2017 Aaron Ludvigsen

Aaron Ludvigsen
Home University: Bethel University
Field of Study: Physics and Computer Science with a Minor in Math
Status: Sophomore
Expected Graduation Date: May 2019
Host Lab in Japan: Osaka University – Inst. of Laser Engineering, THz Photonics, Tonouchi Laboratory

Why Nakatani RIES?

Applying to the Nakatani RIES program meant to me the opportunity to explore fascinating areas of science and to explore Japan, a country whose culture has captivated me for as long as I can recall.  Acceptance will provide the opportunity to explore Japan and learn about the culture firsthand and to gain a deeper understanding of my scientific interests.  I felt that every day would provide me with new experiences and better development of my world view. One of the 2016 program alumni shared with me that the quality of his learning and that the relationships he formed with scientists from other nations caused him to set a goal to attend graduate school in Japan. I am convinced that Nakatani RIES will provide an extraordinary, life-shaping experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Having this research opportunity in Japan will support my personal future goals because I will have me the opportunity to explore an area of research that interests me.  This will help me to decide my direction for graduate school. The Nakatani RIES program will also allow me the opportunity to work with and develop friendships with scientists from different cultures. At a time when many nations seem to be withdrawing from international cooperation due to rise of populist or nationalist philosophies, I believe it is critically important to develop trust and relationships with scientists from other countries in order to more effectively help people to benefit from research efforts.

Goals for the Summer

  • Learn conversational Japanese.
  • Gain research knowledge in a professional setting and master technical skills in material science.
  • Learn how to be successful in a culture different from mine.
  • Explore Japanese architecture and origami.

Excerpts from Aaron’s Weekly Reports

Week 01: Arrival in Japan

The pre-departure orientation at Rice University was a great opportunity to meet the other students and learn more about this adventure we were all about to embark upon. After a day of getting to know each other, it slowly came out that every one of us felt a bit stupid around the other students, which was a good indication of the impressive mental prowess of the members of the group. The orientation presentations at Rice covered cultural differences between Japan and the US, lab safety, tips from last year’s alumni, and a quick language tutorial. I thought the lab safety material was pretty straightforward. The language tutorial was not particularly helpful for a student with no prior Japanese language experience. The cultural difference presentation I found very useful because I learned actions to avoid and some common social norms in Japan. The alumni shared useful quick tips such as which subway line to take and to always look for the “Black Thunder” candy. We found that on the second day in Tokyo. It is delicious.

We arrived in Japan after a 14-hour flight. I was tired but ecstatic to be in Japan at last. At first, I noticed very few differences between Japan and the US, probably due to jetlag. After checking into our hotel, our Nakatani RIES group went out for ramen. I had never before eaten ramen that wasn’t dried and wrapped in plastic which surprised my group. Freshly made ramen is delicious, which made up for exposing my lack of skill with chopsticks. I tried to slurp like the experts did and just managed so splash the broth all over my shirt.

Tokyo Midtown waterfalls. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

After eating we decided to go for a walk around Tokyo and I noticed something shocking. None of the bikes were locked up! Any thief could easily steal a bike. In the states, I have to lock up my bike and front wheel or it would be stolen. It impressed me that the Japanese have such respect for other’s property. I realized on this outing that we had freedom to explore Tokyo outside of scheduled seminars or outings.

When I woke up the next day, free of jet lag, I realized I was in a country on the other side of the world living among people who speak a language I have yet to master.  This is an exciting challenge and a wonderful opportunity!  I went to breakfast with the other students and enjoyed the best hotel breakfast ever. We walked to our language classes and on the way I noted the spotless streets.

Over the course of the week I visited shrines, shopping areas, restaurants, and spectacular sightseeing areas with some of the other students. We made some mistakes along the way. One happened when we were thirsty and found what we thought was a vertical water fountain. The water was sprayed straight up in the air making it was hard to drink from without getting water splashed all over your face. After we had all taken a drink, we noticed a sign that said “wash your hands here.”  We realized that was why the 20 or so Japanese people had watched five Americans drink out of the hand wash fountain in public.  We resolved to check for instructions more carefully in the future.

