2017 Emily Nishiwaki

Emily Nishiwaki
Home University: Case Western Reserve University
Major: Materials Science and Engineering and Minor in Japanese
Status: Freshman
Expected Graduation Date: May 2020
Host Lab in Japan: Kyoto University – Dept. of Energy & Hydrocarbon Chemistry, Kageyama Laboratory

 

Why Nakatani RIES?

The Nakatani RIES program supports my cultural and language goals by giving me the opportunity to further my Japanese language skills and learn more about Japanese culture. What makes the Nakatani RIES internship special to me is how it’s a cultural experience in an academic setting. Beyond master’s school, I am unsure if I would like to look for a job in the materials science industry or continue my studies and pursue a doctoral degree. The Nakatani RIES internship will help me learn what I love to study and ultimately help me determine what role I want to play in the STEM community. I am looking forward to a summer where I can combine my passion for STEM research and Japanese language and culture.

Goals for the Summer

  • Develop my Japanese speaking abilities
  • Become comfortable in my host laboratory and be able to ask questions to conduct a successful project
  • Apply what I have learned in the classroom to research

Excerpts from Emily’s Weekly Reports

Week 01: Arrival in Japan

After my last final finished Tuesday night, I left the next morning for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship pre-departure orientation in Houston. I was excited to meet the other Nakatani fellows and couldn’t wait for my summer to begin. Ice breakers were fun and I was relieved that everyone else was nice and also had loved science. I am also glad we participated in general lab safety training so I can go into the Kageyama Lab in 2(!) weeks with some knowledge about safety. After the serious seminar on safety, we had a fun seminar with Ozaki-sensei on Japanese culture, which I enjoyed. Then, we attended the welcome BBQ, which was the first time I ever ate real barbecue. More importantly, I got to talk to other people who are involved in the Nakatani program and get some last minute tips on how to have the best experience in Japan possible. On Friday, Professor Kono’s lecture on research in Japan was informative and made me less nervous about researching in Japan. I anticipated that working in a Japanese lab will be very different than an American one, and it was very helpful to hear from Professor Kono how I can adjust and learn as quickly as possible. I also loved walking around the Rice campus, which I am incredibly jealous of. The last part of the orientation was a presentation by Sarah, which was helpful to make sure I’ve taken care of all the logistics I can before leaving for Japan.

Before the Nakatani program began, I was nervous about the language barrier, cultural differences, and my ability to contribute in my lab. I knew that many people spoke a bit of English, but I didn’t want to rely on that. After a year of Japanese, I have made a goal for myself to improve my Japanese as much as possible and to be able to comfortably get around and ask for help. However, once we arrived at Narita Airport, I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this goal. The airport was a swirl of kanji and everyone was speaking so fast, it was hard to tell it was Japanese. I was also extremely self-conscious about my mannerisms, how loudly I talked, and if I was in the way. Maybe to some, I could pass as a native Japanese citizen, but once I open my mouth it becomes blatantly obvious that I am definitely a foreigner. This past week, I have been “observing” so I can learn as much as possible about how to adapt to Japanese culture

The first thing I noticed about Japan was how clean and organized it was. Despite Tokyo being a densely populated city, there was no trash in public anywhere. I also noticed that though there are so many subway lines, it isn’t too hard to navigate the because there are signs everywhere. The convenience stores are also amazing! It has been a challenge, but I have also been trying to “put myself out there more” to improve my Japanese by asking for others for help and completing transactions in Japanese. My struggle with the language barrier is what I expected, though it is not bad as I thought. When I can’t convey what I want to say in Japanese, people are kind and speak in English. With broken “Japanglish” on both ends, things work out. I’ve learned that good intentions and effort can go a long way.

Language class is long, but I am learning a lot. This summer, I think I should focus on speaking and listening comprehension, which fortunately, is what class is focused on. I’ve learned that I am able to comprehend slow, controlled structure and grammar speech, but when it comes to faster and casual style speech, I struggle. I think the faster recordings we listen to in class will help me improve. As for speaking, the free flowing periods of conversation between teacher and students are helpful. We are learning a lot of grammar in a short amount of time, which is difficult. However, I think if I try to use it outside of class I will be able to absorb it quickly. Interestingly, we have not covered kanji in class yet. However, I think this makes sense, since Yakub, Will, and I are all at different levels when it comes to kanji. To learn kanji, I’ve been trying to read all the signs I can and to make a few designated kanjis “kanjis of the day” in my notebook. For example, I’ve learned plum I’ve been remembering them by their radicals, which is helpful. Overall, I’m doing my best to learn Japanese by speaking to people even when I’m nervous and uncomfortable, trying to read everything I can out when I’m out and traveling, and listening to announcements (on the train).

