Home University: Hiroshima University
Field of Study: Vehicle and Environmental Systems
Status: B3 Expected Graduation: March 2019
Research Host Lab: Prof. Andrew Meade, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Research Project Title: “Evaluating the accuracy of the computational fluid dynamics solver, FLUENT”
Why Nakatani RIES?
I’m sure that participating in this program will give me a great opportunity to experience and learn in a new environment and unique cultural circumstances. This will be a beneficial experience toward my ultimate goals of getting a master’s degree in the U.S. and working internationally in the aeronautical industry. I’m looking forward to conducting hands-on research at Rice since Rice University has made a lot of distinctive impacts in the world as a leading research institution. I want to know what the world’s leading research is like by working with the excellent students at Rice University.
In addition to that, I want to experience the American education system. When I was a freshman, I visited the U.S. and found that American people express their opinions clearly and strongly even when they are minority opinions. Unfortunately, this is lacking for most Japanese students. This is partly because most Japanese students are shy. The main reason, however, is we don’t have enough opportunities where we can express our opinions in front of others within Japanese education system. But the American education system is different from Japanese education system. I believe that working and discussing with students at Rice University will improve my communication and presentation skills. This program will not only provide me with skills and experiences to achieve my future goals, but also enable me to collaborate with various researchers in an international research atmosphere. I’m sure that participating in this research internship will be a significant step to realize my academic and career goals.
Goals for the Summer
- Know what actually hands-on research is.
- Learn as much as possible and widen my perspectives.
- Improve my English writing and communication skills.
- Enjoy my stay in Texas.
Excerpts from Jumpei’s Weekly Reports
- Week 01: Arrival in the U.S.
- Week 02: First Week in My Research Lab at Rice
- Week 03: Interview with a U.S. Researcher
- Week 04: Reflections on English Language & Life in the U.S.
- Week 05: Research in the U.S. vs. Research in Japan
- Week 06: Final Week at Rice & Research Poster Presentation
- Week 07: Visit to Washington, DC & New York City
- Final Report & Tips for Future Participants
Week 01: Arrival in the U.S.
Before leaving Japan, I participated in the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo which included some seminars. One of the most helpful sessions was “Transferable Skills Development for Ph.D. Careers” given Professor Yoshichika Iida. In America, almost all graduate students are seeking their PhDs, and as Prof. Kono mentioned at the pre-departure orientation in Kyoto, people who have PhDs are respected and have many opportunities to get their jobs. However, in Japan, most students are trying to get their Master’s degrees and people who have their PhDs have less chances to get jobs. But at this session, I learned about the importance of getting a Ph.D. even in Japan. According to Prof. Iida, more and more companies in Japan are seeking Ph.D. students and the fact that you have a Ph.D. proves that you have developed many skills. Through this session, I was motivated to get a Ph.D. and I’d like to learn more about what American graduate school system is like.
- Education in the U.S.
- Other Related Programs (see section on Applying to Graduate School and Career Resources)
My initial reaction to the U.S. was that the buildings are way too air-conditioned. At the pre-departure orientation, Sarah said that we have to bring some jackets because rooms in the U.S. are usually much colder than Japan. I did not take her words seriously, but when I got on the airplane (our flight was United Airlines), I understood what she had meant. I encountered a terrible situation. It was really cold on the airplane!! It was so cold that I could not sleep at all. My life in the U.S. has just started this week, and I must bring my hoody with me wherever I go. I appreciate Sarah’s advice so much.
There are two things that were different from what I had expected. Before I came to Houston, I expected that Rice University would have fewer trees than my university, because Rice is located in an urban area. However, when I came to Rice University for the first time, I was completely impressed at the many trees and beautiful campus. Rice is surrounded by beautiful nature and it makes me feel relaxed. Also, Rice has many cute squirrels. I’m sure that I will encounter many challenges while doing my research. If I feel stress, I will spend time outdoors at Rice University. The beautiful nature at Rice will help relieve my stress.
I have another thing that was different from what I had expected. That was the tipping culture in the U.S. I’m going to talk about my visit to a Chinatown with Nina. We experienced the tipping culture at that time. Because Nina and I had not started our research yet, we went to a Chinatown in Houston on Friday. Since it took about 50 minutes to get to the Chinatown, it was already a lunch time when we arrived there. Nina knows a lot about Chinese food and helped me to decide what to order. The food was so nice and we enjoyed the Chinese restaurant. When we paid the bill and were about to leave the restaurant, then the waitress suddenly told us to leave tips on the table! Since we do not have any kind of tipping culture in Japan, I was surprised she said to us like that. In the U.S., you have to give tips to waiters…. I have to get used to it.
I had some seminars and activities during this orientation week at Rice University. One of the most helpful seminars was the talk given by Prof. Kono. He talked about “Doing Research at Rice University and Expectations for Research Projects”. At this seminar, I learned more about the American graduate school system and what they expect us to do in our research projects. He also gave us some tips about our poster sessions. Those key questions I should focus on are:
- Do you understand the purpose of your research?
- Do you understand the content of your research?
- Do you understand the experimental method?
- Can you describe the conclusion and next step of your research?
- The overall design of your poster
I have to keep these things in my mind while doing my research. Prof. Kono always helps us and I greatly appreciate it.