After just spending a week in Tokyo, I know I am going to enjoy living in Japan. The public transportation is extremely efficient, the people are super nice and helpful and forgiving of my beginner-level Japanese.  The food is superb and there are so many things to do in Japan. Japan is also extremely safe. I have walked down many alleys, while lost, and have felt safer than in my neighborhood at home. I even bought strawberries in one of these alleys.

I was expecting the Japanese people to be a little more formal and less willing to interact with foreigners. Instead, I have found that they are very polite and willing to help a group of confused students who have no idea what is going on. I am quite surprised by how quiet the Japanese people are. I have heard that people outside the US think Americans are loud and I thought I would be the exception and not be viewed this way. I was wrong. When the Nakatani RIES students and I walk through the streets, ours are the only audible voices. People in this country must think we are very loud.  I am committing myself to attain the Japanese level of quiet. One question I have is why the Japanese do not eat in public. Eating in public is common in the US, but is simply not done in Japan. I have seen signs by shops selling take away food stating that you cannot eat the items purchased there.

Godzilla figure found in Akihabara. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

I was a little worried about the three hour long intensive language classes. However, during my first language class, I stopped worrying and fell in love with the course. The teachers at AJALT are the nicest people on the planet and are very patient. At the end of the first day, I was able to order my room key from the hotel desk. I even received the correct key! We have also learned how to order food, describe experiences, and make plans.  One exercise was to describe features of our home and I wanted to describe the 10,000 lakes of my home state, Minnesota.  I chose the measure word for flat and caused my teacher great amusement!

The three hours of language class go by pretty fast and I am able to use new material we learn as soon as I go out the door.  I have successfully asked Japanese people for prices and where I can find places and items. Being able to use the coursework outside of class and completing the homework make learning the material easy and a lot of fun. The phrase I use most is “sumimasen” which means “sorry” or “excuse me.”  Every day is a little better with my language skills.

We have had three great speakers come in and make presentations to us about Japan and about science. The first was Cain Gibbs. His was a funny presentation about Japan from an American’s perspective. Mr. Noriyuki Skikata gave a great speech about Japan, China, North Korea, and US relations. It was very informative and insightful, especially during this time when the US seems to be preparing to change some foreign policies. Finally, Shinichi Nishikawa delivered a lecture on science, religion and the origin of languages.  I thought the lecture was very thought provoking and I was particularly interested in the language portion.

Sanja Matsui, main street. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

During our first week we also visited the labs at Todai University. These labs are decked out! I was impressed by the amount of expensive equipment with which the labs were equipped. Some of the labs are “user” labs which means that researchers from other universities could use the equipment in these labs. This way each school would not need to buy the same pieces of expensive equipment.  Sharing is much more efficient.

After exploring the labs, we sat down with Todai University students for discussion. Trevor (another Nakatani RIES student) and I sat next to a student who did not speak much English. This was a bit of a problem since we did not speak very much Japanese. Luckily, Trevor had with him a pamphlet with useful Japanese phrases and words which we used to communicate for a while. I then remembered I had a smart phone in my pocket and we used Google Translate which allowed us to have a more complicated and technical discussion.

We have had dinners with most of the presenters. I was seated across from Mr. Noriyuki Skikata and quickly realized after asking him about his job that he was a really important guy. He is a Deputy Cabinet Secretary from the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan with expertise in foreign relations, trade agreements and security issues.  That was nerve-wracking.  Mr. Skikata was very kind to me and forgave my lack of knowledge about politics.

Research Project Introduction and Article Overview
My research this summer in the Tonouchi Laboratory at Osaka University will deal with THz emission from carbon nanotube photoconductive antennas. The Terahertz frequency range includes frequencies from 100 GHz to 30 THZ. This region of the electromagnetic spectrum has yet to be opened up for commercial use. This is mainly due to the lack of reliable, low cost, solid state devices. Commercial applications for THz devices include imaging and sensing. Terahertzes radiation has the unique capability to penetrate common packaging materials which could allow for improved, non-damaging security screenings and also for new diagnostic areas in the field of medicine.

The Tonouchi Lab works with creating devices for THz emission. One of their projects is “Generation of Terahertz Radiation by Optical Excitation of Aligned Carbon Nanotubes”. The experimental research paper describes how THz radiation can be generated from carbon nanotubes which had been only theoretical. This lab used macroscopically aligned single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) film without an externally applied voltage. The SWCNT films were synthesized using water-assisted chemical vapor deposition. The lab used lasers with wavelengths of 400 and 800 nm with “100fs laser pulses from a 1kHz amplified Ti:sapphire source” (3268). The electric field of the generated SWNCTs where found to be parallel to the SWNCTs. Bipolar THz emission was observed when excited by 400 nm pulses but was not observed when 800 nm pulses were used. This characteristic has yet to be explained.

