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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan

Weekend trip to Fushimi Inari Taisha located in Kyoto. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Word choice customs are interesting across cultures. My lab graciously threw a welcoming party for me this Tuesday and while I was eating a cookie, one of the Japanese researchers asked “Delicious?” I assumed he meant was the cookie delicious and said yes. This was interesting to me because I realized that would be how one asked whether something tastes good in Japan but in the US one would ask “how does it taste” and allow the person eating the item to describe it as delicious.   It would be unusual to ask if it is delicious in the US. In fact, the response would more likely be “OK” or “good” food in the US and less likely to be delicious.

I had a miscommunication with Brian, a Canadian, while I was speaking with him and another Canadian friend of his in our dorm.  The subject of AP tests came out and Brian stated that while he did not take the AP Human Geography class in high school, he “wrote the test”. I knew that Brian was a terrifically smart guy but I did not think that as a high school student he would be allowed to author such an important test for his fellow students.

Cake at my welcome party my lab threw for me! ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

I was a bit confused and decided to ask follow up questions such as “You wrote the test?” and “You wrote the test while in high school?” and “They let high school students write those tests?”  I received affirmative answers and confused looks from the Canadians and they in turn asked me if US students do not do this in high school. I replied that it would be unusual.

The other Canadian, Sean, finally figured out what was causing the confusion and said that Brian meant that he took the test in high school. This made much more sense to me. We then had a short discussion about how in the US we “took” tests but in Canada students “wrote” tests. Brian tried to convince me that it made sense but I disagreed and asked him what it means if you “wrote a book”. We realized that it was just a cultural word choice custom.

Question of the Week
One question I have about the Japanese culture is why are water bottles so uncommon? In the US, it feels like we are encouraged to use reusable water bottles and to bring our own bags when shopping.  We do this to reduce waste. Japan has a complex system to sort trash due to the lack of space for landfills. Japanese people do like to invest in high quality products that last longer and consume fewer resources because they do not need to be replaced. I broke the top of the water bottle I brought from the US and now find my room filling with plastic bottles after my excursions where I found myself thirsty. It is difficult to find appropriate places to properly dispose of the plastic bottles. I have now recycled a couple of them by cutting them into measuring cups since they are labeled in millimeters and have avoided a purchase. So why isn’t Japan moving to replace this obvious waste and trash maker with good quality refillable water bottles?

  • This is likely due to the convenience of the ubiquitous vending machine and konbini in Japan. Since you can always buy ice cold bottled water (or other drinks) in the summer and hot tea or coffee in the winter from vending machines or convenience stores that may be every half a block, or less, it is less convenient to carry around a heavy reusable water bottle in your bag than to just buy a drink when you need one.
  • Also, the type of plastic used in Japan for bottled bevearges is highly recyclable and Japan has some of the most advance recycling technology. 77% of Japan’s plastic waste is recycled – one of the highest rates in the world. The plastics that cannot be recycled are typically burned and these facilities typically convert the heat produced into energy; so trash is used to create energy in Japan.
  • Japan’s Garbage Disposal System Explained (Tofugu)
Alex and I enjoying okonomiyaki in Osaka. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Update on last week’s question and some reflections:
This week I decided to read some of the articles posted on the Nakatani website about foreigners (Gaijin) in Japan. I am glad I did not read these articles before coming to Japan because they were kind of shocking and would probably have made me apprehensive. My experience in Japan to date has been awesome and all of the Japanese people I have met have been very nice to me. However, I realized this week that I do not hang out with Japanese outside of lab very often. I work in a lab where everyone seems proficient in English and in my off hours at my international dorm, the most common language is English. I have mostly spent my time with my fellow Nakatani students, Canadians, and students from other Asian countries such as Singapore and Taiwan. I would like to hang out with some Japanese people since I am in Japan. I am planning on attending some events plus maybe attending the astronomy club meetings.  Hopefully I can make a friend or two through these experiences.

One aspect from the articles that I did find to be true was the assumption that I cannot speak Japanese; even before I say anything. This is especially apparent when the people on the streets are handing out flyers. Generally, they will hand out flyers to Japanese people passing by and say “ありがと.” When I receive a flyer, about half the time I will hear a “Thank you.”  I have found that I make this assumption, too, however. This week, I was waiting for the bus and noticed another foreign student behind me. I decided I to would turn around and ask where he was from, in English. Before I could act he picked up his phone to answer a call and started speaking another language, not English. I am not sure what language it was but I felt badly that I had assumed he was a native English speaker just because he was not Japanese.

