Home University: University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering
Expected Graduation Date: May 2019
Host Lab in Japan: Chiba University – Division of Nanomaterial Science, Aoki Laboratory
Why Nakatani RIES?
The Nakatani RIES program provides me with the perfect platform to support my intercultural and research learning goals. Having little knowledge and experience in either of these areas, I can only imagine walking away as a totally improved person. Constant exposure and immersion in a completely different culture, while being tested intellectually and technically through research on a daily basis, gives me reason to believe that this opportunity could serve as one of the most challenging and enriching experiences I have ever undertaken. The world desperately needs these types of experiences, given the circumstances that we are currently enduring. With pressing issues such as climate change, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, an effort on a global scale is necessary to the advancement and longevity of human civilization. It gives me a great sense of excitement to be a part of this worldly endeavor by participating in this unique and amazing program.
Visiting Japan would not only be a childhood dream-come-true, it would allow me to be immersed in a research environment that holds in regard the same values that I do – excellence in innovation, rooted in an appreciation for culture and tradition. At the end of my internship, I hope to bring home with me a fortified sense of these values, improved language skills, and new perspectives I could apply to future research studies.
Goals for the Summer
- To experience, learn, and be a part of the research behind Japan’s cutting-edge innovations
- To learn about the Japanese culture, language, and society
- Gain new perspectives by visiting and exploring anywhere and everywhere that I can
- Make life-long friendships and connections with people through this program
- Go to a Chiba Lotte Marines baseball game
Excerpts from Trevor’s Weekly Reports
- Week 01: Arrival in Japan
- Week 02: Language Learning & Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes
- Week 03: Noticing Similarities, Noticing Differences
- Week 04: First Week at Research Lab
- Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan
- Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting
- Week 07: Overview of Mid-Program Meeting & Research Host Lab Visit
- Week 08: Research in Japan vs. Research in the U.S.
- Week 09: Reflections on Japanese Language Learning
- Week 10: Interview with a Japanese Researcher
- Week 11: Critical Incident Analysis – In the Lab
- Week 12: Final Week at Research Lab
- Week 13: Final Report
- Follow-on Project
- Tips for Future Participants
Week 01: Arrival in Japan
The pre-departure orientation at Rice University was an amazing experience. Meeting the other Nakatani fellows, exploring the city of Houston, and learning the fundamentals of this program was very exciting, and I am so glad this orientation was part of the program schedule. Basic lab safety training and Japanese cultural subtleties were just a few of the many useful pieces of information I learned during this time when many beautiful presentations were shown. One of the most useful tips that I got out from a cultural presentation involved the bow and its variations. With knowledge of the 15, 30, and 90 degree bows, I was able to implement them almost immediately into my daily routines here in Japan. Aside from the actual orientation, we had a decent amount of time to explore Rice’s campus. This aspect of the pre-departure orientation made my Houston trip all the more fulfilling, as I was able to observe many incredible architectural and engineering feats on campus. Building quirks such as the “whispering chamber,” in which a person could whisper a message into a hole, which would then be received by another on opposite sides of the hallway, gave me a sense of satisfaction and contentment. My experience at Rice was definitely memorable one, and I am excited to visit again after my internship in Japan.
As we stepped off the plane into Narita airport, I immediately felt a sense of orderliness and cleanliness. Every visible object from the carpeted floor to the glass windows was free of rubbish and any noticeable blemishes. People walked on one side of the walkway and stood on one side of the escalator allowing for others around them to move freely. The walk from the plane to baggage claim, alone, was enough to put me into a tranced state of awe, as I attempted to observe any other immediate cultural differences. After one whole week in Japan, saying that I am excited to be here would be an understatement, and I have cherished each and every second.