This weekend, after going to the H-Mart grocery store, we bought tickets to watch the baseball game at Minute Maid Park Stadium! Though I have watched a baseball game in San Francisco before, I was so excited at the game. I think, unlike Japanese baseball games, American ones are like festivals. Everyone at the stadium was enthusiastic and shouting. Fortunately, I watched a home-run and the Houston Astros won the game. I wish I could watch a baseball game like that at Minute Maid Park Stadium again !!
Question of the Week
Some people say that we should not walk in Houston alone because it is dangerous. Though I spent the first week in Houston, I did not feel any dangers. Are there any places that we should not go? I think Houston is a very safe city in America.
- While Houston is not an unsafe city, we regularly advise students to not walk alone, especially late at night. This advice is given to American as well as foreign students. Not because it is unsafe, rather it is because it can be safer to not walk alone in areas you do not know well. This is what we would call general safety advice/tips that are given routinely to all students. For more see the section on Safety.
- In Houston in particular this is because there are many cars and few pedestrians or bikers. You have to be extra cautious when crossing the street and if you don’t see a car coming perhaps your friend will. Also, when you are in a new city/area it is also good to explore with friends as that way if your cell phone isn’t working theirs may be and you can always call for an Uber or Taxi if you need or look up directions for how to get home.. As you become more familiar with a city/area you can use your best judgement but we have a saying in the U.S. “Better safe than sorry”. This means it is always a good idea to be a bit cautious and prepared just in case something might happen.
Preparing for My Research Internship
Before I came to Rice University, I have sent some messages to my professor and my mentor. Since I did not know many of the technical engineering terms, I concentrated on memorizing these new technical terms. In my opinion, the best way to remember engineering technical terms is to read scientific papers. Of course, it was hard for me to understand everything in the scientific papers, but I kept reading them. I’m sure this will help me to conduct my research.
I did one other thing in Japan to prepare for this internship. Since this will be my first research experience, and I do not know how I can apply my knowledge to hands-on research, I reviewed my current studies at my university. I think this might be the most important thing you should do before your research internship. In order to make this experience more fruitful, we should have as firm a foundation in our own academic field as possible.
Week 02: First Week in My Research Lab at Rice
I will never forget the first day in my lab. It was an amazing day for me. When I went to my lab for the first time, I was so nervous about meeting my professor, mentor, and the other lab members. Since this is my first research experience, there were many things that I was worried about. Everyone gets nervous when they face the challenge of trying new things and this also applied to me. First, I went to the office where my mentor and other lab members are, and when I knocked on the door, my mentor welcomed me with his nice smile and introduced himself to me. My mentor is Javier. He is so friendly that I can talk with him without any hesitation. After we had a brief conversation, he took me to Prof. Meade’s office and introduced me to him. He also welcomed me so warmly. To my surprise, he knows some Japanese words and greeted me in his nice Japanese. That completely relieved my worries and nervous feeling about spending time in this lab.
After I introduced myself to Prof. Meade, my mentor showed me around the campus and we had a lunch together. He is such a gentle man that he bought his and my lunch together. I appreciated him so much.
In the afternoon, since it was also the first day of the semester at Rice, many students attended their classes. Prof. Meade allowed me to attend his aerodynamic class. This gave me a great opportunity to know what a class at Rice is like. His lecture was very interesting and helpful for me. I experienced an American style lecture and I realized two differences between America and Japan.
First, American students ask their professor many questions. It is one of the unique features of American classes. In Japan, even if professors say “Does anybody have any questions?”, few students will ask them questions. But the lecture that I attended felt like a conversation between the teacher and the students. I think we can understand a lecture much better by asking the professor questions.
Second, the students’ attitudes toward their studies were more positive than Japanese students’ ones. In Japan, unfortunately, some students use their cell phone or something like that during lectures and don’t concentrate on their classes. In that class, however, no one used his/her cell phone. Everyone in that class concentrated on what Dr. Meade said. That American style lecture inspired me a lot.
After spending the whole first week in the lab, I realized that my English is poor, especially about technical engineering terms. Before I came to Houston, I studied English hard in order to make this experience more fruitful. However, when I talked about my research with my mentor, it was still hard for me to explain what I was thinking about the research. Fortunately, my mentor, Javier is a very patient and kind person. He listens to me carefully and always tries to understand me. Though it is difficult to conduct research only in English, this is very rewarding at the same time. I want to improve many skills through this research experience.
On August 22nd, I attended a seminar given by Dr. Gayle Moran. She talked about “Poster Design” and taught us how to make our posters more concisely and clearly. She explained the ideal posters to us showing some samples. It was a very helpful session to help me understand how to make my poster. According to her, the important things that make posters more concise are colors and bullets. We should use cool colors like blue or green, and some bullets so that the readers can understand our posters easily and clearly. I have to keep these things in my mind when I make my poster.
On the evening of August 23rd, we went to Houston Museum of Natural Science. As we got there, the movie on Engineering Our World was just about to start. Though that was the second time that I had ever experienced IMAX, it was very interesting. That movie featured some parts of Engineering, and the robotic competition which some high school students participated and their story was very moving to me. The high school student team defeated the MIT team and won the first prize at the competition! There was even a movie made about this story called Spare Parts. Their passion for pursuing robotics was enthusiastic and I think I have to have such a kind of passion while doing my research. I’m happy that I saw such a wonderful movie in Houston.
