My Summer in Japan

This is a guest post written by Lisa Chiba, a junior Chemical Engineering major who did research in Japan over the summer.

While watching everyone travel to foreign exotic countries to study abroad, you might be wondering, is there such a thing as an internship abroad?  My name is Lisa Chiba, and I am a rising junior chemical engineering major at Lovett. This summer, I was a participant of the NanoJapan Program, an undergraduate experience which takes 12 students from across the nation to Japan for a research internship for the summer. The application was lengthy but straightforward: 3 essays, and 2 recommendation letters. (Link to the site: http://nanojapan.rice.edu/.) I decided to apply because I wanted to have international work experience during my undergraduate years while also having a supportive team of US and Japanese researchers to help me through the transition to another country. Now that the program is over, I can wholeheartedly say that this has been a great opportunity to have an immersive study abroad experience with the application of nanotechnology/terahertz research in the top labs in Japan.

I was placed in the Kawata Lab in Osaka University under the guidance of a post-doc and a graduate student. My topic was tailored to my interests in biology by my host professor; I studied deep ultraviolet excitation of fluorescent proteins for multi-color cell imaging, which is a method that has never been done before. That’s right, you’re researching into something that no one has before… you get to make genuine progress on a project that has a chance to get published!

Attending the Shirahama Conference with my two labmates! (I'm in the center!)

Living and working in Japan was easily the best adventure of self-discovery I’ve ever had. I never thought I would be able to study abroad because of the cost, and I really wanted to spend my time productively gaining experience through an internship. NanoJapan is NSF-funded, so you get a stipend to cover your stay in Japan. It also places you in challenging projects with famed professors in the nanotechnology/terahertz world. Along with the research opportunity, you become so close to the other NanoJapan students from around the country, and your labmates in your respective university, that you don’t want to leave after spending 12 weeks in Japan. It’s an experience I will always remember, and with the professional network I developed, I may return to the Land of the Rising Sun another time in the future.

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