My first week in Japan was one of the most exciting but challenging times I have ever experienced. Everything was new to me; the city, the language, and culture left me completely amazed. It seems as though beauty lies in everywhere that can be seen in Tokyo. Whether that beauty manifests itself in practicality or aesthetic is up to the eyes of the beholder, but there seems to be a purpose behind everything that Japanese people do. A simple public toilet stall, for example, displays more thought and effort than houses built in my hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. Functions such as a music player, seat warmer, and water spray, along with spotless floors make trips to the public bathroom more luxurious than uncomfortable. It is amazing how much more there is to appreciate in Japan.
Even the language, which I am currently learning in Japanese class, seems to be efficient, purposeful, and meaningful. I have to admit that language components such as particles, grammatical structure, and reading/writing characters seem confusing at first, but make complete sense after some familiarization. With so much information and material to be absorbed, one week of Japanese class proved to be exhausting and frustrating, but extremely gratifying. Constant student-student and student-teacher interaction with a different instructor every day kept each class fun, mind-stimulating, and exciting. I personally found the copious amounts of practice to be extremely helpful in hammering in language concepts, and I appreciate the two-way teaching style the instructors used thus far. Although my first week involved much struggle filled with mistakes, I learned more Japanese than I could have ever imagined in such a small period. I am very excited to learn more about the Japanese language even if it means struggling through the next two weeks.
Along with Japanese language class, many cultural and science lectures highlighted a very memorable first week in Japan. Cain Gibbs, an Advanced Science and Math Course and Super Science high school teacher gave our first Japan lecture on Thursday. This lecture, called “Thinking ‘Why?’, Asking ‘How?’, and Saying ‘Yes,’” was very informative as he gave us plenty ideas on what to expect out of Japanese culture. He went over many cultural aspects ranging from tips involving Japanese pragmatism to common beliefs and mentalities that most of Japan abides by. It has definitely helped in my understanding of the Japanese lifestyle. Shortly after the “Thinking ‘Why?’, Asking ‘How?’, and Saying ‘Yes’” lecture, we engaged in an evening discussion session with Mr. Nobuyiki Shikata. Learning about politics was, for once, very enjoyable as we got into groups to discuss some of the world’s political and economic issues. On Friday, we had our third guest speaker, Professor Shinichi Nishikawa, who gave a lecture involving life science. This lecture was interesting and thought-provoking, but very long. In three exhausting, but intriguing hours, he went over the past, present, and future of life-science, giving information such as the history of scientific theory, significant 20th century scientific findings, and the possibilities that could surface in the event of multidisciplinary collaboration. I particularly found the idea of multiple disciplines working together to be fascinating. In my opinion, contributions to one common goal from different scientific backgrounds is one of the most efficient methods to solving problems. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I received to listen to all the experts who spoke with us this past week.
Question of the Week
Every Japanese person I’ve interacted with thus far seems engaging, polite, and helpful. Whether that interaction be at the nearby 7-11 or the subway information booth, customer service seems to be valued and prioritized. My question involves the genuineness of this courteous and considerate behavior. Do these gestures actually reflect who the Japanese people are? Or is a lot of what the Japanese people really feel hidden away from ignorant “tourists”?
Research Project Introduction and Article Overview
From what I understand, my project will be focused mainly on a molecule called Molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2). I will be involved with the fabrication and temperature dependence measurement of a certain crystal structure of this molecule called 1T’. Phase patterning, in which a laser irradiates sufficient laser light, will be used to transition the MoTe2 from semiconducting (2H) to the 1T’ structure that displays metallic properties. Since the resistance temperature dependence has not yet been confirmed, my professor has suggested I work on MoTe2 fabrication and temperature measurement this summer. I am extremely excited for my time working in Professor Aoki’s laboratory.
In a recent paper published by Professor Aoki’s laboratory called “Nanoscale-Barrier Formation Induced by Low-Dose Electron Beam Exposure in Ultrathin MoS2 Transistors”, nanoscale structural bandgap modifications and compressive strain due to electron-beam exposure is discussed. By using triangular-shape, domain-free monolayer MoS2 crystals grown directly onto SiO2/Si substrates by CVD, MoS2 was fabricated. An ambient scanning-probe microscopy system was then used to apply the local electric field required in SGM to detect electrostatic forces. The sample was then influenced by election-beam exposure, with strain-dependent band structure calculations to follow. It was concluded that there exits a significant potential barrier due to a large voltage drop, between the exposed and unexposed domains. These findings are very important because of an increasing interest in MoS2 in nanoelectronics.