On August 24th, I went to Rice Memorial Center with Tomoyuki to see Rice Student Activities Fair. There were so many student clubs and they fascinated me a lot. Though my university has many clubs, students at Rice are more excited than students at Hiroshima University. At the Student Activities Fair, I could also feel the atmosphere of American universities.
Question of the Week
This weekend, we are having a huge hurricane, Harvey. This hurricane destroyed our weekend’s plans and we had to stay at the hotel. According to the news report, Houston had huge damages and we still cannot go to Rice until next Tuesday. I wonder if Houston drainage system is poor or not because I can see floods from my hotel.
- This is a very unique situation and is more rain and flooding than Houston has seen in the past 500 years. While there can occasionally be street flooding in Houston after a heavy rain storm, it typically recedes quickly and things go back to normal. This is because the water table in Houston is very high, so the ground cannot soak up a lot of water and therefore the bayous (streams) are designed to quickly move water south of the city towards the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, in the case of extremely heavy rains many of the freeways such as 288 and 59/69 are also designed to help channel water out of the city and towards the Gulf of Mexico. In a sense, they are overflow waterways in case of massive storms. Tropical Storm Harvey has brought more rain in 3 days than Houston normally sees in an entire year, or more, and no city’s drainage system would be able to handle the massive amounts of precipitation that the region has seen.
- Right now, there is simply nowhere for the water to go because there has been so much rain throughout the region so quickly. However, it is very impressive that given the massive amounts of rain the power and water supply has largely remained stable throughout most of Houston. The City of Houston and Harris County continue to work closely together with the Government of Texas and federal officials to respond as quickly as possible to this situation. They are focused right now on immediate emergency needs of citizens in badly flooded areas but in the weeks ahead will turn to recovery and relief efforts throughout Houston. This is an unprecedented rain event that is like nothing the city has ever seen before.
- We are sorry that Tropical Storm Harvey occurred during the program schedule but we are so glad that you and the other Japanese Fellows are in a safe area where there has been minimal street flooding and in a hotel where the power and water have remained stable and that has a back-up generator. At this time, all we can do is wait and watch the regularly updates posted on the Rice Emergency Management website and hope the rains will end soon so the city and region can start to heal. Our program will remain in regular contact with all of the Japanese Fellows via LINE, email, and phone as well.
- Though Rice University campus itself has not flooded, many faculty and staff live throughout the Houston area and they may be dealing with flooded homes or they may not be able to safely travel to campus yet due to flooded streets. Please be patient and try to keep in good spirits. No one could have expected such a storm as Harvey to have occurred. It truly is a 500-year storm.
First Week in Research Lab
My research has just started this Monday and I am working on computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Because this is the first time that I have ever learned CFD, I am learning the foundations of CFD. I will be using computational fluid dynamics software to simulate aerodynamic problems such as airfoil flow.
So far, I have learned how to create meshes and simulated 2D incompressible flows over a cylinder. In order to learn how Reynolds number effects on a flow over a cylinder, we made three patterns of simulations.
The first one is the graphic which doesn’t have any vortices. In this simulation, the flow velocity and Reynolds number are much smaller than any other simulations.
The second one is the graphic which has two vortices without any oscillations. As a flow velocity gets more first, the flow intends to make many vortices and oscillations. When I made this simulation, I had to set Reynolds number small in order not to make any oscillations. In fact, this is the most difficult simulation that I made this week. Though I set Reynolds number enough small which will not make oscillations theoretically, the simulations always had the oscillations. It was a stressful challenge and my mentor and other lab members helped me a lot. I was excited so much when I made the simulation that I wanted.
The final one is the graphic which has many vortices and Karman Vortex Street. In order to make this simulation, I set the flow velocity and Reynolds number much higher.
My research method that I use to make those simulations is computational fluid dynamics software, named “ANSYS 18”. This is the most useful software that I have ever used to make simulations. In order to make simulations, you have to have three steps.
First, you will make a geometry on which you want to see the flow pattern. Fortunately, since this geometry section is like AutoCAD that I have used at my university in Japan, it is not difficult to use it.
Second, you will create meshes on that geometry. In this section, you can create fine meshes on the geometry. As you make the meshes finer, you can get a more clear date when you make a simulation.
Finally, you will make a flow simulation. In this section, you can set many conditions, such as velocity, pressure, viscosity, and boundary conditions.
It is still difficult for me to make simulations by using ANSYS, but my research is very fun and I appreciate my professor, mentor, and other lab members who always help me.
Week 03: Interview with a U.S. Researcher
I was really grateful to have the opportunity to interview Prof. Andrew Meade and my mentor, Javier. When I asked them to do an interview, they were both willing to accept my offer. I’m so happy that such a gentle professor and mentor became my supervisors at Rice University.
I asked Prof. Meade three questions. The first question was “What is your career path? Have you ever worked in the industry?”. He said he had an experience where he worked for a few summers with Royal Dutch Shell when he was an undergraduate student. And after he got his bachelor’s degree at Rice University, he went to the University of California, Berkeley where he received his Master’s degree and Ph.D. Now, he is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He came back to Rice University to teach. Because I was curious about why he came back to Rice, I asked him the second question.
The second question was “What is it like to be a researcher at Rice as compared to other universities in the U.S.?” He said there are minor differences. They have less bureaucracy here at Rice University. I think that he might have meant that there is not a complicated system with people in higher positions making decisions and everyone at Rice just “does research” and it is more of a community.