Some other things I found to be true were that I do not really need to speak Japanese. In restaurants, you can usually ask for the English menu and the staff can usually speak enough English related to ordering to understand you. I still order in Japanese, though. I have also found that I am probably not held to the same strict standards in formalities that we learned during the cultural orientations. Although, I do wonder though if it is just me or if my lab is really more relaxed than would be expected. I have not found a restaurant yet that did not welcome foreigners. Sometimes, if I am standing outside of a restaurant to look at the menu the staff will start waving and motioning me to come in.

My biggest struggle with communication is making jokes. I did not realize how much humor relies on culture and language until this experience. When I am talking with my lab mates, I have found that saying something funny is a hit or miss of whether or not the joke is understandable to everyone. This has resulted in me making gestures and relying on slapstick. I realize now why Ozaki-sensei gave us the jokes she taught us. They are simple and easy to perform. Witty humor requires a lot more understanding of language and culture. I would like to avoid relying on slapstick too much because I would like to avoid becoming the weird American.

Research Project Update
This week we started worked with the experimental setup for generating and THz radiation. We are currently using LT-GaAs for both generation and detection and will switch to using the aligned carbon nanotubes for generation once the setup has been optimized. Unfortunately, there was a setback when it was discovered that the intensity of the THz radiation was not as high as it was in the past. This resulted in time being devoted to trying to figure out what was wrong with the system. Initially I was disappointed that we would not be able to start taking data but I realized that this was actually a great opportunity to learn about the setup in more detail. The setup had to be taken apart and put back together multiple times in order to test each aspect to see if it was the source of the malfunction. This meant I was able to understand and work with the different parts and problem solve with the setup. Being able to use a pre-built setup and being able to fix that setup when there are problems are two very different things. We are currently trying to identify the cause of a problem that is causing the probe beam to create a strange beam pattern and will hopefully be able to start using the setup again this week.

I also reviewed the LabVIEW code that runs the setup. I have worked with LabVIEW at my home university and had wondered how commenting in LabVIEW code works since it was not used much in my classes compared classes using C++ and Java. It turned out commenting is not emphasized since the code I was reading only gave titles for the different values. This meant that I had to read through the code to determine what each section was doing. This is not much fun when there is a case structure with seven different cases. However, it really helped to know what the code was supposed to do and I figured out what each part did fairly quickly. Reading the code was also helpful in learning more about the setup since I could walk through the process step by step and see what data was being taken and how it was being manipulated. I really like working with code so I had a good time this week.

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Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting

Checking out the Daibustsu with Katelyn and Mattias (Swedish exchange student). ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

My biggest personal accomplishment to this point is being more capable in the Japanese language.  This is making the mundane details of everyday life easier.  My first experiences with the cashier at the university in Osaka were difficult for both of us.  I was unable to tell the cashier at the cafeteria that I do not have the co-op student card. I tried awkward hand waving which was not terribly successful.  One time, since I was not sure how to say “I do not have” the card, I tried saying “no.”  This was not a wise choice since the cashier seemed really confused and probably thought I was being difficult. After some study, I learned a few ways to express that I do not have the card. Now when I go to the cashier, I can confidently say in Japanese that I do not have the co-op card. The cashier will then reply “I understand” in Japanese and charge me the 5% tax. This creates a bit of sweet and sour feeling; I am understood but I am charged extra. Nevertheless, my days have been improved now that I do not have to go through an awkward situation.

I still embarrass myself quite a bit by not understanding all the rules and customs but I try to learn from each of these situations in order to be ready the next time it comes. At least I do not make the same mistake twice.

Katelyn feeding deer at Nara Park. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

My biggest personal challenge to this point has been getting enough sleep. At my home university, I make up for lost sleep on the weekends. Here in Japan, I spend the weekends exploring and generally not getting extra sleep.  I have long been fascinated by Japan and am overjoyed at the opportunity I have for scientific research and for cultural exploration through the Nakatani RIES program.  I am disciplined about getting sufficient sleep during the week but I still feel tired.  Luckily my research tasks are interesting and engaging so my mind is active and I stay alert. I am, however, internally debating on whether or not I want to start drinking coffee.

