly uncommon in Japan.  I am certain that if you ask any NanoJapaner about the gender division in their lab, you will find there are few female researchers, if any.  In my lab, this is also the case. There is only one female student, Deepika-san, and she is not Japanese.  For Japanese women, I think the expression “the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered down” heavily applies to many who consider becoming a STEM researcher.  The traditional nature of their culture, combined with the already predominantly male population in STEM, is a combination that heavily discourages Japanese women from entering these fields.  

While not the same extremity, but for many of the same or similar reasons, female STEM researchers are also underrepresented in US.  Even in Tulsa, there are only a handful of women to the hundred in my major.  Because of this, achievements from female researchers are extremely prided at any university or institution. Haruko Obokata was one of these researchers at RIKEN, until an investigation found that she had fabricated her works.
The most important aspect about research is replication. Purposely or not, Obokata committed the ultimate offense in publishing misleading and irreproducible data.  I’m glad that RIKEN gave her the opportunity to try and reproduce her results rather than simply booting her from the institution.  However, it is unfortunate that she was unsuccessful in doing so. 

While Obokata is the one in the hot seat, I think the real villain in the story is the media.  The stories surrounding her achievement began with emphasizing feminine aspects about her lab, like her pink walls or apron rather than her research.  Then, as the news of her possibly false data arrived, the media was quick to paint her as a disgrace to researchers and women across the world.  I don’t condone Obokata’s actions, but I think the amount of attention and humility that she faced was unwarranted.  Would the level of attention and disgrace be the same if the same story were about a man? In my opinion, I don’t think so.

Matsushima Bay Yamadera
Matsushima Bay


>> Return to Top


After living in Japan for three months, I would say that my perceptions and attitudes towards Japan have changed greatly.  Growing up in the Midwest, I had previously met less than a handful of Japanese people and used to see Japan only through the American lens: things like sushi, anime, samurais, and high-tech cities.  While they are all components of Japanese culture, being in Japan showed that those are among the smallest fractions of the culture. The wild range of people, places, and food that I came across made it clear that Japanese culture – even though it is a collectivist society – is just as hard to define as American culture. 

I think that my perception of the US changed the most after visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  In my US History classes, I had always viewed the decision to drop the atomic bomb as a morally just and necessary decision: the US needed to end the war as quickly as possible and prevent future deaths from happening. That mindset changed completely after going to the museum.  I think that for most Americans, it’s difficult to fathom the magnitude and damage that the bombing had for many innocent Japanese families. The Peace Memorial Museum showed a glimpse of the horrific effects, almost as if I was there.  From the very beginning, I saw a life-size replica of school children burning from the radiation.  After seeing the exhibits and reading the stories in the museum, I felt more shameful of my country for performing such an action.

Personally, I think that I’ve changed a great deal after this short adventure. At first, I was terrified of entering the unknown.  I originally thought, “How am I going to survive in non-English speaking nation? I’m not going to be able to read anything, and I’m going to eventually end up incredibly lost.”  NanoJapan helped me become more independent and adaptable to new situations.  Navigating around Sendai, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka with the language barrier was among the most rewarding experiences in my life.  I know that nearly all of my friends are hesitant to travel to non-English speaking countries because of the language barrier. While I was also afraid, I think the reward was greatly worth the risk.  Each time I made it back home or to the hotel on my own, I really felt that I had really grown up. 

The most common daily frustration in Japan was the language barrier. Japanese grammar is almost entirely backwards from English, and most of the vocabulary sounds nothing like its English equivalent.  While the Japanese classes in Tokyo helped us with the basics, the many miscommunications pushed charades skills.  It was silly and embarrassing most of the time, but I think I learned that many of the same hand and body actions convey the same ideas to Japanese people.  Regardless of culture or language differences, I learned that some ideas appear to be universal.

I am going to miss a lot about Japan when I return to the US.  Among the biggest things that I will miss are probably kombinis and public transportation.  Unlike their US counterpart, kombinis are truly convenient.  They are everywhere in Japan (sometimes directly next to another!) and they have cheap, delicious food that you can get at any hour.  Public transportation was also super convenient, as we could go nearly anywhere in Japan before midnight.  With the exception of Okinawa, there was never a single instance where I needed to take a taxi to get where I needed.

