Nakatani RIES Fellowship for Japanese Students – Frequently Asked Questions

How competitive is the Nakatani RIES Fellowship Program?

For the 2017 program year, we anticipate receiving between 20 – 30 applications and will select up to 10 Japanese Fellows to participate.

I have no prior research experience. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes! The Nakatani RIES Fellowship is geared towards the needs of young undergraduates who are new to scientific research and preference will be given to B2 and B3 students from Japan.  B4 students are still eligible to apply.

Prior research experience or study in the U.S. is not required, but if you have prior experience, either in Japan or abroad, please share this in your application essays. Students who have prior research experience will be expected to have their former research advisor submit a reference letter on their behalf.

How much English do I need to know to participate?

Participants in the Nakatani RIES Fellowship for Japanese students must have sufficient English-language skills to be able to successfully carry out a research internship in a U.S. university lab.  Selected participants will be required to either pass an English language interview with the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication at Rice University or show minimum English language test scores. For more details see the English Language page.

I am a high school student. Can I apply?

No. High school students and graduating high-school seniors are not eligible to apply for the Nakatani RIES program. To be eligible to apply you must be a currently-enrolled, degree seeking student at a Japanese university or college at the time of application. We encourage you to check-back to our website and apply once you are a college student!

I am not a Japanese citizen or permanent resident, am I eligible to apply?

No. Per sponsor regulations this program is only open to Japanese citizens and permanent residents.

What is a Japanese Citizen or Permanent Resident?

You are a Japanese citizen if you have or are eligible to obtain a Japanese passport.

A person who has permanent residency status in Japan has the right to live and work in Japan on a long-term basis. This right may last for a lifetime, or it can be ended in some circumstances.  Permanent residents are said to have immigrant status in Japan but will have a passport from their home country.

Do I need a passport at the time I apply for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship?

No, you can submit your online application without your passport information. However, if you do not already have a Japanese passport we strongly encourage that you apply for one now.  If you are selected for the program, you will immediately need to submit a scanned copy of the photograph page of your passport to Rice University to begin the visa application process. If you wait to apply for your passport until after you have been accepted, there may not be enough time for you to obtain your visa prior to arrival in the U.S.

Passports must be valid for at least six months after your date of entry to the U.S. or through the end of February of the following year.

Do I need a visa to enter the U.S.?

Yes, all participants must obtain a J-1 visa prior to coming to the U.S.  See our U.S. Visa page for more information.

Do you require any prerequisite coursework?

No, since the Nakatani RIES Fellowship has been developed specifically for young undergraduate students no prerequisite coursework is required. Applicants must submit a transcript or grade record, in English, showing all coursework completed.

What format should my resume be in?

Nakatani RIES Fellowship applicants should submit a one-to-two page resume in reverse chronological order. If you have previously done academic research at either the high-school or university level be sure this is reflected in your resume. It is also helpful to include a section for relevant or related coursework on your resume.

If you have not prepared a resume before you should schedule a meeting with an advisor at your university Career Services Center or attend one of their resume writing workshops. Your career center can provide recommendations, sample templates, and feedback on your resume to ensure it best reflects your academic, research, and professional experiences and achievements.

Do you have any tips on writing my essays?

The following questions have been adapted from criteria for the Boren Scholarship. Answering these questions may help you prepare for your application essays and interview if selected as a finalist for the program.

Did you do your Homework?: Are you knowledgeable about the Nakatani RIES Fellowship? Can you explain to someone else what the program covers, where it is located, what you will do while abroad, and the type of research available through this program?

Educational Qualifications as a Demonstration of Potential for Success:  Have you taken or are you currently enrolled in engineering, math, or physics-related courses that relate to the potential research host labs you are most interested in? While there are no prerequisite courses required, it is a good idea to highlight your relevant academic background and coursework that could provide a foundation upon which you can build while you are abroad in the U.S.