He also said that teaching schedules at Rice are more flexible than other universities. For example, other universities might say that you teach two or three classes for a full semester, but at Rice, you can have a more flexible schedules. You can teach two classes for one semester and one class for another semester.
Also, when it comes to the funding that researchers have to acquire, Rice has a bit difference between some other universities. At Stanford University, if Prof. Meade remembers correctly, they have to bring in half year of their salary through their research grants, while at Rice University, the researchers are expected to bring in three months of their salary.
He also mentioned the size of Rice University. He said Rice is relatively small but not too small. Rice would be a similar size as California Institute of Technology and Princeton University. That means if the university is too large, you may fall into a situation where you work with only colleagues in your department. And if you are too small, you have fewer chances to collaborate with other departments. If the size is medium like, Rice University, you can work with colleagues in your department and other departments.
The final question that I asked him was “What do you expect us (visiting students) to do about our research?” This is my first experience to do my research, so I was very interested in what he would say. He answered that he expects us to learn the values of our research and to get excited about the research. He does not expect us to solve problems or write papers, but at least to have a good taste of research why people find it exciting.
And I asked Javier, my graduate student mentor, some questions too. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering. He told me that he decided to study in aerospace. He chose to study in this field because he is interested in aerospace. Specifically, he found topics such as computational fluid dynamics and aerodynamics to be very interesting so he decided to focus on them for his research. And he decided to study at Rice University because it is one of the best universities for research in the United States. Also, it’s close proximity to the NASA Johnson Space Center and other aerospace companies in the area mean that he has many opportuniites for connections and partnerships with that field.
Because I was also interested in what he expects me to do about my research, I asked him the same question as I asked Prof. Meade. One of his expectations for me is to gain an understanding of computational fluid dynamics as applied to aerodynamics (such as cylinder flow or airfoil flow), and an understanding of how to interpret the results from CFD simulations. He also wants to demonstrate the process that goes into researching a topic, which is not only simulations but also includes being able to find and read current academic literature and to use published results for validating my own results.
Through these interviews, I learned more about what American researchers are like and what my professor and mentor expect me to do about my research. Though I am always worried about my poor skills about my research and afraid of making mistakes, the answers that I got from my awesome supervisors completely relieved my worries. I appreciate so much for their taking the time to be interviewed.
On Aug. 31st, I participated in the Japanese Language Lunch Table with Ozaki-sensei’s Japanese language class students. It was so fun to interact many Rice students learning Japanese. Though those who I interacted with were freshmen, they already knew many Japanese words. They said that they are learning Japanese from some famous anime. It should be also a nice way for me to learn English from American movies or comedies.
Research Project Update
This week, I tried to make the flow simulation which has no oscillations. According to my mentor, when the Reynolds number is low, the flow simulations will not have any oscillations. However, whatever I did, the flow simulations which I made had oscillations. Since I had no idea what to do and my mentor was not at the office because of the hurricane, I asked Prof. Meade to give me some advice. Prof. Meade told me to make the meshes finer and he said that I did not need to change Re number and other conditions. As he told me to do, I changed the size of the meshes and made a graphic again, then finally, I got the flow simulation without oscillations.
The next step I did was to try calculating the Drag Coefficient of the cylinder and comparing it to published results. Though it was really hard for me to calculate the Drag Coefficient by myself, my mentor helped me to make the flow simulation that I needed to calculate that coefficient. Now, we are using unsteady flow instead of steady flow and this is even harder to make simulations with this unsteady flow. I’m sure that I will encounter many challenges this week, but I want to do my best and learn as much as possible.
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Week 04: Reflections on English Language & Life in the U.S.
Though I have been conducting my research at Rice for a few weeks and I think my English has improved, I sometimes have trouble when I discuss research problems with my mentor in English. This is simply because that my English, especially my academic English level is not so good. Before coming to Rice, I should have read many more academic papers and memorized more academic English words in order to make these discussions more fruitful.
My mentor, Javier, is so kind and he always explains what to do about my research to me. However, since there are things that I have not learned yet at my university in Japan, it takes a long time for me to understand them and what I should do. In my opinion, when you learn new technical things in English, it is sometimes harder to understand them from the bottom of your heart. When I encounter these situations, I usually Google some specific topics and find some scientific papers to understand them from different point of views. This might be one of the easiest things that new researchers can do to handle this problem.
Prof. Meade sometimes comes to the office where I do my research, and he asks me tif I have some problems or not. During those times, he usually talks to other lab members and we have an enjoyable conversation with Prof. Meade, but I sometimes miss what they are talking about and get confused a little. This is probably because my listening skill is not so good, however, the main reason could be that they sometimes use jargon, colloquialism, or slang English that I do not know. That’s why I sometimes can’t understand their conversations. I might have one solution to handle this situation. By watching TV programs in the U.S., you will encounter a lot of jargon and colloquialisms. This could be a good chance to memorize those kinds of words that native English speakers use in their daily lives. Though I don’t watch TV in the U.S. every day, I always try to memorize new English words from people around me.
On Sept. 9th, we went to NASA Johnson Space Center. Before coming to Houston, I had been really excited to go to NASA. Therefore, that was one of the most thrilling days for me. At NASA Johnson Space Center, I saw huge rockets, many spacesuits, and a movie “Journey to Space”. Everything at NASA was amazing and I could not take my eyes off of those exhibits.