I had a lot of fun speaking to the Todai students after the tour of the lab tours. It actually turns out that one of the students and I like the same band, Sukima Switch! I have never heard of anyone but me liking it and we were both really surprised that we had that interest in common. From there, we talked about American and Japanese music: what was popular and the similarities and differences. The student I spoke to didn’t speak a lot of English, which made great practice of how to communicate and overcome the language barrier.

My favorite seminar of the week was the presentation on Current Japan-China Relations and the Trump Administration by Shikata-san. I think he presented very well and simplified very complicated issues into a way that many people could understand it. I actually understood the situations he presented very well, but when we were asked to come up with potential solutions, my whole table was stumped. I also really enjoyed learning about the Trump administration and the TPP from a Japanese perspective. It was sad to hear that many countries, including Japan, are ready to move forward with their plans without the US, seeing it as a lost cause. After this seminar, I am more interested in learning about Asian relations and politics. It’s incredible how important international relations are to a united global community and I’ve decided that I definitely want to keep up more with world affairs. I also got Shikata-san’s autograph, which was my first autograph from a celebrity (even if he isn’t a singer or anything).

After this first week in Tokyo, one question I have about the culture is how present gender stereotypes are still within society. I went to ultimate Frisbee practice and I was talking to one of the players, who was probably in his 30s. I told him I was here doing materials science research and he actually said Japanese, “A girl? In materials science?”. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t understand it with my level of Japanese. He didn’t say it in a derogatory way either; I think he was just genuinely surprised. I think the only way I can answer this question is to observe and talk to more people, whether it be other ultimate players in Kyoto as well as people in my lab. I think the lab environment can tell me a lot about the gender stereotypes that may be present in Japanese society.

These are three pictures that I believe best capture this week. The first picture is the amazing green tea parfait I had with Rose, which was before we sat outside next to the SkyTree. It had warabi mochi, green tea jelly, green tea ice cream, waffle bits, red bean, and white cream. We want to go back before I leave for Kyoto, hopefully with some other people! Overall, this pictures reminds me of a great experience when I got to eat an amazing Japanese dessert and become better friends with Rose. The second picture is a picture from the Imperial Palace. This was one of the many amazing parts of the grounds. My walk around the grounds was refreshing and introspective, which I needed after a busy week. The third picture is a picture from the Grand Sumo Tournament we went to, which was a lot more entertaining than I thought and unexpectedly fun to watch with everyone.

Green Tea Parfait ~ Emily Nishiwaki
The Imperial Palace ~ Emily Nishiwaki
Sumo ~ Emily Nishiwaki

Research Project Introduction and Article Overview 

The tour of the Tabata Lab at the University of Tokyo was incredible and only made me wonder how amazing the Kageyama Lab at Kyoto University will be. The lab itself was big and the equipment was impressive. I think this was my favorite research-based tour/talk because it gave me a sense of what kind of environment I will be in. I also got to see some of the equipment first hand and some demonstrations, which I think will be helpful for when I have to use equipment such as x-ray diffractometers for my own research by myself.

At this point, I believe that I will be researching mixed oxyanion catalysts for visible light reactions, such as splitting water. The splitting of water into H2 and O2 gas is a thermodynamically not favorable since it is an endothermic process. However, with the help of a catalyst, this process can be done, which is a way renewable energy can be generated. What would make the best renewable energy process would be if this catalyst could work with visible light. Ideally, when visible light, or photon energy is absorbed by the material, electrons are excited and are able to be reduced and oxidized to produce H2 and O2. To find an appropriate photocatalyst, a material with a band gap energy smaller than 3 eV, correct band edge potentials, and the ability to be stable in a photocatalytic reaction must be discovered. Making progress toward this goal will be the crux of my research.

One paper I read from the Kageyama Lab was a paper by my graduate student mentor, Kato-san, Valence Band Engineering by a Layer Insertion to Sillen-Aurivillius Perovskite Oxyhalides. This study investigates Sillen-Aurivillius type compounds, which are compound with a specific chemical structure. These compounds are special because they can potentially engineered to a favorable band. Specific compounds were investigated and their crystal structures were determined to determine the effect of the inserted alkali-metal halide layer on electronic and optical properties. Powdered forms of these compounds were prepared with an x-ray diffractometers and scanning electron microscope. Overall, this study shows that by modifying the structures of Sillen-Aurivillius based structures, the band gap, and thus the effectiveness of the photocatalyst, can be improved.

Article Citations

Daichi Kato, Cecile Herve, Takafumi Yamamoto et. al. “Valence Band Engineering by a Layer Insertion to Sillen-Aurivillius Perovskite Oxyhalides”. Chemistry Letters. http://www.journal.csj.jp/doi/10.1246/cl.170301

Kageyama Lab Published Articles: http://www.ehcc.kyoto-u.ac.jp/eh10/index.php?lang=en&page=%E8%AB%96%E6%96%87%2FPublications

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Week 02: Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes

I definitely can’t say that I have gotten used to Japan, but I am definitely more comfortable. My language class has had a lot of fun, interesting conversations. Compared to last week, it has been easier to hold casual conversations and I am able to complete simple transactions without having to mentally rehearse what I am going to say beforehand.