The most efficient THz generation occurs when pump pulses were polarized perpendicular to SWNCTs (3268). This is unexpected, given that optical absorption of light favors light polarized along the nanotube direction. The reasons given for this are “(1) significant anisotropy of optical absorption and reflectance of the aligned SWCNT films, (2) sublinear (i.e., saturating) dependence of the generated THz amplitude on the pump pulse fluence, and (3) strong reabsorption of the emitted THz radiation by the aligned SWCNT film acting as a THz polarizer” (3270).

Generated THz wavelengths were found to be between 0.2 – 2.0 THz. 400 nm pulses were found to significantly increase the efficiency of generated THz radiation compared to generated radiation from 800 nm pulses. The paper provides three possible explanations for the THz radiation emissions. These include: generation due to “ultrafast photocurrent surge” driven by the  built-in voltage caused by the change in density between the tops and the bottoms of the nanotubes; a temperature gradient caused by differences in pump abosrption as a result of decreased alignment along the bottom of the film; and “optical rectification” (3269). More research is required to identify which of the three is causing this remarkable characteristic.

Titova, L., Pint, C., Zhang, Q., Hauge, R., Kono, J., & Hegmann, F. (2015). Generation of terahertz radiation by optical excitation of aligned carbon nanotubes. American Chemical Society, 15(5), 3267-3272. doi:10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b00494

Return to Top

Week 02: Language Learning and Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes

We started the week with a visit to the JAMSTEC building where earthquake monitoring is performed.  Experts simulate changes in Earth’s climate. The facility was extraordinary. I was especially excited to view the supercomputer and its most amazing cooling system. After enjoying the tour of the facility, we looked for lunch. I was motivated to find Chinese food, since I studied Chinese for several years. I thought I would order in Chinese, but quickly realized that the waiters spoke Japanese. There was a Chinese menu but I only remembered the character for fish. In spite of that, I really enjoyed the meal.

Later in the week we had a Taiko drum lesson. We learned one piece and I found it relatively difficult.  Percussion is much different than my usual instrument, the viola.  The large-sized Taiko drums we played require more upper body strength than I expected.  There was a lot of big arm movements slamming the sticks down on the drums and some complex choreography. I got sweaty, which is quite different from my viola practice. I also realized the next day that playing the Taiko drums requires a lot from your triceps and biceps.

Origami Kaikan, samurai figures on horses. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

We finished the scheduled events early and I decided to visit Origami Kaikan. I have been fascinated by origami since I was a child.  The Origami Kaikan showcases masterful origami creations and sells paper and books. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed but I found some inspiring books in the store.

I met the rest of the group in Shibuya. We visited thrift stores and eventually found ourselves in Uniqlo. Sugoi (amazing)! Everything was extremely inexpensive, new, and good looking. I ended up buying some casual clothes because I packed mainly dress clothing for Nakatani RIES program.

On Friday, Kento Ito presented an interested talk on the culture and history of the kimono. He talked about how the kimono has been viewed through the centuries and how its popularity has lessened over time. He is part of an initiative called the IMAGINE ONE WORLD KIMINO PROJECT, hoping to reignite interest in the kimono.  Through the program, he has created unique kimonos for almost 200 countries. I really liked the presentation and am looking forward to wearing a yukata (a subcategory of kimonos) during some of the festivals in the Kansai region in July.

Language classes have been amazing.  The approach the teaching experts have taken make the learning accessible, timely, and fun. This week we learned verb conjugation (which I have had fun trying out on the Japanese Fellows). All the different ways to conjugate verbs can become a little confusing and there are audible moans when our teacher introduces exceptions to the rules. This week has been about learning how to have conversations in Japanese while last week was about learning enough language basics in order to get around Tokyo.

This week we each had a one on one speech with another language teacher we had never met. It was nerve wracking. All of us lower levels language learners feared making complete fools of ourselves. Luckily, the experience was fantastic and we realized that we have learned a good amount of Japanese. We had been measuring ourselves by what we didn’t yet know and didn’t think about what we had learned.  However, I did realize during the conversation was that while I can ask questions, there is no guarantee that I will be able to understand the answer a native speaker gives me.