Week 02: Language Learning and Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes
Japanese class has been incredible so far. I have learned so much in two weeks, and I am starting to become more comfortable in casual conversations with my instructors, peers, and even locals. I am now starting to understand and appreciate the sequence in which the material was taught, as I was a little confused by it at first. Learning specific phrases and words seemed to be the focus of the class last week, with actual grammar structure being taught later. (this past week). I initially felt it would make more sense to learn how to construct sentences first, rather than trying to memorize specific expressions. However, I now realize that this memorization of simple phrases helped in understanding the structure itself, and I am so glad we learned it in the manner that we did. It seems as though the language is “slowing down” as I can now pick up on certain words and particles when listening to other Japanese people speaking in public. I have heard that immersing yourself in a language you are trying to learn is the most effective way to learn it. This is something I can completely agree with as I have never been so comfortable speaking and listening to Japanese. The language aspect of this cultural orientation has definitely been enjoyable so far, and it’s great to know I have one more week to learn even more. I am excited to learn Japanese over the course of the whole summer, and I hope to continue my Japanese language studies back at my home university.
Speaking Japanese anywhere in public during this trip has made for an exciting experience, and I find myself looking for any chance I get to use it. Asking for directions, greeting other Japanese people, and making casual conversation with anyone who looks friendly has been both gratifying and thrilling. I especially enjoy asking konbini (convenient store) clerks how much items cost even when the prices are clearly labeled! I see it as a challenge to mentally slow down these responses and to comprehend numbers, nouns, verbs, and language particles. Asking for prices gives me the perfect opportunity to practice these aspects of the Japanese language.
Along with these opportunities to practice my Japanese came many frustrating experiences as well. Being allergic to shellfish, which is quite popular here in Japan, I need to constantly remember to read and ask about ingredients. (Tip: You may want to print off one of these food-allergy translation cards in Japanese) At restaurants, I am always trying to recall or look up how to say, “I am allergic to shellfish. Is there any in this dish?”, before the waiter/waitress arrives to take our orders. At konbinis, I am always trying to read and comprehend kana characters on the ingredients list, which always seems to be mixed with Kanji that I have never even seen. This ongoing stress has remained constant throughout the entire trip, as one of the last things I would want to deal with is an allergic reaction. Sure, I can look at these situations as “practice opportunities”, but sometimes I just want to rest and relax with a shell-fish free meal or snack. I knew these annoying allergy inquiries would come up sooner or later, and I know they will persist through the entire summer. Nevertheless, I am confident that every moment I spend this summer will be enjoyed. Whether that enjoyment occurs during the actual moment or after the fact (allergy struggles), this trip is turning out to be one of the most memorable experiences I have ever been a part of.
Coming into the Japanese language class, I was not expecting to learn enough Japanese to hold my own in a casual conversation. Especially since we would only be learning Japanese over the span of three weeks, a goal of speaking and comprehending a virtually new language seemed very farfetched. This goal, however, seems to become more and more realistic as the days go on due to extremely patient and awesome teaching by the AJALT instructors, and immersion in the language itself. It has gotten to the point where I would be disappointed if I am not able to participate in simple conversations by the summer’s end. With one more week of formal Japanese instruction, I am confident in where my Japanese progress is and where it is going.
Weekend Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes with the 2017 Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows
This past weekend has been one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekends I’ve had in a long time. A trip to the Mount Fuji Lakes area not only gave me many lasting memories, but truly opened my mind to a totally different culture for the first time. From visiting a 1000 plus year old shrine to experiencing an authentic onsen for the first time, I was able to live through some true facets of the Japanese culture, enjoying every second of it.