When the group first arrived in Japan, we went to a local ramen restaurant in Azabujuban. That night, I ordered in Japanese, but the waiter switched to English when he realized I was not a native speaker. I went back with Rose earlier this week and I was able to speak to the waiter entirely in Japanese, and he didn’t switch to English! I am happy that my speaking abilities, as well as my ability to fake my ability in Japanese, is improving. I hope that with this last week of language class and my conversations with new people I can begin to use more understandable and complex grammar in everyday conversations.

That being said, my Japanese abilities still have a long way to go. I have trouble understanding faster, native speech. I attended a Japanese club meeting that my friend took me to and played in a Frisbee pick-up game and was fairly lost throughout both of them. I hope with due time, I will be able to understand bits and pieces in situations like those as well. Right now, I can’t foresee that being possible. However, I think I underestimate the power of simply being immersed in a country of people who speak Japanese. Especially after going to Kyoto and being around very few English speakers, I hope that my conversational abilities will start to improve even faster than they are now.

Overview of Mt. Fuji Lakes Trip with 2017 Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows 

My experience in Japan has entirely been in cities; this weekend was the first time I got to see Japan’s nature. The drive through the Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures was gorgeous and I spent a majority of the bus ride looking outside the window at the beautiful green sea of trees and mountains that surrounded us.The view from the Mishima Skywalk, Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja, and of course Mount Fuji’s 5th Station itself was breathtaking and I hope I can go back some day.

The US andJapanese Nakatani Fellows met for the first time this past weekend on a trip to the Mt. Fuji Lakes. I didn’t expect to enjoy meeting the Japanese fellows as much as I did; I was very sad to say good bye to them on Sunday. I ended up talking to the Japanese fellows much more than the US fellows about everything from favorite foods to really bad pick up lines you should never use. I particularly enjoyed learning about the different dialects of Japan from the fellows such as Aomori-ben and Hiroshima-ben. I made sure to pick up various Kansai bend phrases in hopes that I will be able to understand a little more Japanese when I get to Kyoto. By learning about the different dialects with Japan, I realized the differences that exist between the regions in Japan. Within the United States, I don’t think that there are a lot of regional differences in English. The dialect phrases I learned were very different from each other, and many of the Japanese fellows didn’t recognize each other’s phrases from their respective regions.

The biggest challenge of this trip was going to the onsen. I am glad that my roommates, Kaylene, Miki, and Ayaka encouraged me to go. Though I was uncomfortable, it was relaxing and I can now say I overcame a significant cultural difference that I was particularly apprehensive about. In hindsight, I realize that since going to an onsen is part of Japanese culture, there is no real reason for me to be uncomfortable since everyone around me thinks it is normal. I would go to the onsen again, but I definitely would have to be encouraged by others.

One interesting thing I noticed was how within the Japanese fellows, the girls and guys tended to group and only talk to each other. I’m not sure if this was just a coincidence, but it was definitely different than the dynamic within the US fellows. Kaylene and I talked to Miki and Ayaka Saturday night about the gender stereotypes and dynamic between males and females in Japan. I knew that they were a little more antiquated than US’s, but I was still sad to have my knowledge confirmed from native Japanese students. I am not sure if Japanese gender culture is related to the dynamic within the Japanese fellows, but it is definitely something to think about.

Question of the Week
Going off of this, one question I have is why these immense differences in Japanese language exist. How are the Kansai, Kanto, Chubu, etc. regions defined and how do you know which prefectures belong to which?

Overview of Week Two Orientation Program in Tokyo
The most interesting Introduction to Japanese culture seminar was the Kimono workshop by Ito-san. Before his presentation, I did not know anything about the history and cultural importance of a kimono besides that it is worn on special occasions. I was fascinated by the process of making the kimono and the rituals of how the kimono gets passed onto the new emperor. I also am looking forward to the 2020 Olympics and seeing the country-themed kimonos that Ito-san is working on. I also enjoyed talking to some Todai students about questions we have about each other’s cultures. We began by talking about why there are so many convenience stores and vending machines (they didn’t know), but it eventually evolved to a fun conversation about our favorite pokemons.

Below are 1-3 pictures that best describe this week. The first one is a picture of Mount Fuji taken at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja. It was my first time seeing Mount Fuji and it was a lot bigger and amazing than I imagined.

富士山. Taken from Sengen Jinja. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

The second picture is a picture from a dinner with my friend. It was my first time eating monja, a Kanto-region specialty. Once you order, a bowl of raw ingredients is brought to you; you are supposed to cook your own monja at your table. I learned how to make monja, which was surprisingly difficult, but worth it.