Mt. Fuji ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

We traveled to the Mount Fuji Lakes area on Saturday of our second week in Japan. I have seen photos and paintings but being in the presence of the mountain was a wonderful experience.  It was massive and amazing. Some members of our group are thinking about summiting the mountain in August but since I have no climbing experience, I am hesitant to commit.

The area around Mount Fuji is achingly beautiful. There is green everywhere, the air is clean, and there are lots of little ponds where native fish can be seen swimming about. Of course, Mount Fuji is always in view. The Japanese Fellows, who will leave for the US in August, joined us on this trip. I was impressed by their command of English and embarrassed that I could only speak a little Japanese. I ended up trying out some of my verb conjugations on them and was delighted when they could understand me! It may have helped that their culture values saving me embarrassment!

Hamayuki. First dish I did not know how to eat. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

We took a bus to the midpoint of the mountain. My right ear reacted badly to the change in pressure. The view, however, took my mind off the pain almost instantaneously. I walked with some of the US Fellows and with Tom-san (a Japanese Fellow). We took pictures together, ensuring Mount Fuji was always in the background.  We enjoyed ice cream made from a berry that only grows at high altitudes. DELICIOUS! In the gift shop we found a weird toy that repeats one’s words in a higher pitch. We thought this toy was hilarious and spent a good amount of time making it say English slang (something the Japanese Fellows wanted us to teach them … but American STEM students don’t have much familiarity with slang!).  We laughed quite loudly which caused the toy to laugh back at us. Everyone in the store was staring at us.  Oops!

The trip to Mount Fuji eclipsed my expectations. It is the most beautiful and majestic sight I have ever seen. I asked some of the Japanese Fellows (not bragging, but in Japanese) if they had ever been to Mount Fuji and surprisingly, most said they had not. It was an amazing experience and it was even more wonderful to have the Japanese Fellows enjoy it with us!

At a wonderful buffet dinner that evening, we discovered that we missed celebrating Trevor’s birthday last week.  We decided to celebrate his birthday there in the lodge near Mount Fuji. The wait-staff brought some cake and we all sang “Happy Belated Birthday”.

Later that night we went on a tour to the firefly area. Unfortunately, the fireflies weren’t cooperating and I saw only one firefly. I looked up, saw the gorgeous stars overhead, and decided to lay down on a rock and listen to classical music while the others went to the onsen, a hotspring. Later everyone convened in my cottage and talked for an hour before heading to bed. My cottage had Wi-Fi which surprised me; Wi-Fi is not common in Japan.

On Sunday morning, we visited the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium to see Coelacanths and shockingly large crabs. The aquarium was located near the fish market so after the aquarium, we headed there to eat Hamayuki. This was the first time I have been offered a dish and realized I had no idea how to eat it. After asking Sarah and Ogawa-san a million questions I attempted some of this new food. Delicious! I am convinced that everything in Japan in delicious.

After lunch we headed to the shockingly long Mishima Sky Bridge. It was a lot of fun to walk on because it rocked back and forth slightly. On the sides of the bridge there were little stations where people could walk into rows of fake sunflowers that spray cooling mist. The bridge spans a very beautiful valley far below and as I took pictures I was constantly worried that I would drop my phone.

We then visited a strawberry farm and enjoyed sweet fresh berries dipped in condensed milk. After the farm, we dropped off some of the Japanese Fellows for the shikansen (the high speed train) and returned to the Sanuki Club Hotel. We were sad to part from the Japanese Fellows. They are nice people and our groups mixed well. They gave us their insights on the locations visited and were extremely knowledgeable about science. I regret that the Japanese Fellows had to speak English because so few of us could speak sufficient Japanese. This motivates me to learn more conversational Japanese now and while I am at my internship. I would love to be more fluent in Japanese the next time I meet the Fellows.

Research Project Update
The seminars this week were great learning experiences. Prof. Kono from Rice University came to teach some basics in Material Science and Quantum Mechanics. The material was not new to me but I was very glad for the review and did learn new things during the lecture to that I thought were mind blowing.