On Saturday, we met the 2017 Nakatani Japanese Fellows, and took a long bus ride to a lake tour, where we were able to see glacial clear ponds and one of many beautiful views of Mount Fuji. Shortly after, we visited Kitaguchi Hong Fuji Sengen Jinja and experienced an amazing shrine tour. At this shrine, we were able to catch a glimpse of a 950-year-old temple, a sacred 1000 year old tree, and the official entrance to climb Mount Fuji. Lunch followed this incredible tour, where we were treated to a huge bowl of udon, and spoke more with the Japanese fellows having conversations filled with many jokes and laughter. The next part of the road trip involved the arrival to our overnight lodge/hotel. At this moment, I knew I would have an experience of a lifetime with just one clear look at a perfect view of Mount Fuji. After checking in, we were treated to dinner, during which I experienced my very first viking buffet. As blunt as this may seem, I consider this buffet to be one of my favorite parts of the Mount Fuji trip, which says a lot, given how many incredible life-changing experiences I gained during this stay. Offering a variety of foods, ranging from Italian and American to Japanese and Chinese, all of which were fresh and delicious, I couldn’t help but feel extreme happiness and contentment during and after this greatly appreciated meal.
With a nice and cool firefly spotting walk to follow dinner, I didn’t know how my night could have gotten any better. Then the onsen happened. It is hard to describe the feelings I had leading up to my very first onsen experience. From nervousness and uneasiness to terror and extreme reluctance, I felt it all prior to stepping into the public bath area. What made me feel a little better was that every U.S. Nakatani fellow felt similar feelings too. After 10 to 15 minutes of standing and stalling, we finally got the urge to face our fears and open up to the Japanese culture (figuratively and literally). Once everything was off, I regained a huge sense of comfort knowing that everyone was there to experience a classic staple of Japanese culture. The onsen turned out to be one the best parts of the entire trip as it was not only relaxing, but gave me a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that I am willing and able to open myself up to a completely different culture – something I could have never been able to say beforehand. During and after the onsen, we bonded with many of the Japanese fellows, having deep conversations involving topics ranging from cultural differences to academic values. This Nakatani hangout topped off an unforgettable Saturday, one that will remain close to my heart for many years to come.
On Sunday, we departed the Fuji area and slowly made our way back to the Sanuki Club. During this trip, which I would easily consider to be my most unforgettable journey-back-home, we visited the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium, the Mishima Skywalk, and an amazing strawberry farm. Learning about deep sea creatures actually caught in Suruga bay nearby, the aquarium instilled in me a newfound appreciation for marine life. I especially enjoyed observing and learning about the lanterneye fish. These creatures are able to illuminate light from organs near their eyes, which seemingly turn on and off. What actually happens is that their “lights” remain continuously “on” but appear to turn off when they rotate these illuminating organs 180 degrees. Actually, being able to see this phenomena in their pitch-black exhibit room was an incredible experience, and allowed me to appreciate the wonders of biology on a deeper level. After visiting the aquarium and having lunch, we made our way to the Mishima skywalk, where we were able to walk the longest suspension bridge in Japan. Spanning 400m, with a gorgeous view of the Mishima town and Suruga bay, this bridge provided me with a memorable experience and many stunning views. I don’t know how many people can say that they walked on a 400m suspension bridge, but I am so glad that I can, now. After getting back on the bus to continue our trip back home, I was exhausted and just wanted to nap and relax. What I didn’t know was that we would end up visiting a strawberry farm 10 minutes away. At first, I was reluctant to get out, given how full from lunch and tired I was. I am so glad that I didn’t give in to my nap continuing temptation, and got out of the bus. The strawberries at this farm were the most luscious strawberries I have ever eaten, and I had an incredibly enjoyable time picking strawberries for the first time. Never in a million years would I have imagined picking strawberries in Japan, but I’m slowly starting to find that this very unpredictable component of the Nakatani experience is one that only adds to its beauty.