もんじゃ. Monja with pork. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

The third picture is the iconic Shibuya intersection. I don’t think my trip to Tokyo would have been complete without visiting Shibuya, and I’m glad I got to do it with the rest of the Nakatani fellows.

Shibuya Crossing. In just a few seconds, this street filled with people in every       direction! ~ Emily Nishiwaki

Introduction to Science & Engineering Seminar

For our Introduction to Science and Engineering seminars, we listened to two lectures by Professor Kono and one by Kawata sensei. I found Professor Kono’s lectures very helpful because they outlined the basics of what I need to know for understanding my papers. Part of it was review from a class I took this past semester, such as the electrical conductivity of semiconductors and metals and band gaps. It was also my first real encounter with quantum mechanics, which was quite hard to grasp. Professor Kono also talked about carbon nanomaterials and their applications, which I previously have had no knowledge on, but found it very interesting. From Professor Kono’s lectures, the material that will apply most to my research was about how band gaps can be reengineered. I’m glad I understood most of what he was talking about in that topic – maybe I will be going into lab next week somewhat prepared! However, I’m still reviewing the material Kageyama-sensei sent me. I’m noting the main processes and basic concepts that the lab’s research is centered around, such as the use of x-ray diffractometers, the parameters necessary for engineering a proper visible light photocatalyst, and the applications of such catalysts.

Kawata-sensei addressed his research and his areas of interest, but what I particularly took away from his lectures was his message on how interdisciplinary science is becoming. He joked that someone cannot become an expert on every topic; rather, many people from different fields will have to work together in order to make new discoveries. This really spoke to me and reminded me why the Nakatani program is so amazing. This summer, I am going to be doing research in Japan and learning about a whole different research culture. I get to meet other researchers from around the country, as well as around the world and hopefully make life long friendships. I can’t wait to make the most of this summer!

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Week 03: Noticing Similarities, Noticing Differences

These past three weeks, I have progressed from not wanting to ride the subway alone without a map to being comfortable with getting around to a majority of places in Tokyo (with prior research). As I grew more comfortable with the subway, I stopped worrying about whether I was on the correct line going in the right direction and started to observe the atmosphere of the metro itself.

The first thing I noticed about the Tokyo subways that they are close to silent except for the announcements telling passengers watch out for the closing doors and the next stop. At most, people talked to one another in low voices; I never heard a single cellphone ringer go off. Most people are preoccupied by listening to music, using their phones, or with a book. Toward the end of the day, there are many people going home from their jobs and use the time to take a nap. I have also noticed that people do not eat or drink on the subway. Maybe this explains the cleanliness of the Tokyo subway system. I do not understand how something that accommodates so many people and operates for the majority of the day, seven days a week, can be cleaner than my college dorm.

Being from a suburb of New York City, I am fairly familiar with riding New York’s subway. The only thing that they have in common is that they are extensive and somewhat confusing. Before you get on a train in Tokyo, there is a generally widely used rule to let other people get off the train before others get on. However, in New York, sometimes people are in such a rush that exiting and entering becomes a bit chaotic. The NYC subway is generally louder, with music leaking from people’s earphones, groups of people talking and laughing, and sometimes people walking through asking for money. It it has been interesting to see how two major city subway systems could not be more socially different.

On the Tokyo subway system, people take up only one seat and make sure they keep their bags either on their lap or in between their legs. Most trains I have taken are not crowded, but there was one time when I went to Shibuya around 5:30. The train was packed, and everyone had taken off their backpacks and placed them on the ground to accommodate as many people as possible on the train. This consideration is not only practical, but reflects Japanese cultural value of consideration for others. Even if someone is in a rush, it is still more important to make sure that you do not disrupt other people’s lives and make them uncomfortable in their travel to their destination. Furthermore, the fact that people take great care to keep the subway clean shows the concern for the well-being of the community. Going back to the Japanese cultural values we learned about during pre orientation in Houston, I think the subway etiquette I have observed corresponds to “harmony”. Though there are not spoken rules, there seems to be a general understanding among Japanese citizens on how to make the commuting as efficient and simple as possible. Subway etiquette can also be tied back to “effort”; everyone on the subway recognizes the effort an office worker has put into their work that day and respects that by being quiet and letting them have a peaceful commute home.

Overview of Week Three of Orientation Program in Tokyo 

I particularly enjoyed the cultural topics discussed in the seminar which focused on the evolution and current state of the perception of women in Japanese society. Saeki-sensei gave a seminar on the history of the perception of women in media. The shows that she discussed were a bit strange: one was about a woman who kept a man as her pet. I learned that the perception of women shifted from “a woman can achieve happiness with a rich and good-looking husband” to “a woman can achieve happiness with a supportive and caring husband”. This really speaks to the fact of how women have begun to seek a more equal role in society to men and how rapid changes have been made in the past 40 years. Women are not only seeking to be married and be “part” of their husband, but as someone who plays an active role in her own life and looks for support as she navigates her way through it.