Several Japanese University presenters visited and presented lectures on their research. Itoh-sensei from Keio University presented on Quantum Computing which I found extremely interesting but at the same a seemed a little too much like magic (that’s a superposition joke!!). Kawata-sensei from Osaka University presented on Photonics. I have seen and worked on some of the material he presented on at my home lab at Bethel University. It was very interesting to learn about TERS since I have only had experience with SERS.

I found the science presentations to be extremely interesting and I really wanted to join the labs and work on those research projects. Material Science is a fascinating field and there is still so much to be discovered. I have started reviewing my notes from my Material Science course in order to prepare for my research opportunity. I have also started reading about Optics. I am excited to put my knowledge to good use and hopefully will be able to help make a contribution to the THz field.

Return to Top

Week 03: Noticing Similarities, Noticing Differences

The first thing I notice when taking public transportation in Japan is that it is extremely quiet. Usually if people talk, they do so that they are barely audible. Meanwhile, our group of Americans is quite loud in comparison. Over time we have gotten better at being quiet. The only other loud people on the train are Japanese high school students and pairs of elderly ladies. I have found that these two groups are comparable to the Nakatani student group.

Passengers on the train also usually like to spread out as much as possible. People will first try to take open seats and if they cannot find one will decide to stand in a relatively unoccupied area usually around the doors. When a seat does open up I am sometimes able to witness a “nice off” between Japanese people when they try to give the seat to someone else on the train.

While passengers ride the train, I usually witness one of four activities: they stare at their phone, sleep, stare blankly forward, or talk with someone quietly. I have never seen someone work on their laptop which is very different from me in the US. I will generally pull out a computer or some paper work to work on when I take public transportation. But in Japan, people try to be conscious of the other passengers and occupy as little space as possible. Because of this I do not do work on the trains or subways and instead will talk with friends or sleep until I get to the desired station. It is very interesting to see how much value Japanese people place on the feelings of others.

It is interesting to see the difference in the behavior on public transportation between the US and Japan. In the US, being loud is not a problem and people will only stop if they feel embarrassed because they think everyone else might be listening to them. Also in the US, I rarely see very many people take public transportation. Most people want to drive everywhere but in Japan I have been packed like a sardine during popular times.

Overview of Week Three Orientation Program in Tokyo
On Monday of this week we decide to go Harujuku to try out gyoza which is a Japanese version of dumplings. We were told that it was a popular spot so we left pretty early in order to get seats but we still had to be divided up. It was a great restaurant! They dishes were very cheap and so we ended up ordering about 12 plates of dumplings. This did, unfortunately lead to a long wait time since they had to prepare our food. Worth the wait though!! One thing I did not like at this restaurant was that people were allowed to smoke inside and we were seated next to a group who had a smoker. This lead to us breathing in the second-hand smoke while we waited for the food. Unlike in the US where most places do not allow smoking because it is annoying to the other customers, Japan allows smoking in many places but I am told that they are moving more towards where the US is at. I wonder why Japanese people feel okay smoking in a restaurant filled with other customers given the importance placed on the feelings of others?

We decided for the rest of the week that we would try to explore Tokyo by exploring one district at a time. On Tuesday, we decided to explore Shinjuku. We first came out of the station in a Bicqlo (Bic Camera) store. I think it is really cool that the station exits sometimes come out into stores. We had read that this Bicqlo gave free massages so we headed to the fifth floor where this was being done and found rows of massage chairs. We ended up spending about an hour there enjoying the massage chairs. I ended up finding one that gave a full body massage which felt like the chair was trying to eat me. During this experience, a middle aged Japanese man came up to me speaking Japanese. He sounded a little angry so a made my “I’m foreign and have no idea what you are saying face”. Then his wife came up from behind him and said “excuse me” and pointed towards the sides of the chairs. I realized that she probably lost something in the chair and got out. Her husband then searched around in the chair looking for the item and eventually found her phone. The wife then said “excuse me” again and we went our separate ways. I realized from this interaction how Japanese people will use different tones of voice compared to Americans. If I left an item near where someone is sitting I will usually take a more apologetic tone and but the husband may have been trying to not lose manliness which lead me to believe that he was mad at me.