Reflecting back on this Mount Fuji trip, I can confidently say that it has changed me as a person. From someone who was unsure and hesitant to try new things, I have become more open minded and willing to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself. Using the onsen experience as a prime example, I know that I am now capable of trying new things from different cultures, giving me no reason to believe I canWith more opportunities to come my way, I will continue to push myself to be the outgoing self I desire to be, as it will only benefit me as a complete person. I am so thankful for the experiences that this Mount Fuji trip has provided me with, and for all the memories that will remain close to me forever.
Overview of Week Two of Orientation Program in Tokyo
Clean, safe, and invigorating, Tokyo has lived up to every expectation thus far, providing us with countless opportunities to experience quirky head-scratching acts, jaw-dropping architecture, and stunning scenery.
For example, at a festival called Sanja Matsuri we encountered a group of pantsless people carrying around a portable shrine. Why these people were pantsless is a question with an answer I still haven’t figured out, but I am certain it is just a quirky piece of Japanese culture. After two weeks in Japan, I’m starting to realize that sometimes I just need to embrace what develops in front of my eyes and not ask “why” – something that definitely takes some time to get used to.
The buildings and infrastructure of Japan make up another story. From lush green mountains and vast plains of rice fields to massive consecutively arranged skyscrapers, spaced by what only seems to be a few feet, Japan has presented us with many beautiful, yet innovative, architectural and engineering ideas. Just as how we ask “why” when we come across quirky Japanese things, we ask “how” when encountering these rather common engineering marvels. However, unlike “why” questions, these “how” inquiries are ones I will not just embrace and accept no answer to. These are questions that deserve definite answers, and require devotion of thought during long train rides and those empty moments before bed. A perfect example of this occurred on Sunday when we visited a 400m long bridge called the Mishima Skywalk. “How is this ridiculously long bridge supporting everyone’s weight plus the constant movement caused by everyone’s walking?” I am positive that every Nakatani student pondered this same exact question at one point, and tried to figure out its answer by attempting to analyze the locations under loads and stress just as I did. I can’t say I understand this question’s answer yet, but it is definitely one that will entertain me until I find it. Another amazing aspect of this particular visit was the fact that we could enjoy a stunning view of the Mishima town and Suruga bay, all while having our minds provoked by the engineering design of this massive bridge. It seems as though these types of moments come quickly and frequently in Japan – an aspect that only strengthens my opinion of Japan being one of the greatest places on earth.
Question of the Week
I have heard from multiple sources, including a professor from Keio University, that Japanese students typically work hard in high school to get into college, and tend to “relax” after getting in. This past weekend, I saw what seemed to be evidence supporting this “pattern.” Three Japanese Nakatani students who stayed at Mount Fuji have exams on Monday, but seemed to be completely relaxed and stress-free. Not to say that Japanese college students don’t care about their grades, but it seems as though American students stress out over their grades a lot more. Relatively speaking, do potential employers and graduate programs in Japan value college GPA as much as those in the United States?
- For more on this, check out the Education in Japan section on our Life in Japan page. You’ll find lots of great articles about Japan’s educational system and why students work so hard in high school but are seemingly more relaxed in college.
Research Project Overview
The material that I’m going to be studying this summer is a two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalchogenide (TMDC) called molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2). Thanks to Professor Kono’s introductory lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, I was able to gain a better grasp for these seemingly large and complex names and words. Starting with its type, MoTe2 is a TMDC. This means that it is composed of a transition metal element, being molybdenum (Mo), and two chalcogens, being the two telluriums. TMDCs generally have sizable bandaps, giving them semiconducting characteristics. In my particular research topic, we are interested in using laser irradiation, called “phase patterning” to transition the MoTe2 2H semiconducting structure to its 1T’ metallic distorted structure. We are then interested in measuring the temperature dependence of its resistance in its 1T’ structure. During one of Professor Kono’s lectures, he discussed a metal’s electron density independence with varying temperature. With resistivity being a function of both electron mobility and electron density, the only relevant parameter that should affect MoTe2’s 1T’ metallic structure’s resistivity, and thus resistance, should be the electron mobility. With this known, I feel I am one step closer to understanding my research goal and interest. However, I know that I am still very far away from where I want to be in terms of how much I want to understand heading into my first day of research.