On Sept. 10th, I also went to the San Jacinto Battleground to see a battleship. Because I have been learning about ships at my university in Japan, personally I was interested in seeing a battleship. Battleship Texas is the only surviving battleship to have fought in both World Wars. She is maintained as a monument to the American sailors who fought through these two world wars in defense of liberty. Her 14-inch guns could dominate any other ship afloat. She is a designated National Historic Landmark and a National Engineering Landmark.
Research Project Update
This week, I finished calculating the Drag Coefficient and moved on to the next step. Now, I’m making a flow simulation with an airfoil, NACA0012. What I’m doing to make the simulation is the same thing as I did to make a flow simulation over a cylinder.
However, I am using a different type of fluid at this time. I’m using a compressible fluid. One of the differences between incompressible fluid and compressive fluid is a density. The incompressible fluid density is steady and will never change. The compressible fluid density, however, is unsteady and its density depends on fluid pressures. This means that it gets harder to calculate Reynolds number. Unfortunately, I have not learned a compressible fluid in Japan, so it is difficult to make a simulation with a compressible fluid.
Also, in order to make a simulation with a compressible fluid, I have to learn a Mach number to control a flow around an airfoil. And this is also a new parameter which I have not learned yet. A Mach number is a dimensionless quantity which represents a ratio of a fluid velocity to the speed of sound. Mach number = 2 means that the flow has twice as fast as the speed of sound.
Next week, I will try to make a simulation with a compressible fluid and I’m sure that this will be a challenging issue for me. Also, I have to make a draft research poster by Thursday. Though I have many things to do this week, I will do my best to make them on time.
Question of the Week
A hurricane, Irma, is now approaching Florida. I heard that this hurricane is as large as Harvey which did damage to Houston. I’m wondering if the U.S. has a few such huge hurricanes every year or not. Japan has also typhoons every year, but those are not that big.
- Yes, there are always hurricanes that hit the coastlines of the U.S. each year (both the Southeast, Eastern, and even Northeast coastlines) but some years the severity of the storms is worse than in other years. This year is a particularly bad year for hurricanes as the water in the Gulf of Mexico is very warm. Warm water is what hurricanes need to grow and strengthen and what might start as a small hurricane or storm can grow quickly as it passes through the warm waters of the Gulf.
- Each hurricane is different though and they can change paths and strength very quickly. Hurricane Irma was predicted to make landfall in Florida as a Category 5 storm but, by the time it actually made landfall it was only a Category 3 storm in the Florida Keys (outer islands) and by the time it hit the mainland of the state of Florida it has reduced down to a Category 2. What set Irma apart was how big the storm was, so it affected a very large area.
- So, these types of storms can be quite unpredictable depending on which body of water they form in, the weather pressure systems, and whether they pass over other landmasses and weaken (such as how typhoons in Japan often hit Okinawa or Kyushu the hardest and then weaken before hitting Honshu), and how warm the water currents are at that particular point in time. This is why we have a saying when they are predicting a big storm in the U.S. (either a hurricane or a blizzard) that it is “Better to be prepared than to be caught unaware.”
Week 05: Research in the U.S. vs. Research in Japan
Remembering the talks given during the Orientation program in Tokyo and at Rice, I can say that my research experience at Rice was fruitful and exciting. During the orientation, Prof. Kono said that it was important to understand the purpose of our research and to learn more about what an American graduate school is like. I have spent five weeks here at Rice, and I learned the importance of the research I did and the system of American graduate schools. My research topic is “Evaluating the accuracy of the computational fluid dynamics solver, FLUENT”. When using computational fluid dynamics software, it is simple to put values in and look at the solutions obtained, but that does not necessarily mean that the solution is correct. That’s why I did this research at Rice University. I think people will do their best if they know the purpose and the importance of what they are doing. This also applied to me. Because I knew the purpose and importance of my research, I did my best and learned many things.
Prof. Kono also said that it would be hard to obtain impressive results while being at Rice in just five weeks. Because I have not conducted research at my university in Japan, I couldn’t understand how hard it is to do research and obtain valuable results. Before doing research at Rice, I thought that I would have valuable and impressive results because I would do my research for five weeks. I thought five weeks would be enough to obtain valuable results. However, research is not that easy. While doing research, you will encounter so many problems that you cannot solve immediately. My mentor said that “We often encounter some problems that we cannot deal with easily.” After experiencing hands-on research by myself, I truly understood what Prof. Kono meant.
In my lab, there were not any strict rules that I should observe. Therefore, our working schedules were more flexible than I had expected. I could go to the office whenever I wanted. This meant that I could work and spend time at the office as long as possible and this flexible schedule made it possible to learn as much as possible.
I think the relationship between Prof. Meade and his students in this lab was more casual than in a Japanese lab. As I wrote in a previous weekly report, Prof. Meade often came to the office and we had an enjoyable conversation every time. We talked not only about research topics but also about the events that happened to us in our daily lives. This casual environment made me feel relaxed. It did not feel like a lab but a classroom.
I believe what is valued in terms of academic research in the U.S. is the studious environment. This means not only the fulfilling experimental environments but also enjoyable student life. Everyone knows that Rice University is a leading research institution and has high technology to conduct research, but Rice also has so many refreshing places that make us feel relaxed and relieve our stress. Because Rice has so much green in the campus, you will feel like spending time outdoors even though you are in the campus and feel stress doing your research.