Josh, Will, Toshiki-san, and I after eating our Ramen. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

After leaving the Bicqlo store, we were hungry and decided to find food. We ended up going into this alley where there were a lot of little restaurants. Every place was packed so we split up into small groups. I went with Will and Josh to some ramen shop. This is where we met Toshiki-san! We sat down and ordered Ramen with pork in it. When we got our bowls we decided to take a photo and I positioned my phone to take a selfie. When I took the picture, I did not realize that I faced the camera towards a group of Japanese people which made it look like I took a picture of them. We ended up making eye contact after I had taken the picture and waved my hands to express that I did not taken a picture of them. They laughed and the guy closest to me asked (in English) where we were from. I said America and he asked about sports teams but I unfortunately do not know much about sports and so the conversation seemed to be dying. Then I started eating my ramen and he stopped me to tell me that he was going to show me how to properly eat ramen. He took the noodles up into his mouth and in a split second they were gone after a loud slurping noise was made. He asked me to try and I made Will try with me. I managed to splash the noodles all over myself and Will tried not to die from drowning in the broth. After practicing with the rest of the Ramen and splashing our shirts full of the broth we were somewhat decent at eating ramen and the guy seemed pretty happy with us. We asked his name and he said he was Toshiki-san. Legendary! We also tried speaking Japanese a little with him and I was introduced to the casual way of speaking which really confused me because I thought he was leaving out a lot of words when he talked.

Inside the big Hyaku en store. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Then we headed over to an arcade to play some games. The games were mostly rhythm games and we had a fun time playing around with them. I also played “dance, dance revolution” with Alex and we ended up failing. It was really hard and I almost fell off the stage a dozen times. I also noticed some of the Japanese people playing the games. Woah! I have heard that Japanese people could get really into games but this looked like they were using hacks. I watched these people in awe and my only consolation was thinking “Well I bet they can’t do solid state physics”. We headed back to the hotel after this to finish our week two reports.

The next day we took a plastic food workshop. We had seen plastic food on display throughout Tokyo in restaurants when they want to show what the food will look like. It was amazing to see how they made the plastic food and then we had to do it. It was very interesting and reminded me a little of working with a hot glue gun. After finishing up there we headed over to a mocha ice cream shop and bought ice cream. YUM! We then headed to a sushi place to try out real Japanese sushi. The sushi was pretty good but I expected more given all the hype that people give the sushi. Still it was very good and I enjoyed it a lot. The sushi was coming around on a conveyer belt but you could also order food individually.  I also decided with Shivani that we would try the weirdest looking thing we could find. This ended up being some crab thing which was the tastiest dish. I also worried my friends when I decided to stick a giant ball of wasabi in my soy sauce. It still was not spicy enough.

On Thursday, we decided to go to Harujuku. We had been to Harujuku before, but we just went there for the gyoza. We came out of the subway near a restaurant that was selling takoyaki. We decided to eat some and it was delicious. Everything tastes great here!  We then headed down to Takeshita-dori and found the four-floor Hyaku en store (Japanese version of a dollar store but everything is actually a dollar). They sold everything: cooking, toys, clothing, etc. I ended buying some paper and envelopes in order to make cards for my Japanese language teachers. Other Nakatani students were able to buy ties and bubble guns. We walked down the entire street and stopped for crepes along the way.

Taken on our last night in Tokyo on the hotel roof. You can see Tokyo Tower lit up blue. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

On Saturday, some of the Nakatani students went off to the Ghibli Museum but I decided to go and explore Akihabara more. I came out of the subway into Akihabara and ended up on a very busy street. This street was packed with electronics and anime stores. I walked down the street admiring the stores and stopped into a few electronics stores. I also noticed on this street that about every twenty feet there was a woman dressed as a maid handing out flyers. These women were workers at maid cafes. I think the idea of a maid café is a little odd since to me it seems like people would go there to experience what it feels like to have dominance over someone. I also decided to walk back into Yodabashi Camera and realized that when we had visited Akihabara before that we had walked on the street adjacent to the street with all of the stores. Everyone returned to the hotel late and we went up to the roof to talk and discussed our first impressions of each other which were pretty funny.

On Sunday, we took the Shinkansen to Osaka. I thought it would go a little faster but still had a fun time riding it. It was also far more comfortable then the plane ride over here. It was also much sadder then the plane ride because at every stop a few Nakatani students would get off for their universities. Katelyn (Nakatani student) and I got off at the last stop in Osaka. After leaving the station we checked into a hotel. When we got to the front desk we decided to speak Japanese and say we were from Nakatani and that we had a reservation. While we did manage to get this message across we unfortunately had no idea what the reply was and made confused faces. The lady at the front desk then switched to English and we were able to check in. The hotel was awesome! So much space and it provided everything including complementary water which is a much bigger deal here in Japan.