Despite these developments, Japanese women are still severely underrepresented in STEM fields. Ishioka-sensei’s lecture about perovskite’s use in energy research was fascinating because I believe I will be using perovskite in energy research (though a different type) as well! What was just as interesting to me were the statistics she shared about how she is a minority in her field and citing what about Japanese culture causes girls not to go into STEM fields. Ishioka-sensei is a role model for Japanese girls who want to pursue a STEM field and also for me, as an aspiring materials scientist.

Ghibli Museum. The museum is a work of art itself! ~ Emily Nishiwaki

The last day before everyone left for their respective museums, a group of us visited the Ghibli Museum! Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside the museum. It was a small museum with my favorite exhibit being the special showcasing of how food was animated in many of the Ghibli movies! This is one of my favorite museums ever and I’m glad I could have a chance to visit while I’m in Japan.

The Ghibli Museum is a little outside of Tokyo in Mitaka. On the way there, Josh and I ran into an organized protest of the royal family. At first, we thought it was a parade, but quickly realized the marchers were too angry and with my Japanese knowledge, I knew they were yelling that they “didn’t have something”. Fortunately, we were standing next to a woman who spoke English and Japanese and explained the situation. It didn’t sound like she knew much about why they were protesting either. Many of the other Japanese people around me looked relatively impassive and neutral about the protest as well; I’m wondering how major this issue is.

Question of the Week 
One question I have about Japanese culture at the end of this week is the role and presence of the Royal Family. I went to the Ghibli Museum this past weekend. The museum is a little outside of Tokyo in Mitaka, and on the way there Josh and I ran into an organized protest of the royal family. At first, we thought it was a parade, but quickly realized the marchers were too angry and with my Japanese knowledge, I knew they were yelling that they “didn’t have something”. Fortunately, we were standing next to a woman who spoke English and Japanese and explained the situation. It didn’t sound like she knew much about why they were protesting either. Many of the other Japanese people around me looked relatively impassive and neutral about the protest as well; I’m wondering how major this issue is.

Photos of the Week
Below are three photos that I believe best represent this week. The first one is a picture of a gyoza dinner that a group of the Nakatani fellows had in Harajuku. It was cheap, really good, and fun to explore a bit of Harajuku together.

Gyoza in Harajuku. The waiter was a little shocked at how big our order was. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

The second picture is the Hozomon Gate at the Sensoji temple. The Sensoji temple was beautiful and I really enjoyed walking around the area, but I also loved the surrounding streets selling a variety of goods and foods. After walking around here, Asakusa has become one of my favorite parts of Tokyo!

Hozomon Gate. One of the numerous amazing structures around the Sensoji Temple. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

Introduction to Science & Engineering Seminar

Most of the material covered by Professor Stanton was unfamiliar to me. He covered the basics of band gaps, semiconductors, and LEDS. This was particularly helpful because understanding band gaps is pertinent for my research in the Kageyama Lab. Though it has nothing to do with my research, the most interesting aspect of his lectures was femtosecond lasers and their applications. I’m finding more and more that I love learning about topics that I never knew existed!

Professor Futaba from the CNT Application Center came to talk about his research on carbon nanotubes and his experience as a Japanese-American working in Japan. I appreciated that he started from the very basics of carbon nanotubes and their applications, and then moved onto what his research is focused on. Overall, I really enjoyed Professor Futaba’s lecture; I hope I can learn more about carbon nanotubes in future courses I take. On the cultural side, I also enjoyed hearing about his experience as a Japanese-American working in Japan. In a turn of events, I could be in a similar situation as Professor Futaba, and I found it helpful to hear about such a unique experience.

I would like to know more about how exactly x-ray diffraction works, since this is a process I will be doing to examine the structure of various synthesized materials. I would also like to understand how different structures of compounds play a part in the band gaps and stability in solid solutions. Hopefully I can speak with my mentor once I get to lab this week and clear up my confusions.

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Week 04: First Week at Research Lab

My first day at the Kageyama Lab was close to being the complete opposite of my expectations. For one, Kageyama-sensei was not at all like the strict, Japanese professor I expected to meet; rather, he was energetic and kind. Secondly, almost immediately after I arrived at the lab, I was driven by Kageyama-sensei to a local softball field for a departmental softball tournament. Funnily enough, this helped me learn everyone’s names by associating them with their respective positions on the field. I was also extra nervous because everyone knows I play softball, and they were expecting me to be an “MVP”.  Overall, the gam­­e was really fun, though it was slightly disappointing; after seven innings the game was still tied, so the game was decided by rock-paper-scissors, to which we lost. This was made up by the fact that everyone found out that Kageyama-sensei is extremely good at baseball and even dove back into second base on a close play.

