Nakatani RIES Fellowship for Japanese Students
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Nakatani Foundation?

The Nakatani Foundation is a Japanese foundation that was established in 1984 as the “Nakatani Electronic Measuring Technology Association of Japan” by Mr.Taro Nakatani, the founder of Sysmex Corporation. The association later attained its current name in 2012.

The Nakatani Foundation carries out activities with the aim of contributing to global economic and social development and the improvement of people’s lives by fostering human resources in the field of biomedical engineering measuring technologies. While its core business is to support the development of leading technologies in the field of biomedical engineering measuring technologies, the Nakatani Foundation also conducts other activities such as subsidizing technological exchanges and awards to researchers who have attained remarkable achievements in technology development. For more information, see:

How competitive is the Nakatani RIES Fellowship Program?

  • In 2017, we received a total of 26 applications for the 11 selected participants; a selection rate of 42.3%.
  • In 2018, we anticipate receiving between 30 – 50 applications.  Eligible students from Japanese universities nationwide are encouraged to apply.

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 B1 and B2 applicants; though B3 students are also 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 enrolled in university. B1 and B2 students are strongly encouraged to apply and will be given preference.

Can B4 students apply? 

No, B4 students are not eligible to apply as, by the program start date, you will have already completed your undergraduate degree and graduated.

Students who are not eligible to apply to Nakatani RIES are encouraged to review our Other Programs for Japanese Students page. Students majoring in fields related to biomedical engineering measuring technologies are strongly encouraged to review the other programs offered by the Nakatani Foundation.

What if I am a B4 student who is enrolled in a six-year undergraduate program?  I will still be considered an undergraduate student at the time of participation next August – September.  Am I eligible to apply? 

B4 students who are enrolled in a six-year, undergraduate program should email nakatani-ries@rice.edu to ask about their eligibility.  In your email, list the name of your university, the program/field of study you are enrolled in, and the month and year you will graduate/receive your undergraduate degree.

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/country of citizenship.

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 legal permanent residents of Japan.

I am a Japanese citizen or legal permanent resident who is enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate student at a university in the U.S. or other location abroad. Am I eligible to apply? 

No, to be eligible to apply to the Nakatani RIES Fellowship you must be a currently-enrolled, degree-seeking undergraduate student at a university in Japan and meet all other eligibility criteria.

Students who are not eligible to apply to Nakatani RIES are encouraged to review our Other Programs for Japanese Students page. Students majoring in fields related to biomedical engineering measuring technologies are strongly encouraged to review the other programs offered by the Nakatani Foundation.

Japanese students who are enrolled as degree-seeking students at a U.S. university or college or who have dual U.S. citizenship or U.S. permanent residency status may also want to review our Other Programs for U.S. Students page. Check the eligibility criteria of the individual programs you are interested in carefully; some may require U.S. citizenship to be able to apply. Other programs, such as the DAAD RISE in Germany and DAAD RISE Pro may allow international students to apply; provided they are enrolled as degree-seeking students at a U.S. university or college.

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.

If you do not already have a Japanese passport we strongly encourage you to 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.

It is recommended that passports must be valid for at least six months after your date of departure from the U.S. in late-September.  If you passport will expire prior March 31 of the following year, we recommend you renew your passport now.  

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. Students can request a transcript, in English, through their university Registrar’s office.

What format should my resume be in?

All applicants must upload a copy of their resume. If you have questions on how to prepare or format you resume, you may want to review the Freshman Resume Guide, found under the Professional Communication section of the Rice University Center for Career Development website.

Resumes should be 1 – 2 pages and must be submitted in English.

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 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 not 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.

Here are some recommended steps to follow:

  • Schedule a time to meet with your preferred letter writer, in person, or speak with him or her on the phone.
  • Discuss the Nakatani RIES Fellowship and your specific interests in the U.S. and international research.
  • Ask them if they would be willing to provide a letter on your behalf and if they can write this letter in English.
  • Be sure they are aware of the submission deadline and provide them with a link to the Reference Letter Submission instructions.
  • It can also be helpful to provide the writer with an updated copy of your resume and a copy of your Nakatani RIES application essays to refer to as they draft your 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 preferred letter writer cannot submit a letter in English, we will accept the letter in Japanese. However, this will be conditionally translated into English for the selection committee’s 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 instructions.  This link is contained in the online application. The Nakatani RIES Fellowship will not send letter requests or email notifications on your behalf.

Once your recommendation letter has been received, you will receive email notification from the Nakatani RIES Fellowship. You can also ask your recommendation letter writer to notify you when he or she has submitted their letter to us.

I was just notified that I’ve been selected as a finalist. What should I do to prepare for my interview?

The following questions have been adapted from criteria for the Boren Scholarship. Answering these questions may help you prepare for your 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 share this information if/when asked. 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.  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. 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.?

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?