While studying at Rice, I attended an aerodynamics class given by Prof. Meade. At that class, I realized students at Rice study more positively than those who are at my university. As I wrote in a previous weekly report, students in that class asked Prof. Meade so many questions and it felt like a conversation between Prof. Meade and his students. I think that the students in that class are motivated to learn. They came to the class since they truly wanted to learn as much as possible. In my opinion, motivated people will inspire me a lot. Therefore, it is more beneficial for me to learn in such an environment. I believe these environments are valued in terms of research in the U.S.
I never doubted that this experience at Rice would affect my attitudes towards academic research and my career goals. Before coming to Rice, my future goals were entering a graduate school in the U.S. and getting a Master’s degree. After having experienced the life at Rice and listened to many seminars on academic careers, however, my dream has changed a little bit. I interacted with some Japanese graduate students at Rice and they inspired me a lot. They told me about their future career goals after they graduate from Rice, and I learned more about what I will be able to do after getting Ph.D. I had never known these career paths before participating in this program. This experience at Rice was meaningful for me.
It is hard for me to choose what I will miss the most about Rice and Houston because everything at Rice and Houston was amazing and unforgettable. I love the people in Houston because they always talk to me even when they don’t know me. I love the coffee house at Rice because their coffee always woke me up before I went to my lab. I love the Rice gym because I can play all kinds of sports whenever I want. I love the hamburgers in Houston because their taste is so nice even though they may be too big for me. I will miss the office I went to every day, the computer I used, and Prof. Meade and Javier. Since there are so many things that I will miss about Rice and Houston, I cannot write everything. It is hard for me to believe that I’m writing this week five report. “Have I really spent five weeks here in Houston?”, I cannot stop asking myself. Houston feels like my hometown. Now, I have two skies that I’m always loving and missing. One is in Japan, and another sky is here, in Houston.
Final Week in Lab
During my final week at my lab, I focused on collecting data that I would use in my poster. I calculated the Pressure Coefficients at various angles of attack. In aerodynamic designs, the coefficient of pressure distribution over the airfoil is useful for determining some of the airfoil’s flight characteristics, such as lift, drag and center of lift. These are important for being able to control flight.
And calculating the Pressure Coefficients was my last job that I did in my research. Though it was a little difficult for me to calculate them by myself, Javier helped me a lot and I finished my research. In this research internship, Prof. Meade and Javier always helped me a lot.
After I finished collecting the data, I started to make my poster. Since I had not made a research poster before, it took longer time than I had expected; even to make a draft version. At this time, my mentor gave me helpful advice on my poster and Sarah also helped me, so finally, I completed my research poster.
On Sept. 18th, Prof. Meade took me and Javier to dinner. We went to a seafood restaurant, Pappadeaux’s. That was my farewell party. At the restaurant, I ate fried alligator and a shrimp dish. Actually, that was the first time that I had eaten alligator. It was so delicious that I ate many pieces of fried alligator. I should find a restaurant which serves an alligator dish in Japan because I want to eat that dish again.
During that dinner, we talked about many things, such as Japan, Houston, and what classes at universities in Japan are like. We had an enjoyable conversation. To my surprise, Prof. Meade knows a lot about Japan as well. He said that he has been to Japan three times. Thus, we could not stop talking about Japan. It was the best dinner that I have ever had in Houston.
I’m so honored that I could study at such a wonderful lab and under their supervision. How could I ever thank them enough? I appreciate them from bottom of my heart.
Question of the Week
I think Rice often has poster sessions. Because my university doesn’t often have poster sessions, I wonder if universities in the U.S. often hold poster sessions or not.
- Yes, universities in the U.S. often have posters sessions once a semester or at least once a year to help prepare and train students to attend and present on their research at academic conferences in their field.
- Most students who attend academic conferences will start out by presenting on their research at a poster session since there are limited time slots for oral talks/PPT presentations. Therefore, you must learn how to present on your research both in a poster session and in an oral talk (PPT) session to be a good researcher and PhD student as you will likely have to give both kinds of talks at conferences throughout your academic and research career.
- For more, see the Presentation and Poster Development page of our website.
Week 06: Final Week at Rice & Research Poster Presentation
Before we participated in the poster session at Rice University, we practiced how to introduce our research to the listeners for about 90 seconds. This was more difficult than I had expected. Since I had learned a lot at Rice, I had many things that I wanted to explain to people who came to see my poster. Therefore, it was difficult for me to introduce my research in just 90 seconds. However, at the seminar given by Dr. Gayle Moran, I learned an important thing that I must keep in my mind. According to her, people who would stop by at my poster would not necessarily have deep interest in my research field. This is why I had to introduce my research to them for 90 seconds. It was important to show them briefly what I did at Rice and grasp their curiosity about my research. Since it was not easy to summarize what I did at Rice in such a brief introduction, we practiced our presentations at the hotel until midnight. Maybe, it sounds strange, but it was fun to practice our presentations together until midnight.
When the poster session started, I was not nervous about presenting my research since I had prepared it a lot. Fortunately, many people stopped by my poster and listened to my presentation carefully. Since I had never participated in a poster session before, the poster session was different from what I had expected. When it comes to a presentation in Japan, a speaker gives his/her presentation to the audience and no one speaks or says anything. However, this poster session felt like a conversation between the listeners and me. They asked me questions whenever they wanted, and one question would generate another question. I found myself enjoying my presentation since it was like a conversation.