I am still learning a lot about my research and have mostly been working on getting trained and mastering all the elements of the set-up. Next week we will start taking data that is relevant to the research. Our laser has been taken off-line for testing which is delaying the project.  I have been enjoying the research preparation and look forward to getting started on taking data using the CNT and interpreting the data.

Checking out the Osaka Science Museum. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Question of the Week
My question for this week is how Japanese students cope with the effort they must invest in studying from grade school through high school. After talking with Japanese students and reading articles on education in Japan, I have learned students spend much of their childhood and teenage years studying in order to earn entry into a good high school and then into college. Once in college, it is the “Spring break of life” because the worry about earning admission into yet another prestigious school is gone.  While I am sure there are exceptions; it seems to me that most American students enroll in their local high school and do not think about getting into a good college until they are a high school student.

As an American, this is the sort of effort that would be found in only the top students. Getting into high school is not a big deal. Only college requires a significant amount of effort if you want to place in a good program. I had a lot more free time to do things I enjoyed in high school such as participating in the robotics club.

Some of the articles on the Nakatani website have also discussed how many Japanese students feel that pursuing a graduate degree is not a smart idea. This is due to the cost of college and the fact that scholarships are uncommon. This means that Japanese students may need to take out loans and with the current Japanese economy, many students are worried about the payoff. So, I am wondering if all of the extra effort is worth the loss of childhood. Does it help them find better jobs?

Research Project Update
The lab set up issues resolved themselves over the weekend.  This is good news but it would have been better if we knew exactly what was wrong and how it was resolved.  Nevertheless, this allows me to start taking preliminary data using LT-GaAs. The data itself is not what my research is about but I will be performing similar measurements using the aligned CNT later so this exercise is useful for my training. I have also started learning how to manipulate and interpret the data. I like to use MATLAB for this function and now have written code to read through the data and create plots for me. Next week we will start depositing PCA structures on the LT-GaAs that match the PCA structure on the CNT in terms of dimensions. This will make comparing characteristics of LT-GaAs with characteristics found with CNT easier.

This week I also started working on writing LabVIEW code for a pump-probe setup for another researcher. LabVIEW coding knowledge is not too common among the researchers. This surprised me because I expected that every physics major needs to learn LabVIEW, MATLAB, and C++ as a minimum. Perhaps this is unique to my university.  Since this coding is not related to my research, I work on it when I have down time. I enjoy programming so it is actually a fun project. I have also started working on my mid-program meeting presentation.

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

I arrived at the hotel with Katelyn, a fellow Nakatani RIES student, at 4:45 PM on Saturday after getting lost in the bus system and deciding to walk. I retired to my room to cool down. The Japanese fellows, Tomoya and Junpei, arrived soon after and we talked about research and what they were excited about in their trip to the US. They were a little surprised when I told them rice and noodles are not daily menu occurrences in the US. Alex arrived later and we left for dinner. All the other US and Japanese fellows were there and there were lots of hugs and photos. Everyone had fun talking all together again and nearly everybody told me how sunburned I was. We walked out together to explore Kyoto for an hour and then returned together to talk in Shohei’s room.

The next day, my roommates and I decided to go for breakfast in our yukatas which we believed was expected and normal. When we arrived in the room with the other Nakatani fellows, everyone else was fully dressed in Western style clothing and burst out laughing at us. In our defence, I would argue though that our room was trying to act more Japanese then the others. After eating, we divided into the US and Japanese fellows groups and went to discuss how the last month of research had gone in Japan. It was a good discussion and made me feel much better about the pace of my research. We were also able to talk about our trials, victories, and achievements in Japan.

Alex and I rocking the yukatas in Kyoto. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

After eating lunch, we received Yukatas!!!!! This was a most exciting thing for me during the Mid-Program Meeting. Unfortunately the footwear, called geta, was “one size fits all”… for Japanese people. This meant that about an inch and a half of my foot was hanging off the back and the strap dug into my toes. I did not care though, since I finally got to wear a Yukata.

After taking photos we attended a Tea Ceremony. We were shown a most painful way to sit.  One places the feet under the body and flat to the hard ground so the feet are crushed by the weight of the body, muscles are overstretched, and circulation (and all feeling) abandons the feet. Everyone decided pretty quickly to not sit in the correct manner. We would only sit correctly during important parts of the Tea Ceremony. Someone eventually took pity on me and gave me a pillow which reduces the pressure and helped me to sit the correct way. This was noticed by a few of the other US fellows who became a bit “salty.”