From Professor Kono’s lecture I also learned how dimensionality plays a role in a material’s electron movement. In 1D materials, electrons are resisted to movement in 1 direction (back and forth in a line). 2D materials contain electrons that are restricted to movement in 2 dimensions (a plane), and 3D materials involve electron movement in all three dimensions. My material, MoTe2, is a 2D material with electron movement restricted to plane motion. This apparently means that it can act as an active channel or as a buffer contact layer for “next-generation” devices. However, a limitation of this type of this type material involves transfer process impurities and metastable and inhomogeneous heterostructure formation. By using “phase patterning,” we should be able to overcome this limitation by fabricating an ohmic heterophase homojunction between the 2H and 1T’ structures of MoTe2. An attractive application of this particular TMDC is the transistor in future digital and analog cicuits.
Along with understanding more about my research material, I learned much more from many special lectures given by well-respected figures in the world of science and culture. Listening to Professor Kono’s lectures was a pleasure, and I learned so much, including the differences between metals, semiconductors, and insulators, what a bandage is, and how light displays both wave and particle characteristics. Professor Itoh from Keio University also came in to give a very interesting lecture. In his presentation, he discussed a brief overview of how quantum computing works. By going over superposition, Shor’s factoring, and isotope engineering, I was exposed to new concepts that I have never even heard of before. I can’t say that I understood everything that he went over, but I am definitely interested in learning more. Another professor who came to speak was Professor Kawata from Osaka University. Being an expert in nanotechnology, I enjoyed everything he had to say. At one point in his lecture, he mentioned the idea current science and engineering disciplines evolving to include only Nano, Photon, and Bio subjects. I found this notion to be very interesting, and it is something I can totally see becoming real in the future.
Along with these engineering seminars, we also learned about the Kimono and how it has played such a significant role in the Japanese culture. This lecture was given by Kento Ito, the CEO of the IINE Japan Corporation and the Imagine One World Kimono Project. By learning about the kimono’s correspondence to nature, and its reflection of its wearer’s attitude and personality, I was able to gain a much deeper appreciation for what I had always thought to be just a fancy piece of Japanese clothing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want one after listening to Mr. Ito speak.
Week 03: Noticing Similarities, Noticing Differences
My stay in Japan thus far has been filled with countless trips to many different parts of Tokyo by transportation through the subway. I have made many interesting observations during these trips, noticing a range of habits from the way people interact with others in the station to the way people enter and exit off the subway. Three weeks in Japan has taught me enough to realize that there definitely exists an influence of the Japanese “culture” within the subway. For example, the same subtle and indirect gestures are present at all times – a personal observation that became evident just recently. Being American college students, we can’t help but be loud (relative to Japanese standards), and laugh, to have good times on quiet train rides. For the first two weeks of subway travel, I was unaware of how people reacted to our “obnoxiousness,” as I was mainly focused on enjoying the latest matter that brought the Nakatani group into complete hysteria. This past week, however, gave me the opportunity to observe the Japanese peoples’ reactions to our jokes, instead of ours’. Many head shakings and under-breath mutters made up the Japanese peoples’ reactions, contrasting deeply with the cooperative laughter or annoyed ‘shut up!’’s we would most likely hear in the US. This helped me realize the obliviousness and ignorance I displayed all this time, something I was initially extremely embarrassed about. I say “initially” because I couldn’t help but want to hide in the midst of the few laughters that came after this personal realization. I now understand, however, the importance of this realization toward my growth of intercultural intelligence and sensitivity. This experience indicated to me that I am subconsciously picking up on some of the many social ticks that exist within Japanese culture.