I’ve heard that Skype is sometimes used by professors or programs in the U.S. for finalist/program interviews or to meet with your host professor prior to arrival.  I haven’t really used Skype much before and I’m nervous.  Do you have any advice? 

Skype is a very useful (free) tool that enables colleagues worldwide to meet virtually and talk/see each other to discuss research or collaborative projects.  If you plan to do international research, you will likely use Skype (or similar services) regularly.  If you plan to apply to graduate school in the U.S., Skype can also be a useful tool to set up meetings with faculty or students in the academic department/program you are interested in; particularly if you aren’t able to travel to the U.S. to meet with them in person.  Talking with someone via Skype could help you better understand the research topics available and which professor/s or program/s might be the best fit for your graduate study and research.  In short, Skype is a very useful tool!
Here are some resources on how to prepare for Skype interviews/meetings but the #1 thing to keep in mind is that Skype is simply a tool for communication.  The person/s you are meeting with are interested in having a conversation with you, learning more about your background, and sharing information about their background/program.  Try not to be too nervous and enjoy the opportunity to talk to the person/s you are meeting with! Remember, just as you are curious about them, they are also curious about you too!  After all, that is why they agreed to interview/speak with you. 🙂
  • Do not write out a long, prepared speech/remarks.  Think of Skype as a phone call/conversation. Each side will ask questions and communicate back and forth. If you prepare a long, written speech/remarks and try to ‘deliver’ it via Skype you will miss out on the opportunity for discussion and engagement with the other speaker/s.
  • Do prepare a list of 1 – 3 questions that you would like to ask or information you would like to know more about.  In all interviews/meetings there will usually be a point where the other person/s will ask “Do you have any questions?” or “Is there anything else you would like to know more about?”.   Having a list of your top/key questions prepared will help ensure you don’t forget to ask something important.
  • Keep in mind how much time you have for the interview/meeting.  If the Skype call is only 15 minutes long, but you give a 10 minute response to the first question you will have used up almost all of your allotted time. For example, a common first question is “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you applied to this program?”.  Try to keep your answer to 1 – 3 minutes.  Then, the person/s you are speaking with will ask further follow-up questions.  Remember, the Skype interview/meeting is a conversation.  If you give a 10-minute response in a 15-minute interview that will be a very one-sided conversation.
  • Ask one question at a time. Students often try to ask multi-part questions (3 questions in one).  These are difficult to fully respond to and take a long time to answer.  Ask your most important question first and always ask one question at a time. If you don’t have time to ask one or two of your most important questions, you can always send a follow-up email.
  • 7 Tips for Nailing a Skype Interview (Forbes) 
  • 7 Essential Skype Interview Tips (Top Universities) 
  • Ace Your Video Interview (Science) 
  • Video: Tips for Skype Interviewing (Curry College Center for Career Development)

How are participants 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.

You will conduct all research in English. Your graduate student mentor will 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 is research in the U.S. and at Rice University really like? 
Prior to application, interested students are also strongly encouraged to review the students profiles of other Japanese students who have previously conducted research at Rice University.

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

Yes! The Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellows will be in Japan from mid-May to early August. You will have the opportunity to meet with them twice during the summer through our formal program activities.

You will also have the opportunity to meet and engage with the U.S. Fellows informally; particularly students who are placed in to university labs at your same school or in your town/area.  We encourage our Japanese and U.S. Fellows to share their experiences with international research and living abroad with each other.  This also provides the foundation for a vibrant international network of peers in science and engineering and we hope will lead to long-lasting friendships between our students.

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. from August – September. However, in your day-to-day life in the research lab at Rice University you will likely spend a lot of time working alongside graduate students.  Most labs at Rice University do have undergraduate student members, even freshman (B1) students, but their hours typically vary as they must attend classes during the day.  Some days, undergraduates may only be able to spend 1 – 2 hours in the lab.  Other days, undergraduate students may spend 3 – 4 hours in the lab. It depends on their individual class schedule and research project needs.  When you arrive at your lab, you can ask if there are any undergraduate members and ask if you can be introduced to/meet them and learn about their projects.

Can I contact past participants?

Yes! We would be happy to put you in touch with a Japanese student who has previously conduct research at Rice University if you would like to ask them specific questions.

Email nakatani-ries@rice.edu with the student name of the person/s you would like to contact and your preferred email address for communication.  We will then ask these students to contact you directly if they are willing to do so.

We also encourage interested students to like and post questions to 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 in May.  This Alumni Mentor will be the student who was most recently assigned to your host lab/department at Rice University and/or a student who have lived in your host city or have a similar profile to you.  We can also assign supplemental alumni mentors to students who have special requests. 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.

Alumni Mentors will be assigned in late May or early June, once host lab assignments at Rice University for have been confirmed.  Selected participants will be able to communicate with their Alumni Mentor via email, Facebook, Skype, etc. prior to departure or meet with them in person if they attend the same university or live in the same area of Japan as you do.

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


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