I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Kato-san. His patience is endless; even when I forget how to use the XRD program or how to turn off and on the NH3 and N2 gas, or even take three times as long to measure out compounds to their precise amounts, he doesn’t get angry or annoyed. I can tell that it takes a great amount of effort for him to use English, and I really appreciate that he wants to make sure that I understand the work that we will be doing. I also worked with two others this week, Ikeuchi-san and Nakashima-san, who taught me how to use the high pressure synthesis machine and how to make a synthesis cell.

Everyone in the Kageyama lab speaks some level of English. I speak to the other international students in the lab in English. Many of the Japanese students also speak English well, though many of them are too shy to use it with me. I can relate to this feeling when it comes to Japanese. I hope to build up my confidence of using Japanese with them, and maybe they will feel more comfortable talking to me. To my relief, I do not think my Japanese abilities will impede me from conducting research this summer because both Kato-san and Kageyama-sensei can speak English. However, my low Japanese abilities has made it harder to get to know the other students, though I hope with time, things will change.

Katsura Campus. Not a great picture of the campus, but you can see a bit of Kyoto, as well as some mountains in the distance. Behind me , I am surrounded by mountains as well! ~ Emily Nishiwaki

My housing is spacious and had many essentials were provided to me when I first arrived. The commute to lab is around 50 minutes, where I take the train and bus to west Kyoto. Kyoto University’s Katsura campus is only 12 years old; the facilities are clean, new, and the campus itself has an interesting and efficient layout. The campus resides in what begins to be a mountain region. I’m surrounded by mountains and I can see Kyoto below me. It is such a privilege to be able to work on such a well equipped and beautiful campus.

Coming into this summer, I was unsure that I would enjoy solid state chemistry research and did not know if I would be able to handle an intense lab environment. I made numerous mistakes this week, such as ruining one of my samples (that I will have to re-do on Monday) and tearing a little hole in the glove of the glove box. This Friday was also special in that the Kageyama Lab had a Kenso, an all-day meeting where everyone presented their research from the past month. Given that I had only been in lab for four days, Kageyama-sensei asked me to give a short self introduction (in Japanese) and a general overview of what I would be doing this summer. This was a small task compared to all of the other students, but I still was incredibly nervous and spent most of the morning and early afternoon with my stomach churning and having minor panic attacks. Despite my mistakes and anxiety, I really enjoyed this past week at the lab and am looking forward to what is in store for next week. I’m excited to be able to become more independent and (hopefully) help the Kageyama lab in any way I can.

Kinako Ice Cream. Though It was a difficult choice, I chose this flavor over the assortment of green tea flavors I could have had. I made a good decision; I almost like this more than matcha! Almost. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

On Tuesday, Kageyama-sensei asked me to eat lunch with him. The lunch was casual, where we talked about American and Japanese culture and the history of the lab. I have heard from other students that Kageyama-sensei is incredibly busy, so I was especially surprised that he wanted to take time to eat with a B2 intern. What particularly struck me about Kageyama-sensei was how during our first meeting the day before, he bluntly asked if I was nervous, to which I responded, “very”. He then told me to not be afraid; research is a place to make mistakes. He continued with that despite me being inexperienced and only here for a short time, that he believes that I can help the visible light photocatalyst group within the lab. I’m unsure to what extent he actually believes this, but I am grateful that he is supportive and willing to develop a personal relationship with his students. Moreover, he called his lab a family, and encouraged me to ask others any questions I have to the other students. It has been hard to interact with the other students with the language barrier and my shy personality, but I hope in the coming weeks I can get to know them all better.

After the busy week, I had a really fun weekend. I met up with Erica, an American 2016 Nakatani Fellow from last year! We went to the Fushimi-inari shrine and had dinner in the Kawaramachi area. I also went to Arashiyama with the other Nakatani fellows who are in Kyoto (Kaylene and Alex) as well as Savannah, Will, and Katelyn who came to visit. I loved Arashiyama and I definitely want to go back. I also tried kinako ice cream for the first time, which Kaylene and I fell absolutely in love with. Previously, I had only had kinako on mochi, and this was even better! There was also a yuba-flavored ice cream that I want to try when I return at some point during the summer.

Arashiyama Bamboo Walk. After coming to Japan, I’ve realized that I absolutely love nature walks. The bamboo walk was only one aspect of the amazing nature that surrounds the whole area of Arashiyama. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

Reflection on Orientation Program in Tokyo 
The orientation program was a whirlwind. I learned new Japanese grammar patterns, kanji, and basics of modern physics. There were so many grammar patterns that I only use 4-5 in conversation. However, I am able to recognize the grammar when listening to it; during our all day meeting this past week for lab, I was able to decipher some of what the other students were saying!