In the middle of the presentation, Prof. George Hirasaki came to see my poster and listened to my presentation. Prof. Hirasaki gave us a lecture on “The Japanese-American Experience in Research & Industry”. Because he was familiar with my research topic, he asked me many questions and even taught me more information about computational fluid dynamics. While presenting my research to Prof. Hirasaki, I found it was difficult to answer the questions that he asked me. It is not difficult to understand what people are saying to me in English, and it is not that difficult to say what I’m thinking about in English. However, explanations are different from just listening and speaking English. In order to give clear explanations to their questions, I have to understand what the listeners is actually asking me, and moreover, I have to truly understand how I will explain to them. While answering the questions asked by Prof. Hirasaki, I learned how difficult it is to answer questions at the poster session and also learned that answering those questions will improve my presentation skills.
Final Research Project Overview
My research topic is “Evaluating the accuracy of the computational fluid dynamics solver, FLUENT”. My professor is Prof. Andrew Meade and my mentor is Mr. Javier Villarreal. They are at the department of Mechanical Engineering.
Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is the use of applied mathematics, physics and computational software to visualize how gas or liquid flows affect objects as they flow past. When using a computational fluid dynamics software, it is simple to put values in and look at the solution obtained, but that does not necessarily mean that the solution is correct. Thus, before we can model new problems, it is important to model problems that we can find solutions for in the literature, and compare our results. If we validate the method against published results, then we can be confident in solutions when we try to model new problems, because we know our method gives satisfactory results. This is why I conducted this research at Rice.
My research project objectives are followed;
- Simulation of viscous and vortex flow of a circular cylinder at various values of the Reynolds number
- Simulation of viscous flow of an NACA 0012 airfoil at various angles of incidence
In order to make simulations over a cylinder and a NACA0012 airfoil, I used the computational fluid dynamics software ANSYS FLUENT.
The first step for simulating flow is to make a geometry and domain on which you want to solve the flow.
Next, a mesh is created on that geometry. As the mesh becomes finer, you can get a more accurate data when you make a simulation, but it will take longer to run.
Finally, you will make a flow simulation. To do this, you must choose what physical model to use to solve the flow problem. Some examples are incompressible or compressible, laminar or turbulent, and steady or unsteady. Lastly, you must set boundary and initial conditions, such as velocity, pressure, and viscosity.
In order to answer the objective 1, I made three patterns of simulations at three different Reynolds numbers. Re number is the ratio of inertial (resistant to change or motion) forces to viscous forces. And I used a steady flow over a cylinder whose diameter is 1m.
And also in order to answer objective 2, I made simulations of compressible flow about the NACA 0012 airfoil at three angles of attack, and I calculated the Pressure Coefficient distributions. In this section, Re number is 3E+6 and the Mach number is 0.3. The Mach number is the ratio of the speed of the aircraft, or the speed of the gas, to the speed of sound in the gas.
From these simulations, I learned that:
- The wake characteristics behind a cylinder depend on Re number.
- Cp (Pressure Coefficient) distribution around an airfoil is dependent on angle of attack and Mach number.
The data I got was pretty close to the results in published papers. Thus, I can say that this computational fluid dynamics solver, FLUENT can give us satisfactory results when we solve fluid problems.
So far, the simulations I have run have been for subsonic, nearly incompressible flow, but future work would be to run simulations of compressible, supersonic flow, to observe the formation of shock waves across airfoils. In addition to that, future work would include modelling 3D wings and even full aircraft models.
Through this research experience, I learned the foundation of computational fluid dynamics. Though that was my first research experience, I enjoyed working in my lab and learned many things. I appreciate Prof. Meade and Javier.
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Week 07: Visit to Washington D.C. and New York City
On Sept. 21st, we went to Philadelphia and visited Lehigh University. At Lehigh University, we had a panel discussion on “The Culture of Research in the U.S.”. During that panel discussion, we discussed about “American graduate school” and one of the professors at Lehigh University said that “Don’t apply for a university, but apply for a lab”. I was impressed with his words and completely agreed with him. He said it doesn’t matter if a university is famous or not. It is more important to find and apply to a lab that you truly want to work with. I think this is a very important thing when I apply for a graduate school in the U.S. Now, I’m interested in fluid dynamics, but I don’t have a specific topic that I want to study more about. Therfore, in order to apply for an American graduate school and seek for a Ph.D., I have to find a specific research topic which I really want to learn.
On Sept. 25th, we participated in the closing ceremony in Kobe. During the closing ceremony, we gave presentations on what we did at Rice to the Nakatani Foundation. Actually, since that was the first time that I had listened to the other Japanese Fellows’ research presentations, it was interesting to know what they did at Rice. Every presentation was good and that proved everyone did their bests while at Rice.
Before I left the U.S., I was excited about going back to Japan and meeting my friends and family. And I expected that I would miss about Houston and Rice University. My expectation was true. Though it has only been a few days since I came back to Japan, I already miss Houston and Rice University. All of the photos I took in the U.S. remind me of the days in Houston and Rice. And those photos also remind me of the other Japanese Fellows. I’m so lucky that I have made such nice friends. Without them, I could never have had such wonderful days in the U.S. This program gave me an amazing opportunity that I could experience research in the U.S., and also this program gave me an opportunity that I could meet friends that I will never forget in my life. This program has made a big difference in my life.