Research Project Update
This summer I will be studying THz emission from single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) which have amazing optical properties. Single walled carbon nanotubes can be characterized by using Raman Spectroscopy and now using a femto second laser, can be made to produce THz waves. SWCNTs also are great examples of quantum confinement since they limit mobility of the electrons to one dimension. My research will focus around why SWCNTs give off THz radiation. Some of my questions or technical knowledge I would like to gain while in the starting phase of the research internship is more knowledge on carbon nanotubes’ semiconductor characteristics, how to use the Raman spectrometers, and how to use the equipment that detects the THz waves.

Return to Top

Week 04: First Week at Research Lab

The buildings I work in at Osaka University. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

On Monday, I met my mentor Bagsican Filchito Renee G (also known as TJ) at the monorail station and traveled with him to the Suita campus of Osaka University where the Tonouchi Lab is located. We went first to the office building where I met Kawayama-sensei, an associate professor here at Osaka University and also my supervisor.  I was a little nervous. My Japanese language skills abandoned me and we introduced ourselves in English. TJ and Manja (another researcher) took me to lunch. I was very grateful to have their company because I did not know my way around the campus. After lunch, we toured the facilities and met Hironaru Murakami and associate professor at Osaka University. Luckily, my language skills had returned and I was able to introduce myself in Japanese and share a little about my hometown. The professor paid me the compliment of asking me if I spoke Japanese! After the tour, I was escorted to my dorm for check in.

Once I got into my room and had the Wi-Fi and the internet access working, I researched where I was in Osaka. Reconnecting was one of the best feelings in the world! I decided to go to the nearest 7-Eleven for provisions. This turned out to be a bit more of a lengthy pilgrimage than I anticipated. My Japanese language classes prepared me well for shopping and I had a successful trip.  I returned to my dorm, caught up a little on international news, and then I read sections on a book about THz radiation that my mentor provided to me.

The people I met in my lab are very nice and speak English really well. My mentor, TJ, and Manja mostly converse in English since they each only speak a little Japanese. The Japanese students in my lab are very kind and have introduced themselves to me. I try to remember to speak in Japanese but I mostly receive replies in English. I was talking with the lab secretary, Iwami-san, about how everyone seems fluent in English in Japan. She pointed out that if you know English you can go to many places in the world and be able to communicate, but if you only know Japanese you are limited.  So, if Japanese want to work or study internationally, they need to know English.

The cruise I took into the mountains with some other international students in Kyoto. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

When Japanese students talk among themselves, they converse in Japanese. Sometimes I test my language skills to see what I can understand from the conversation. The lab personnel all gave presentations on their research this week and all of the presentations were in English, for which I was most grateful. I was asked to speak about myself and my background and research experience.  I spoke in both Japanese and in English.  I learned that applauding after each presentation is not customary in the lab, although the group kindly did applaud for me.  I am glad that English is such a powerful language; however, I do feel bad that I cannot speak very much Japanese.  My lack of language skill caused a bit of confusion with taking the buses.  People queue for the buses instead of just standing around.  Also, buses pick up at different locations from where they drop off.  Luckily, there were English speaking Japanese who helped me understand the customs.

One of the monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

My housing in Japan is very nice. The outside of the building seems old but the facilities and rooms are very clean and modern. My room here is only slightly smaller than my room in the US; I was expecting less space. Oddly there are no outlets near my desk. It is an international dorm so I thought there would probably be people from all over the world, but it mostly houses people from Asian countries. I have heard rumors that there are other Minnesotans, but so far I haven’t heard that nice accent, dontcha know. There is an upcoming festival in the dorm which I plan to attend. To commute to my lab, I catch the university shuttle which is free for students and 20 minutes quicker that the monorail.

Most of this week was devoted to orientation. I have done a lot of reading about THz radiation and have had a walkthrough of the setup. The goal of this project is to explore the mechanisms of THz emission from carbon nanotubes. To do this we will be generating THz radiation using different wavelengths from the pulse laser, changing the intensity of the pulse laser, as well as a few other aspects.