After the orientation program, I learned that I like to plan ahead. Whether it be to figure out how many kanji I want to learn a day, what subway lines I want to take where to save the most money, or doing research on the internet to find best matcha ice cream in the area. Hopefully, I can use my “planning-ahead skills” in Kyoto to maximize my research and sight-seeing experience.

Besides questions that arise from my confusion in lab, the biggest questions I have about Japan right now is how to use the Kyoto bus system. Part of my anxiety about buses is due to the fact that I do not have a lot of experience with them. However, since Kyoto’s bus system is also very extensive and to get to many places I would want to see, I want to utilize it to its full extent. I think the only way I can get comfortable with buses is to use them and get lost, though the prospect of that is a bit scary. Hopefully, next weekend I can go sight-seeing with Kaylene, Erica, or Alex and we can help each other navigate!

Research Project Update
Right now, it is clear to me that our goal is to synthesize a new material to create a visible light photocatalyst. Specifically, I will be working with Kato-san on synthesizing a solid solution of ZnO and GaN to develop a compound with a small enough band gap to act as a visible light photocatalyst. We will be synthesizing this compound with NH3 reaction and a high pressure reaction at various reaction conditions. Currently, we are using SrO as the starting compound to synthesize Sr(Zn(1-x)Gax)O(2-x)Nx. This coming week, I expect to continue tests using the following reaction:

SrO + (1-x)ZnO + xGaN àSr(ZnGa)ON

However, I am not sure what direction this project will take once these tests are finished. I expect that to become clear soon, once I talk to Kato-san and read more about my research field.

I will be using a glove box, x-ray diffractometer, furnace, and high pressure synthesis machine this summer. The glove box will be used to prepare air sensitive samples in a controlled environment. I think after a week I understand the process of taking things in and out of the glove box such to keep the air inside purified. However, I still need more practice when it comes to working with compounds inside the glove box; measuring exact amounts of sample with three pairs of gloves on is something I am not naturally good at.

I will also be using an x-ray diffractometer to analyze the lattice parameters and the impurities contained in the samples. If the experimental XRD matches the ICSD graph, then we have successfully substituted an anion into our solid solution, which therefore lowers the band gap. Impurities are measured by analyzing anomaly peaks. I still am learning how to use the program, but Kato-san has told me I will be using it a lot; by the end of the summer, hopefully it will become second nature. Finally, I will be using a high pressure synthesis machine and a furnace for ammonia synthesis reactions. Similar to the x-ray diffractometer, with due time, I think I will be comfortable using this piece of machinery.

I am really looking forward to this week and overcoming the new challenges that will (inevitably) arise. I plan to read as much of the solid state chemistry textbook that Kato-san lent me as well as make a power point summarizing everything I’ve learned so far. I’m also going to try to get to know my fellow lab students more and am excited to practice my Japanese with them!

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Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan

It had been a long day at lab, with me sitting at my computer, compiling and analyzing data all day. I was struggling to make sense of the past week in Powerpoint for Kato-san and Kageyama-sensei, who I would be presenting to later that week. I got up to stretch my legs a bit and saw that one of the other students also looked tired, his eyes a bit glassy and he was gazing out the window. Upon seeing him, I remembered the night before that I had been looking into things to see around Lake Biwa. This student is from Shiga Prefecture, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask him for some recommendations and advice. I sat down and we talked for a bit about Lake Biwa and some nice sites, and eventually, our conversation went like this:

“I’m thinking of going to Hiezan. Have you been there?”

“No, I haven’t, but I’m thinking of going next month with my friends and some people from lab! There is a beautiful fire flower festival.”

“That sounds great! Maybe I will go for the festival too.”

“Will you go with anyone?”

“I’m not sure, probably not. I don’t know a lot of people in Kyoto.”

“………”

“………”

And from there, I awkwardly brought up a different topic. I’m not an expert on social interaction, but in my opinion, that was a pretty awkward way to end a conversation, at least in an American sense. Among my friends at college, we would probably just invite the other person, or give an explanation why it wouldn’t be a great idea to invite the other person and suggest alternatives. I’m not sure if the reason the conversation ended like this was because we are awkward, the language barrier, and/or in a Japanese-sense, the ending of this conversation was perfectly normal. Perhaps in my American mind, I was expecting a different outcome, or at least a more definitive one, from this conversation. The student definitely had good intentions, recommending me places to see and overall, our conversation was enjoyable. However, this part of our conversation particularly puzzled me.

Since then, this situation hasn’t been resolved. I don’t talk to this student that often, and when we do, it’s not about our weekend plans. I hope I can figure out why our conversation ended this way and also find some people to go to the festival together. I also hope that along with this student, I can get to know other lab students better. Things are starting to change already, even with this awkward encounter; on Thursday, I went out for Chinese food with a few of them, which was really fun. We also have a lab barbecue next week that I’m really looking forward to!