After the tea ceremony we said goodbye to the Japanese fellows except for Miki and Etsuko. Alex, Katelyn and I decided to continue wearing our Yukatas and went out for dinner with Miki and Etsuko. It was a lot of fun wearing the Yukatas out and I wondered what the Japanese people in the restaurant must have thought of foreigners wearing traditional clothing. Going to a restaurant with fluent Japanese speakers was one of the best experiences I have had in a while. I realized how much I take the easy process of ordering in the US for granted.

On Monday, we travelled to Kyoto University to give our presentations and go on a lab tour. All the students were a bit nervous but we gave very good presentations according to Sarah and Ogawa-san. Katelyn and I managed to coax out of Ogawa-san that our presentations were better than last year’s. Then we split into smaller groups for a lab tour. We saw a lab where they were experimenting with THz radiation and I was able to talk with the researcher about what methods they were using to generate and detect the radiation. Another lab I really enjoyed was the Pureosity lab. They work towards solving real world problems instead of just doing research without a specific application in mind. This fits more closely with what I want to do in the future, although I do believe that there is great value in knowing how the materials in our world work even if there is no immediate application or financial gain.

After the lab tour we planned the rest of the day.  That included eating at an Indian restaurant that plays Bollywood movies while you dine. We decided go together to a new restaurant that had just opened so that they had enough seats for all of us. We ate our fill of giant nan bread and the staff even brought complimentary ice cream.

Nakatani bowling squad. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Later we decided to go for bowling and arcade games. I convinced everyone to wear their Nakatani t-shirts so that we would look like a bowling team. When we arrived at the Round One bowling facility, Will (a Nakatani RIES student) spoke to the people at the counter and successfully achieved shoes and lanes for us. Bowling in Japan is also different from bowling in the US. In the US, people can get loud when bowling and cheer for a well-played ball.  At this facility, everyone was silent… except for our group!  We had to split into two groups and the other group was a good bit better than the one I was on. The other side had Trevor who bowled like a pro compared to the rest of us. My group would become ecstatic if a ball managed to knock over more than three pins.

Towards the end of our game I managed a few spares and finally a strike! This was the first strike on our side so we started jumping up and down and Will jumped on me.  The momentum caused us to crash to the floor, laughing.  At this point, I realized that we had become a loud spectacle and the Japanese bowlers were trying to hold in laughter except for one man seated next to our lane who was unrestrainedly laughing his head off.

We went to an arcade and played a couple of games. It was quite funny to compare the skills of the Nakatani students with those of the Japanese people in the arcade. I ended up taking a video of the difference in skill level between Will and Shivani and a Japanese native at Dance Dance Revolution. The Japanese native was orders of magnitude better. We returned to the hotel to plan the rest of the summer. This didn’t go really well since we constantly got off topic. I left early in order to go to bed at a reasonable time.

On Tuesday, we travelled to Kamigamo Shrine and Kinkaku-ji. A priest from the Kamigamo shrine gave us a tour and told us about the interesting and customs of the shrine. My favourite part was getting to view the restoration process of the shrine which is unusual even for Japanese people to see. After lunch we walked to an art museum where we admired artwork from both professional artists and students. Then we walked to a real manga museum, one that was far more than one room with some pictures and a shop. A few of us were attracted to the gashapon machines (similar to gumball machines) which spit out keychains of anime characters. I recognized an anime I had enjoyed and decided to try my luck. It was like gambling. I am never gambling ever again.

After a full day of touring we headed to a zoo to have dinner. It was buffet Shabu Shabu!. Alex, a fellow student, and I were delighted and our table enjoyed generous plates of meat and vegetables which we cooked in the table cooker. Yummy! I was also enchanted by the chocolate fountain and made maximum use of its potential.

Seeing the pacific for the first time in Wakayama ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

On our last day together, we travelled to Sysmex Corporation in Kobe. There we met with CEO and President Hisashi Ietsugu and gave our introductions in Japanese. Then we had a tour and a talk on Sysmex’s mission and technologies. I am very excited for the extracorporeal technologies that can or will be able to bypass surgical techniques to identify illnesses by using the blood or urine from a sick person. After the tour, we returned to central Kobe and then to our universities.

Overall, I had a great time getting to see everyone again and felt better about how much progress was being made in my lab after talking with the other students. It was also a great time to relax a bit and tour in Japan again. I am very excited to return to my lab. This month will be busy since we will now start to take all of the data we have been waiting to take. I am looking forward to the work.