For future plans, Japan has definitely caused me to rethink my original goals.  While I am still strong on entering graduate school, I am heavily considering taking a gap year to focus on language or working as a JET Assistant Language Teacher.  Three months was such a short time in Japan, and with research taking a great amount of that time, I feel largely unfinished with exploring all that Japan has to offer.  Also, it has become a recent goal of mine to master a second language.  NanoJapan has helped me confirm that I want to achieve this goal in Japan.

My final week in Japan consisted of an okonomiyaki going away party with my lab mates.  After I gave an impromptu speech to my lab, they generously gave me these Sendai Samurai Chopsticks and a calligraphy pen.  It was hard to say goodbye to all of them, but I know deep down that I will somehow see them again.  As I mention in my “Why NanoJapan?” profile, shared experiences with people make any journey just as valuable as the destination, if not more.  As for the final weekend, I climbed Fuji-san with 9 of the other NanoJapaners.  It was the most painful experience of my life that I will never do again, but seeing the sunrise was worth it.  I think it is something that everyone should do at least once in their life, despite the horrible pain.

My research project had a lot of difficulties with instruments and samples, but it was a rewarding experience nonetheless.  I plan to continue doing a nanotech related research project back at my university, and I hope to continue nanotech in grad school.  It’s too early to say whether I will return to Tohoku University for grad school, and I know that I will consider Otsuji-sensei’s lab.  While I am parted with my lab mates, I’m Facebook friends with most of them, so I will still be in touch with many of them while I’m in the US.  Eventually, I will return to Japan. When that happens, I know I will contact them.

>> Return to Top

SCI Poster

Research Project Title:Terahertz Emission and Detection in Graphene-Based van der Waals Heterostructures PDF Icon
Host Professor: Dr. Taiichi Otsuji
Mentors: Stevanus Arnold, Deepika Yadav

Introduction: Due to limitations in conventional semiconductor devices, there are no commercially viable terahertz emitters or detectors. We investigate the gated double graphene layer heterostructure (G-DGL) for emission and detection of THz radiation by photon-assisted quantum mechanical resonant tunneling. 
Approach: We considered using an electro-optic sampling system to use a reflected THz pulse to stimulate emission for a G-DGL sample.  For detection, we created a setup with a uni-traveling carrier photodiode and an adjustable Indium Tin Oxide mirror to analyze the plasmonic enhancement in terahertz detection. We generated THz radiation at 0.3, 0.5, and 1 THz at the sample with the ITO mirror reflecting the THz radiation at 90 degrees, and then we measured the photo-current.



Future Research: 

• We observed the primary and secondary THz pulse from EOS system at consistent positions.
• DGL has increasing photo-induced tunneling current for increasing drain biases for different gate voltages.
• The dependence of the photo-induced tunneling current on THz photon energy is yet to be interpreted.

>> Return to Top


When speaking to a family member, I would say the most important things that I learned from NanoJapan were how to be independent, and that Japan is a very different country than how most Americans perceive it.  I survived on my own for three months in a non-English speaking country and managed to travel all over Japan without someone holding my hand through the whole ordeal.  Of course, there were times when I was nervous of entering the unknown, and there were times when I got lost.  But ultimately, I managed to overcome through these obstacles and experience some of the best weekend adventures of my life so far.  NanoJapan instilled in me a much stronger confidence to travel alone.  From the shinkansen to the local buses, I can now confidently say that I am a master of them.

When speaking to a professor, I would say the most important things that I learned from NanoJapan were the realities of cutting-edge research and the challenges in international collaboration.  In my project, I was faced with calibrating an old instrument with my mentor, setbacks in experimentation, and working with people having various degrees of English.  I learned that experimental research isn’t all about obtaining groundbreaking results and publishing in journals as quickly as possible.  These things take time.  Publications require a collaborative effort of many researchers who have likely faced many issues and delays with instruments, samples, and language and cultural barriers.  NanoJapan helped me realize the patience and teamwork necessary for progress in research. 

When speaking to an employer, I would say the most important things that I learned from NanoJapan were adaptability, communication, and knowing when to seek help.  In my research project, I was working on a project that required knowledge that was beyond all of the classes that I have taken.  Additionally, I needed to use many instruments that I was not familiar with and that operated in a different language.  While the use of English in my lab was much higher than I expected, there were still many instances of miscommunication when speaking about scientific concepts.  In these situations, I learned how to better express my ideas through diagrams, hand motions, and finding simpler ways to explain difficult scientific concepts.  Furthermore, I learned to seek help when I needed it.  There were times when I didn’t understand a particular concept or experiment after the first explanation.  Often, I was nervous of bothering my mentor or sensei for a repeat of an explanation, but I found that they were more than willing to help and I would much better understand the next steps for my project. 