This past weekend, I went to Uji with Kaylene and saw Byodoin and Mimurotoji! Mimurotoji may be my favorite temple that I’ve visited. Though the area was crowded, the landscape was absolutely gorgeous, and the shrine was impressive. From some research, I read that in June, Mimurotoji is known for its hydrangeas – as soon as we got there, I saw why. The entire hill, with the temple at the top, was a sea of hydrangeas. I also enjoyed walking down Byodoin-omotesando, where the aroma of green tea lingered all the way down the street.

Hydrangeas at Mimurotoji. You can’t see it from this picture, but I’m actually surrounded by other Japanese visitors who are all snapping pictures! Behind me is the beautiful temple itself. ~ Emily Nishiwaki
Byodoin. This temple is on the back of the 10 yen coin! It was amazing to see it in person. I was particularly impressed by the clearness of the water to be able to make a clear reflection of the temple. This World Heritage site also included a museum with the history surrounding the temple and Uji itself, which I enjoyed learning about. ~ Emily Nishiwaki

I also went to a women’s Frisbee practice this past Sunday. I got up at 6am and didn’t get back until 5pm; it was certainly an experience. Everyone’s English was probably a little higher than my Japanese; it was very hard to understand the explanations of the drills, and thus I just ran around being confused for good parts of the practice. However, everyone was also nice and willing to converse with me in Japanglish so I could understand what we were doing. Aside from the actual drills and Frisbee techniques I learned, it was nice to see how a Japanese ultimate Frisbee practice was run in comparison to ones in the US. I do wonder why the practice needed to go from 9-5; it seemed like the same amount of work could have been completed in maybe 3 hours. As an American, it seemed too long, but perhaps with more reflection I will see another perspective.

Research Project Update
This week, I continued to try various methods of synthesizing a solid solution of Sr(ZnGa)ON. Last week, we saw the reaction of SrO + ZnO + Ga2O3 is unstable in an NH3 synthesis reaction at 800°C for 5 hours, producing Sr(OH)22H2O. This week, we tried this reaction again under a new set of conditions. Kageyama-sensei advised Kato-san and I to try heating the sample to 1000°C degrees and then lowering the temperature to 850°C after 2 hours. We synthesized the same reaction with modified conditions but unfortunately, an XRD matching Sr(OH)22H2O was produced. We are going to try to synthesize this reaction at 750°C and hope that we can synthesize the solid solution successfully.

Another option for the synthesis of ZnO-GaN is to raise the temperature and pressure applied on the sample. This time, I combined SrO + ZnO + GaN, put it into the high pressure machine, and analyzed the sample’s lattice paramters with an x-ray diffractometer. However, the changes in the lattice parameters were ambiguous, and we could not conclude whether Sr successfully substituted into the ZnO-GaN solid solution.

Kato-san and I discussed a slightly different approach to the high pressure technique. Next week, I will be using high pressure synthesis to synthesize the solid solution of ZnO and GaN first, and then synthesize that solid solution and SrO together in another high pressure reaction.

This past week, I also investigated the lattice parameters of the solid solution of (ZnO)(1-x)(GaN)(1-x) at x values of 0.0, 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0. For the synthesis of x = 0.1 and 0.3, NH3 synthesis with reaction conditions of 850°C and 5 hours. I used an x-ray diffractometer and the Topas software to calculate the lattice parameters of all the respective solid solid solutions and generated a graph to analyze the data. However, instead of obtaining a linear, monotonically decreasing graph, I got something very different. After reading a few papers, Kato-san and I realized that it is impossible to use NH3 synthesis to make a ZnO-GaN solid solution with Zn content of over 0.7. My results reflected this; in the cases of x = 0.1 and 0.3, a compound with similar lattice parameters to just GaN was produced.

Kageyama-sensei also advised me to try a new method of synthesizing SrZnGaON. I first plan to prepare SrZnO2 with SrCO3 and ZnO. These are the same starting as before, except I will be using a temperature of 1200°C to attempt to lessen the impurities after the synthesis. Then, I will be preparing SrGaO2.5 by SrCO3 and .5Ga2O3 at 1400°C for 10 hours. Theoretically, these compounds can be combined into the solid solution of Sr(ZnGa)ON. Lastly, I also plan to try to synthesize a completely different solid solution of LaZnON to compare it with SrZnGaON.

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Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting

Coming this summer!

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

Coming this summer!
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Week 08: Research in Japan vs. Research in the U.S.

Coming this summer!

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Week 09: Reflections on Japanese Language Learning

Coming this summer!

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Week 10: Interview with Japanese Researcher

Coming this summer!

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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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