The 2017 Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellows, some Japanese Fellows, and a few alumni at their Mid-Program Meeting Research Intro Presentations held at Kyoto University on July 3, 2017.

Mid-Program Meeting Research Introduction Presentation
As part of the Mid-Program Meeting, on Monday, July 3 our 12 U.S. Fellows gave a presentation at Kyoto University introducing their research project and future plans. Joshua presented on the research he is doing in the Inst. of Laser Engineering, THz Photonics Laboratory at the University of Osaka entitled “Exploring the Charge Dynamics of Highly Aligned Carbon Nanotubes Through THz Generation”. Click here to download a PDF of his presentation.

Host Lab Visit Overview 
I also had a great time when Kono-sensei, Sarah, Ogawa-san, and Horikawa-san visited my lab. I was worried because everyone at my lab thought this was going to be a very serious visit, but there were some light-hearted moments, too. At lunch, we even discussed my experiences in Japan. I realized during the meal the depth of interest Professor Kono has in the research project I am engaged in doing. I knew that Rice University provided the samples but I did not know that Rice is also involved with interpreting the results. Professor Kono works closely with this lab and with this project.

After lunch, I showed everyone my lab setup and explained how it worked. My mentor TJ, asked Professor Kono about the research questions that could be answered with this exploration. I listened in and realized that there were a few questions I, too, need to ask my mentor. Horikawa-san took this opportunity to take photos of Professor Kono, my mentor, and I discussing the research and setup.

Question of the Week
With friends I have met here, I have visited two amusement parks in Japan. One of the amusement parks turned out to be for kids exclusively but both were kind of small and old looking. Do Japanese people not enjoy amusement parks as much as we do in the US?

  • You must not have visited Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea or Universal Studios in Japan yet then? These parks a hugely popular with all age ranges in Japan. These are some of the most popular but there are many other amusement parks in Japan and you can find roller coasters at places like the Tokyo Dome, Mt. Fuji parks, Odaiba and more. It just depends on where you go. Some are more geared towards kids, others are geared towards all ages.

Research Project Update
The Inspire system, which splits and changes the frequency of the laser beam we use in my setup was under maintenance this week so I was unable to perform any measurements. During its maintenance, the maintenance expert broke one of the crystals in the Inspire. The company, who performs maintenance, does not keep this crystal on hand which means that they will have to order it. Unfortunately, this means that we cannot use the visible beam output from the Inspire which we had been intending to use as a pump. Instead, we will use the IR beam from the Inspire for both the pump and the probe. Next week, we will add a beam splitter and refocus the lenses and mirrors.  Then, al last, we will be able to start taking data.

I decided to work on the program I was writing for the other researcher and finished coding and confirming that it contained all of the capabilities it would need for his research. The setups here usually use one delay stage (a delay stage is used to change how long it takes the pulse from a laser to reach its target). This researcher would like to use two delay stages. This method would allow him to scan multiple waveforms.

I took it to a mock setup where I could test to ensure that it was communicating with the equipment correctly and then finished debugging. Most people do not like debugging but I think it is actually fun because it is like trying to solve a puzzle. Sometimes it can be frustrating though when your code does not do what you want and it takes longer than one would like to figure out why.
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Week 08: Research in Japan vs. Research in the U.S.

Wakayama Castle ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

The researchers in my lab address each other by adding san or kun to the end of the last name unless they are a foreigner to Japan. Most interactions are with people similar to themselves: master with master, foreigner with foreigner, etc. There is not a lot of crossover and this is especially apparent during lunches. When there is crossover, it is the higher ranking individuals that usually initiate the conversation and it is generally about research.

It is a bit difficult to compare the social aspects with my home university’s lab since everyone is an undergraduate there. I feel the students initiate most of the research discussions with professor to ask questions and clarify understanding. Everyone would eat lunch together regardless of rank and there was a good amount of connection between each of the students, even between research groups or interests.

Tanabata Festival ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Before arriving in my assigned lab in Osaka, I thought that everything was going to be very serious and that I would have to be extremely careful about how I acted; especially around the professors. My lab is actually more relaxed than I anticipated. There is still high respect for the professors but I thought it would be more extreme than it is. The researchers do not say anything when arriving or leaving; there is no greeting of others. People also arrive and leave at strange hours which makes it hard for me to tell when they leave for the day. Overall, everyone works hard but I thought it would be a more draconian. Also, the Japanese professors can be very direct and forceful during student presentations to the point where it feels a little awkward even to be in the same room.