When speaking to a student at my university, I would say that the most important thing that I learned was a better understanding of my culture and myself. Living for three months in a country as different from the US as Japan, I experienced a plethora of differences in culture that often made me question why Americans do things the way they do.  One of the biggest changes that I faced was using chopsticks on a daily basis as a food utensil.  I commented on the robustness of chopsticks to one of my lab mates, and he, in turn, responded with “Why do you Americans always use metal forks and spoons? You always taste the metal with your food.” After that, I found myself asking the same question.  
At the end of NanoJapan, I found myself incredibly unfinished with the country.  There were so many places and experiences that I had, yet there were also so many things on my bucket list that I simply didn’t have time to do.  One of the biggest things that Steven, Rocco, and I wanted to do was visit Hokkaido, but it just didn’t fit in the grand scheme of things.  However, Dr. Matherly has already mentioned to me about a new partnership between Hokkaido University and Tulsa, so I’m incredibly interested in pursuing this opportunity next summer.  Additionally, I’ve been thinking about taking a gap year after graduation to work as a JET Assistant Language Teacher to work in Japan.  Prior to NanoJapan, I would have scoffed at the idea of teaching English in Japan. But after meeting a JET ALT in Sendai, and living in Japan for a short period, the idea is only becoming more attractive. 

As for one burning question that I still have about Japan, how do they deal with homelessness? After returning to the US, I visited Chicago for a weekend to discover panhandlers all across the city with cardboard signs.  I recall seeing one homeless person in Shibuya, but I never saw one again.  How high is Japanese employment and how well does a minimum wage earner live?

>> Return to Top



Orientation Program: Orientation will feel overwhelming, but just bear through it. Keep up your homework between all the exploring and activities, and you will do fine. This is the time where your Japanese will improve the most in the program, so don’t just slack off.

Language Study

MId-Program Meeting: Enjoy Okinawa as much as you can. I personally went to Moon Beach to be a lazy potato in the sun, and it was everything that I wanted. You will be super exhausted with the MTSA presentation and everything else, so it’s okay to just chill out on your free day.

Working With Your Research Lab: Bring lots of candy when you return from long trips. All of my omiyage candy was eaten within a day. Everyone is friendly, if a bit shy at times. Don’t be afraid to ask any of them for help, as they are more than willing todo so.

Living in Sendai: If you’re staying at UCK, you’re about a 15-minute walk from a Seiyu or Co-Op to get groceries. Downtown is also a 15-minute walk in a different direction with plenty to do. You should never pay for public transit as you can walk or bike to anywhere in Sendai.

What Gifts to Bring: Candy. Lots of candy. American candy can be too sweet for most Japanese people, so something milder like dark chocolate would be perfect.

What to Eat: Everything. I got to eat a variety of Japanese cuisine that is impossible to find in the US, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Seriously. Don’t knock it till you try it. In Sendai, beef tongue (gyutan) is famous and delicious.

What to Buy: Loads of Pokemon stuff from the Pokemon Center. Other than Pokemon stuff, I didn’t buy too many other souvenirs. The best souvenirs were the maps, tickets, and photos that I collected through the summer.

What to Do in Japan: Karaoke is much different in Japan than the US. You get your own private booth and can also order food and drinks over the phone in the room. This was possibly the best bonding experience that we had on the weekends during orientation. Japanese arcades are also infinitely more fun than American arcades. Most of the prize machines aren’t rigged, so you can actually win a lot of cool anime apparel and toys. The video games are also more modern than retro, and there’s a wide variety of shooting and fighting games. Steven and I probably spent way too much time in there.

Places to Visit in Japan: Travel as much as you can on the weekends. Around Sendai, Steven and I traveled to Matsushima Bay and Yamadera. We had plans to visit Cat Island, Mt. Zao, and Fox Village, but we just ran out of time. Outside of Sendai, definitely take weekend trips to Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Peace Park was easily my highlight, so you should try and visit there.

© 2011 TeraNano. All rights reserved. Website designed by