Past Research or Professional Experiences as a Demonstration for Success: If you have previous research experience, even if this is not directly related to the type of research you hope to do in U.S., be sure that you highlight this in your essays. What did this experience teach you about working in a research lab or professional environment? What relevant skills did you obtain through this experience that could be beneficial to your participation in the Nakatani RIES Fellowship? Think not just in terms of research or academic skills but also inter-personal, communication, leadership, time-management and team-work skills.

Interest in the U.S.: Describe, through specific examples, your interest in the U.S. Have you demonstrated a serious commitment to learning about the culture of the U.S. through relevant coursework, student organizations, community or cultural events, or personal relationships to those in the U.S.? If this will be your first experience in the U.S. clearly explain why you wish to spend your summer in the U.S. and what you hope this experience will provide for you.

Motivation, Maturity, and Personal Commitment to International Education and Research as a Means to Fulfilling Academic and Career Goals: Do you have strong motivation for undertaking this international research and education program? Have you thought about how the Nakatani RIES Fellowship fits into your academic and career plans? What are your long and short term goals for integrating your Nakatani RIES experience into your academic and career goals?

Maturity: Do you demonstrate sufficient maturity, flexibility, and common sense to cope with the challenges of living and studying in an unfamiliar environment? Think about previous experiences and activities that prove that you are capable of successfully completing this research and international experience.

Sharing Your Experiences: All Nakatani RIES Fellows will be required to conduct an Alumni Follow-on Project during the semester following completion of the program that seeks to broadly promote the program and encourage the next generation of students to pursue academic study and research in science & engineering and international research collaborations. These projects are typically done at your home university or in your home-town through outreach to middle or high schools.

While you do not need to submit an Alumni Follow-on Project proposal at the time of application, it may be helpful to start thinking about how you will give back or share your Nakatani RIES Fellowship experience.  What do you hope to take away from the Nakatani RIES experience and why is this program unique and special, and something that you would want to share with others?

Do you have any general essay writing tips? What do you look for in a Nakatani RIES essay?

Your essay should be well thought-out, concise, and speak directly to the questions asked or topic given. Essays should be drafted specifically for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship as it is apparent to reviewers when you are re-using the same generic essay or statement of purpose you have submitted to other programs.

Spelling or grammar errors will detract from your essay and will indicate to reviewers that you did not take the time to thoroughly proofread prior to submission. Have a trusted advisor read your essays prior to submission to provide feedback on grammar, spelling, and content. Your university Study Abroad Office, Office of Undergraduate Research, Writing Center, or Career Services Center may also be able to provide you with helpful feedback on your essays.

Finally, essays should be written in your own personal voice. If you read your essay out loud to a friend or advisor will it sound like you talking? You should avoid using flowery or exceptionally technical language.  It is often very apparent when students are speaking directly from the heart and when students are just trying to ‘say the right things’ and/or are more interested in participating in any program in the U.S., not necessarily the Nakatai RIES Fellowship. There are many options for international experiences, and the selection committee will want to know and understand why you are applying to this specific program.

Do I have to stay within the recommended length limits?

Yes, you must stay within the recommended limits. The online application system will now allow you to submit essays that are over the maximum character limit.

Who should I ask to submit  recommendation letter in support of my application?

All applicants for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship for Japanese Students must submit one recommendation letter, in English, from a professor, advisor, or other mentor at your home university in Japan.  If you have previously done research, this letter should be from your prior research advisor/professor. Recommendation letters may also be submitted by a current or prior employer or volunteer supervisor if they can speak to your interest and suitability for this program.   Recommendation letters cannot be accepted from family member or personal friends.

Should I wait to contact my recommendation letter writer until after I have submitted my online application?

No! Please contact your recommendation letter writer as soon as possible and, ideally, BEFORE you submit your online application.  You will need to allow time to ask them if they are willing to write a recommendation letter on your behalf and ensure that you have their correct email address to include with the online application. Reference letters must be received on the same day as the online application deadline – February 2, 2017!