It is hard to compare the research efforts between the two cultures because I am not sure what to expect of graduate school in the US. One aspect I have a hard time with is not trying to “read between the lines” when Japanese people tell me something. Native English speakers will use different words to express how they feel about something which means that two sentences can have the same literal meaning but actually mean two different things. Sometimes I will be told something hear and wonder if I am supposed to infer a different meaning. I usually end up asking follow up questions to clearly understand what someone is trying to communicate to me.

Question of the Week
My question for this week is what motivated the Japanese people to build their incredible public transportation infrastructure. It is convenient and efficient, reduces the need for cars, and has definitely made life easier as a tourist.

  • This is partially due to history. Following WWII, Japan had to re-build almost all of it’s infrastructure as roads, train lines, industrial areas, and many major cities had been decimated by the fire-bombing campaigns (see the WWII section under our History in Japan resources).
  • The Japanese government made huge investments in infrastructure in the 1950s and 1960s and these investments were integral to Japan’s post-war economic miracle. For more on this see some of the articles listed on our Transportation in Japan section on our Life in Japan resources page.
  • Geography matters too. Japan is a very densely populated nation and since much of the main island of Honshu is mountainous and not habitable this means cities developed along the narrow coastal plains.  This means that if you build large roads that takes away land from housing/business development uses and you also then need to use land for parking lots and garages.  However, if you instead develop subway and train infrastructure far more people can use this to travel on a daily basis and they do not need to use as much land as large highway/road systems would.
  • In comparison, in the U.S. we have lots of land and population density in most cities is not very high.  Therefore it is cheaper and easier to build roadways to connect our vast nation rather than subway/train networks with the exception of some large cities and urban areas such as the Northeast.

Research Project Update

Laterns at Shitennoji Temple. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

Due to maintenance breaking a critical part of the Inspire system last week, we had to make changes in the setup. Instead of using visible light, we now use UV light as the pump beam. This meant that I had to change mirrors and refocus everything along the beam path. I also had to refocus the probe beam optics because of the realignment that occurred during the maintenance of the Inspire. Focusing is tedious and takes hours of painstaking work.

Once alignment and focusing were completed, I attempted to locate a waveform. This turned out to be quite difficult manually and I instead let the program find the peak by scanning over a wide area. This process was expected to take about two hours which was much faster than I be able to do it manually. I set the program to center on the maximum it found and was initially pretty excited to not have to blindly search for it. Unfortunately, this function of the program did not work.  By the way, this was not my code.  I then blindly searched for the peak of the THz signal. I was not able to find it and needed to catch the last shuttle back to my dorm. The next day, while I was resetting the setup I found the peak. Yay!

With the peak located, we were able to start optimizing and taking data. We took data using LT-GaAs for the THz radiation generation first and I took a couple of waveforms samples produced by different pump polarizations. My data looked like a small child scribbled on a piece of paper. Next we will start looking to see what the cause of these weird results is and later will try generated THz radiation using the carbon nanotubes.

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Week 09: Reflections on Japanese Language Learning

Summer festival at Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

I learned a lot of Japanese language during the three week language orientation when I first arrived in Japan. That whetted my appetite to learn more.  When I arrived at my lab in Osaka, I confided my desire to the department secretary and she suggested signing me up for a survival Japanese language course. However, after talking with her further and trying out my Japanese skills, she stated that my abilities were already beyond the course.  I study on my own and try out my vocabulary when I speak to Japanese people.  I get a little discouraged because people generally reply in English. I understand that they are doing this to make me feel more comfortable, but I do find it stunts my learning.

Gion Matsuri! ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

There have, however, been moments when I was very proud of myself for using Japanese. I have been able to ask where the bus goes (I find the bus system to be very confusing), where particular foods are in a store, and what the price of an item is. I was able to ask the front desk at the Kyoto Traveller’s Inn whether they had VGA or HDMI cables (they did not). Bowling at Round One in Osaka also required Japanese. One of my friends was also trying to buy Japanese cooking knives one time. He does not speak a word of Japanese and attempted to use a picture to show what he wanted to purchase. The knives were kept in a glass case and one of the cashiers came over to open the case. The cashier looked in the case and then turned to another worker, said something in Japanese, then turned to my friend and said something in Japanese. I was not listening but I realized from facial expressions that something was up. I then used my Japanese language skills to tell the employee that my friend wanted to buy the knife labeled 42. He then said something in Japanese and I was able to catch “Right now something something something cannot.” I realized they were out of stock of this item and told him I understood.