Final Question of the Week
In Philadelphia, we took a ghost tour and saw old houses and buildings. Why does Philadelphia has many old buildings? I was surprised that the houses we saw in ghost tour were built 200 or 300 years ago.
- Did you know that the oldest settlements in the U.S. were founded by Native Americans, French, and Spaniards? Click here to see a list of North American settlements by year.
- The East Coast of the U.S. has a lot of old buildings and towns that have still kept their historic downtown. Some of these old buildings have been torn down for new construction but the East Coast is where you will find more small towns that still have buildings from before or during the Revolutionary War. So, the ages of the buildings in that town/region/area tell you a bit about the history too.
- In comparison, Houston wasn’t established until the 1830’s.
- Of course, there were towns and villages long before this established by the Native Americans and the Spanish colonized much of what is now Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California starting in the 1600s.
- For more, see the section on the History of the U.S. on our resources page.
Final Report & Tips for Future Participants
When I first met my family members after returning to Japan, I said having experienced American graduate school life was the most important thing that I gained in this program. Before I went to Rice University, I knew a few things about the system of graduate schools in the U.S., but I did not know what would be like to spend time at an American graduate school.
At Rice University, I conducted research on computational fluid dynamics and also experienced university life in the U.S. at the same time. Having experienced university life at Rice was very rewarding since one of my future goals is getting into graduate school in the U.S. The university life at Rice was comfortable and I could concentrate on my research.
My lab did not have any strict rules, so I could do my research whenever I wanted. My time schedule was more flexible than I had expected. And actually, this flexible time schedule helped me to do whatever I wanted, such as participating in some activities at Rice, exploring Houston and so on. Since the university life at Rice was not stressful, I could enjoy doing my research.
When I came back to Hiroshima University and met with my professors, I shared my experiences at Rice University. Mainly, I talked about my research to them. I briefly explained to them what my research was like and how I did it. After all my explanation about my research, I talked about what I felt about American graduate school. This is a most important thing that I learned from Nakatani RIES Program.
Getting into an American graduate school has been and is still one of my future goals; but I realized that this future goal is too vague to attain. Since I want to work internationally in the future, I’d like to enter a graduate school in the U.S. However, I don’t know what I truly want to work on and what I really want to learn. Now, I’m interested in fluid dynamics, but I have no idea about what kind of fluid dynamics I am curious about. At Rice University, I interacted with many graduate students and they all have specific research topics. I think they can make their efforts to get their Ph.D. because they have specific research topics that they truly want to learn. I think this is a very important thing to enter an American graduate school.
Because it will take about 5~6 years to get a Ph.D. in the U.S., I have to find what I really want to learn about. I have to find strong motivation enough to get my Ph.D. in the U.S.
When speaking to an employer in a job interview, I would be able to show the skills that I got in this program. In this program, I improved not only my English skills but also international academic skills. Before I went to Rice University, I was nervous about doing my research in English. This was because I had not conducted research by myself and I had not been confident in my English. However, I could learn new things in English and conduct my research in an international lab. Employers in a job interview would think that I’m a capable person because of my experience in the U.S.
Rice has many international students. Therefore, we had to interact with people who have different cultures even when we did our research. I think this is very rewarding for us because international students have their own unique ideas. Since people who have different cultures have different perspectives, I gained new ideas by interacting with international students at Rice.
I’m sure that this international collaborative experience will be useful when I work internationally in the future.
I have many things that I want to tell about Nakatani RIES Program to potential applicants or future participants from Hiroshima University. Especially, I want to talk about the university life at Rice.
In this program, you can experience not only hands-on research but also a bit of university life at Rice. I think few people know how students in the U.S. spend their time at universities. Some people say that students in the U.S. study much harder than Japanese students. Before I went to Rice University, I also thought that students in the U.S. would study harder and would not have free time. However, this was not true. Of course, they studied hard but also had some free time at the same time. Though they had many things to do about their research and classes, they seemed to enjoy their university life. They seemed to relieve their stress by going to dinner with friends or taking some exercise at Rice gym. I thought that Rice students have many options to make their university life enjoyable even if they are busy doing their research.
I thought students in the U.S. would be busier than us, but their university life is not that stressful.
I will keep studying English and find a specific topic that I truly want to learn at a graduate school as a result of my participation in this program. In this program, I recognized the importance of English again. If I can speak English, I will be able to communicate with international researchers from all over the world. This is very rewarding for me because I can a lot of information about research. In order to be an engineer or a researcher who can collect information in English, I will continue studying English. And in order to get into a graduate school in the U.S., I have to find a research topic that I want to learn. Since I have never conducted research at my university, it will be a little difficult to find such a topic. However, I think this is as important as studying English for me.
Tips for Future Participants
For future Japanese Fellows, I would like to say “Work hard and Play hard in Houston”. In this program, you will be able to not only do research but also have experiences that you have never had in Japan. Though it is important to focus on your research, it is not enough to only do research. I would like you to widen your perspectives by participating in some activities in Houston. I’m sure some activities in Houston will inspire you. If you work hard and play hard, you will have a great summer.
Hiroshima University holds Eigo-Mura(English Town) every Thursday. I will participate in English Town and share the information on Nakatani Program with Hiroshima Students. Since students who are in English Town are interested in studying abroad, they should be curious about this program.