Reflections on Three Week Orientation Program in Tokyo
The orientation program was both fun and very valuable.  I enjoyed learning about Japanese culture and research in Japan through the lectures. Learning language basics has proven very useful.  Practicing with the other Nakatani students helped boost confidence and build skills. I do miss my friend Will’s ability to speak Japanese, though. He was in level four and when someone said something I did not understand I would look to Will for clarification. Luckily, I have met a student from Singapore who speaks Japanese very well and he has helped me out a few times.

Learning the basics of Japanese and social interaction in Japan was very helpful. I regret that I didn’t ask more questions during language classes about navigating bus routes. I find the hardest thing about speaking with native Japanese people is that I am usually not ready if they say something to me in Japanese if I am not expecting it. Then when I ask them to repeat what they said they usually try something else which they think is a bit simpler or they say some English which I can usually understand. What I would really like is for people to speak a little louder, a little more slowly, and a little more clearly.  I think my skills will improve with time and usage, though.  I am passionate about learning Japanese. It is especially fun to use it out in the world. I will continue studying and progressing.  I am currently learning grade school Kanji, reading from the “Japanese for busy people”, and using Japanese when I can in conversation with the students in my lab.

Question of the Week
My main question for this week is what Japanese people think of a foreigner who cannot speak very much Japanese. In the US, sometimes people are discriminated against if they cannot speak English even though the US is diverse culturally and ethnically and has no official language. In Japan, Japanese is the official language and Japan is almost entirely made up of Japanese people. I am curious about how they feel when they meet someone like me in their country.

  • This would be a very good question to not only ask your Japanese friends in the lab and discuss with the Japanese Fellows during the Mid-Program Meeting, but also to ask to some of the international students who have lived in Japan longer than you.  What have their experiences been?  Have they had any negative experiences while in Japan and, if yes, how did they approach/handle these situations? Everyone’s experience will be different, but it could be quite interesting to learn from those around you what their thoughts are on this question.
  • You may also want to read some of the articles under ‘Being a Foreigner in Japan’ on our Life in Japan resources page.

Research Project Update
The goal of my project this summer is to discover the mechanisms behind THz emission from carbon nanotubes. I will be working on this project with TJ. The original goal of this project was to create THz devices using carbon nanotubes but it has been found experimentally that carbon nanotubes are less efficient at producing THz radiation then other materials. This contradicts the theoretical prediction that carbon nanotubes would be one of the better material for producing THz radiation. We will be characterizing the mechanisms behind the THz radiation by changing the intensity of the pump laser, changing the wavelength of the pump laser, changing how the electrodes on the carbon nanotubes are oriented, etc.

We will start this endeavor by first making sure the setup works. We are doing this by using low temperature Gallium Arsenide (LT-GaAs)to generate THz waves. This will train me in using the equipment. We will then start using highly aligned carbon nanotube samples provided by Rice University, We will be experimenting with the different variables listed above with these samples and later will place the samples in a cryostat will be receiving new highly aligned carbon nanotube samples from Rice University in the coming month or two. This will allow us to apply higher voltage biases to the carbon nanotubes.

In preparation for this project I have been reading “Principles of Terahertz Science and Technology” by Yun-Shik Lee. This book covers how THz radiation is produced, how it is detected, applications, and many more topics. It is very exciting. I will also be training on the actual setup this coming week and will learn how to take the actual measurements and interpret them.

This is the tentative outline for my project

  1. Optimize the current setup.
  2. Change the dimensions of the electrodes (PCA) and observe the change in THz radiation pattern.
  3. THz experiments with CNT samples.
  4. Fabricate PCA structure on LT-GaAs that matches the PCA pattern on the carbon nanotubes.
  5. Install cryostat in the OPO system.
  6. Further THz measurements with the CNT samples.

Return to Top

Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 07: Overview of Mid-Program Meeting & Research Host Lab Visit

Coming this summer!
Return to Top

Week 08: Research in Japan vs. Research in the U.S.

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 09: Reflections on Japanese Language Learning

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 10: Interview with Japanese Researcher

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 11: Critical Incident Analysis – In the Lab

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 12: Final Week at Research Lab

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Week 13: Final Report

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Follow-on Project

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Tips for Future Participants

Coming this summer!

Return to Top

Print Friendly