Wearing yukatas at Gion Matsuri with Alex, Katelyn, Emily, Kaylene, and Will. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

My lab is international and my mentors are foreigners to Japan who do not speak Japanese. This means I do not get many opportunities to try to speak Japanese in my lab. I will be going out with the Japanese students in my lab for a few events in the coming weeks and hope I can try to use my Japanese. I am currently using an app called “Memrise.” It focuses my efforts on memorizing new words and kanji and I find it very helpful. I am also reviewing my notes from the classes at the beginning of the program.

I am very excited to continue to study Japanese. Being in Japan is a great motivator. When I return to the USA, I will continue to study and hope to find a Japanese language class. When I again visit Japan, I would like to be able to speak Japanese nearly exclusively during my stay. I have renewed my interest in the Chinese language and will enroll in classes once I return to Bethel University. I intend to perfect my tones this time around!

Question of the Week
This past weekend, I attended Gion Matsuri with the other Nakatani students. We all decided to go in yukata! On my way to the festival I ended up feeling really out of place because no one else was in yukata for the majority of my commute. My question is how do Japanese people regard foreigners who get involved with traditional Japanese culture such as wearing yukata? Do they tolerate us or find us pretentious or humorous? My second question is how Japanese people view the importance of their cultural heritage. Is it something they value and want to continue or is it something that is in the past and they mostly hear about it from their parents and grandparents?

  • All excellent questions that would be ideal to discuss with a few of the Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows.  You might want to contact a few of them via LINE or Skype to see if they’d be willing to chat with you more about these questions.
  • You might also talk with your lab secretary and/or some of the Japanese students in your lab about your experience at Gion Matsuri and what they think about these questions. They might enjoy seeing photos of you in your yukata too!

Research Project Update
After optimizing our current setup, we changed the polarization of the light on our sample (which was LT-GaAs) and observed the produced THz radiation to collect data. After taking the data, I loaded the information into MATLAB and plotted how the maximum amplitude changed with respect to the polarization. Unfortunately, it made no sense! My mentor suggested that since we had to replace the half-wave plate, the angles may have changed which would cause a problem. I then used a polarizer to find out what numbers on the half-wave plate corresponded to parallel and perpendicular polarized light with respect to the dipole located on the sample.

After finding out the rules for the polarization, I replotted my data and it made more sense but the signal looked like there was noise. I had run this same experiment with the same sample when we were using visible light and the results were a lot clearer. I tried reducing the noise on the signal by taking averages around the maximum but it did not improve the results.

The UV light also produces waveforms with smaller amplitudes and wider pulses. This means that the noise has a larger effect on the results and that higher THz wavelengths are not present. The senseis in my lab suggested that this may be due to slower mobility in the band to which the charge carriers are now being excited. This is worrying because the signal produced by the CNT is smaller than the signal from LT-GaAs which could mean that we will not be able to distinguish the THz pulse from noise.

I tried retaking the results after some more optimization but now new problems have arisen. The current produced by the excitation of charge carriers and the voltage bias seems to keep dropping the longer we run the setup. This is a problem because it reduces the amplitude of the THz pulse. The power from the laser also tends to fluctuate which may be caused by the fact that we are producing near the minimum wavelength the laser can handle. This means that we can scan a waveform, then wait a few minutes, take it again and find its amplitude has changed. Currently, our strategy for combatting this is watching the output from the laser and the current and then adjusting the intensity to keep these constant.

I gave a presentation to the professors and my lab mates this week for their review of my work. It was a little nerve-wracking but I got through it and really benefitted by the experience. They gave me some really good suggestions on my research project! This will probably save me time.  This next week I will start using the CNT to produce the THz radiation and hopefully replicate the PCA structure on the LT-GaAs.

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Week 10: Interview with Japanese Researcher

Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, it has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world! ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

In order to gain more insight on what it is like to be a foreign student working in a Japanese lab, I interviewed RazanoelinaManjakavahoaka. He is originally from Madagascar where he pursued a major in physics. He later pursued a masters and PhD in both his home country and France. He then came to Japan to pursue his PhD in 2012. Since then, he has been working in Tonouchi-sensei’s lab first pursuing his PhD and now working as an assistant professor.