Schedule a time to meet with the recommendation letter writer in person or speak with him or her on the phone about the Nakatani RIES Fellowship and your specific interests in the U.S. and international research.  This will ensure they have a clear understanding of the program and your reasons for applying. Provide the writer with an updated copy of your resume and a copy of your Nakatani RIES application essays as these will provide helpful background information as they write your recommendation letter.

Recommendation letter writers will be asked to address the following in their letters to the best of their ability.

  • The name of the student they are submitting the reference letter for.
  • Their name, professional title, and university/organization affiliation.
  • How long and in what capacity have they known the applicant?
  • Their assessment of the applicant’s interest in studying abroad in the U.S.
  • Their assessment of the applicant’s interest in science & engineering research and/or future graduate study
  • Their assessment of the applicant’s spoken English language skills and maturity/suitability to conduct an independent research experience in an U.S. university lab.
  • Any other information they believe relevant and helpful to the selection committee.


If your recommendation letter is not received by the February 2, 2017 deadline your application will be considered incomplete and will not be forwarded to the selection committee for review.

How will the individual I list in my application be notified about submitting the recommendation letter?

You will need to provide your recommendation letter writer with a link to the online submission form.  This link is contained in the online application. The Nakatani RIES Fellowship will not send letter requests or notifications on your behalf.

Once your recommendation letter has been received, you will receive email notification from the Nakatani RIES Fellowship that your application is considered complete.  You can also ask your recommendation letter writer to notify you when he or she has submitted their recommendation form and letters online.

How are students assigned to their Nakatani RIES research project and lab?

If you are selected as a participant for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship, our research director, Prof. Junichiro Kono, will work closely with you and our potential hosts at Rice University to match you with an appropriate research project and host laboratory. These placements are made based on your academic background, any previous research experience you may have, and your future academic and research interests in your field. Research host and project matching will take place in May after participants have been selected.

Will I be matched with a graduate student or mentor at Rice University?

Yes, each Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellow will be paired with a graduate student or post-doctoral researcher in their host lab at Rice who will serve as their day-to-day mentor on their research project.  They will be advised by the Rice University host professor.  The graduate student mentor will likely not speak Japanese, and it is unlikely that there will be another Japanese student in your host lab at Rice University.  You must be comfortable working in an English-only environment in your research host lab.

You will also have opportunities to meet with Rice University undergraduate students and engage with other members of the Japanese community at Rice and in Houston during your stay in the U.S.

What about the U.S. Nakatani RIES Fellows?  Will I get to meet or work with these U.S. undergraduates too?

The Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellows will be in Japan from mid-May to early August.  You will be matched with any U.S. Fellow who is conducting research at your home university in Japan or who will be living in the same city as you.  This will allow you to meet up with each other in June – July when the U.S. Fellows are conducting their research internships in Japan. During the first week of the program in early August, there will also be joint activities with the U.S. Fellows in Tokyo and in Houston.

You will also have opportunities to meet with Rice University undergraduate students and engage with other members of the Japanese community at Rice and in Houston during your stay in the U.S.

Can I contact past participants?

Yes! We would be happy to put you in touch with a 2016 Nakatani RIES alumnus if you’d like to ask them specific questions.  Email nakatani-ries@rice.edu if you would like to request to speak to an alumnus.

We also encourage interested students to post questions on our Facebook Fan page. Most alumni are members of this page and if you post a question here you will likely get a speedy response from one of our past students.

Additionally, all selected participants will be paired with an Alumni Mentor.  This Alumni Mentor will be the student who was most recently assigned to your host lab at Rice University and/or student/s who have lived in your host city or have a similar profile to you.  For example, if your Alumni Mentor is a male student but you would like to speak with a female student, just let us know and we can also connect you with a female alumnus.  The Nakatani Alumni Mentors will be assigned in late May or early June, once host lab assignments at Rice University for 2017 have been confirmed.  Selected participants will be able to communicate with their Alumni Mentor via email, Facebook, Skype, etc. prior to departure.

Other Questions?
For other question, please email nakatani-ries@rice.edu.

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