Manja decided to pursue a PhD in Japan because the research he could do was similar, there was more money in Japan for this area of research and he was intrigued by the THz research being done here at the Tonouchi lab. When asked about whether he had any reservations about doing research in Japan, he replied that he was not worried at all. He also does not see the language barrier as a real problem for his research and his personal life. This is something I found very interesting because I thought it would be difficult to perform research long term if there was a language barrier. The lab Manja works in is also an international lab so that may help.

Sunset in Kobe ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

I asked Manja about what it was like working in a Japanese lab especially since he has worked in labs from other countries. He said that Japanese people are a little shyer and will avoid arguing. I asked him whether this was a hindrance for him and he stated that he is able to argue with the professors since foreigners are given more patience when it comes to observing cultural norms. He also stated that Japanese labs like to focus on the method and how something is down rather than just looking for results which is what he saw in Western labs. He really enjoys working in this lab and would like to continue and someday become a professor.

Funniest looking bakery good I have bought in Japan so far. ~ Aaron Ludvigsen

I also asked Manja what he would recommend for students interested in pursuing their PhDs abroad. First he stated that you need to like adventure and not get homesick or beaten down easily. It is important to enjoy exploring something new and not getting bogged down by your mistakes. Next, Japan is an awesome place to do your PhD in. They have everything here for both your personal and professional life. The Japanese people are very friendly and students should try to go explore some of the traditional parts instead of only viewing the normal tourist areas. Lastly, he warned me that you will have to work harder than if you stayed in your home lab. It is harder to get the PhD due to the requirement for publishing three papers in three years and the Japanese also value the number of hours you work. Yikes!

Question of the Week
What are some of the benefits of getting your PhD in Japan versus the US? Is it only cultural? Are Japanese PhDs viewed differently from US PhDs? When selecting where to obtain your PhD, should you base it on the educational value of the institution in your desired field?

  • We’ll talk more about graduate education in the U.S. during the Re-Entry program at Rice University, but you can also look at some of the information under the ‘Applying to Graduate School’ and ‘Career Resources for Science & Engineering Students’ tabs on our Other Related Opportunities resources page.

Research Project Update
This week we started using the CNT sample to generate THz radiation. Because the CNT absorbs the oxygen out of the air, we need to place it in some container that was either or vacuum or was full of something that was not oxygen. This was done by placing a Ziploc bag over the sample and then putting in a pipe connected to a nitrogen tank. Quick and dirty is my favorite! After constructing the nitrogen environment we turned the valve to allow the nitrogen in and turned on the laser. The CNT sample has a max resistance of 64 kohms and usually drops as the sample becomes oxygenized. So, we were a little surprised when the resistance jumped up six orders of magnitude after it was illuminated with the UV light.

My mentor and I were not very sure why this was happening and decided to continue with the experiment. After searching for the dipole on the sample for a long time (it was really hard to find) we adjusted the focus and were ready to take a waveform. We ended up seeing a relatively strong signal and were pretty excited. I then started changing the voltage bias on our sample and we discovered that the waveform did not invert when the voltage bias was inverted and the signal was still present when we applied zero voltage to the sample. This meant that it was unlikely that the CNT is responsible for the THz generation and it more likely from the gold electrodes placed on the PCA.

Seeing as we cannot observe THz from the CNT using the UV wavelength, it is unlikely that I will be able to perform the experiments I came here to do until after the Inspire is fixed which will be after I leave. We have decided to explore the weird phenomena we observed when the sample was illuminated with the UV beam while we discuss other options for finishing my research this summer.. We took some IV curve measurements both before and after illumination and are currently working on taking Raman Spectrums of the dipole on our samples. Plotting our IV curve gives similar results from before I arrived. The Raman Spectrums, however, show that there may be no CNT present on the dipole since we are not seeing a Raman Spectrum. Looking at the image of the dipole, there appear to be burn marks that we not present in images taken from before I arrived. We are currently trying to see of this is related to the THz radiation we saw from the sample.

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Week 11: Critical Incident Analysis – In the Lab

Coming this summer!

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Week 12: Final Week at Research Lab

Coming this summer!

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Week 13: Final Report

Coming this summer!

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Follow-on Project

Coming this summer!

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Tips for Future Participants

Coming this summer!

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