Another observation I’ve made involves things that people DON’T do on subway train rides. In contrast to Hawaii lifestyle, the sight of people eating and drinking in the Japan public is extremely uncommon. These kinds of actions become even more rare during train rides, due to the limited spacing from person to person. This no-eating/drinking-in-public behavior gives me reason to believe that politeness is a huge component of Japanese culture. I don’t know whether this politeness involves consideration of other peoples’ hungers or if these people are just conscious of the sounds they make when they eat. I do know, however, that a mutual awareness of others is deeply embedded within most Japanese people. The extreme importance of good manners is one of the many Japanese things I wish American culture adopted, even if it meant no eating and drinking on the streets.
Growing up in a subway system-free place such as Hawaii, it has been an eye-opening experience to see what many Japanese people consider to be a routine mean of transportation. Having cars in Hawaii is extremely normal, something that doesn’t seem to be the case here in Tokyo. Never have I thought about living without a car, as it has always been my main, if not only, way of transportation to school and sports practices. Three weeks in Tokyo, however, has given me a deeper appreciation for a car-free transportation system. The subway system makes it so convenient and easy to get around here in Tokyo, with extremely reliable arrival/departure times and fast time-saving routes. I don’t understand why it is still absent in Hawaii, and I would definitely be an advocate for a similar system’s development in the future. I am not saying I would want a complete change from Hawaii’s car-based society to no cars at all. I just feel that a rail or train system would definitely reduce traffic, allowing for less hectic and clogged-up roads – something the Island of Oahu suffers very much from. The reality is that Japan has provided me with so many innovative and practical ideas, with Tokyo’s subway system being just one of them.
Overview of Week Three of the Orientation Program in Tokyo
Week three was filled with many intriguing and informative guest speaker lectures. From talks involving DNA databases to anime videos representing Japanese female triumphs, we experienced an amazing week of scientific and cultural learning. Learning about culture and language in Japan, while being treated to guest talks from prominent figures is an absolute dream-come-true, and there is no place I would rather be.
On Monday afternoon, we listened to an Osaka professor named Gert-Jan Bekker speak about some of the experiences he endured after moving to Japan. He handed out many useful bits of advice to us “foreigners,” as he was just like us at one point in time. Being relatable and funny, we were able to enjoy, rather than put up with, two straight hours of his lecture. His advice on going to as many festivals and fireworks shows is the tip I’ll remember the most, as I was unaware of how significant these events are, here in Japan, beforehand. Being an expert in Biology, he also went over many interesting subjects, along with sharing many stories. These subjects included insight to how DNA works and the basic motivation behind simulation of molecular dynamics. It was definitely complicated, but it was totally worth two hours of time exposing myself to the complex words and phrases that came out from this lecture.
On Tuesday and Thursday, we were able to learn a whole lot more about quantum mechanics from Professor Stanton from the University of Florida. Being one of the smoothest presenters I have ever listened to, Professor Stanton was able to make an hour and a half of lecture seem like 5 minutes. He constantly emphasized key points to remember, with many details such as graphs and numbers acting as support. One of the quotes he told us to remember “summarizes” quantum mechanics, and it is one that I find humorous but very useful. It goes, “Everything at the same time is a particle and wave.” As simple as this quote is, it actually helped in my understanding of how and why the subject of quantum mechanics is so tricky. I feel that actually realizing difficult concepts in any subject is one of the best ways to overcome conceptual obstacles. Understanding the existence of light’s dual nature only helps in my quantum mechanics learning.
After Professor Stanton’s lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, we were able to learn from two other special guests. The speaker on Tuesday was an established figure in Materials science. Her name is Kunie Ishioka, and she delivered a very interesting presentation, blending in topics I would have never imagined to come from the same lecture. Switching back and forth between female employment trends in science, and materials science related material, she was able to give an inspiring message while still being informative. I appreciated this talk because I believe it gave a sense of drive and motivation to everyone in the room, regardless of gender.
Don N. Futaba gave lecture following Professor Stanton’s Thursday presentation. Hilarious, yet competent, Dr. Futaba went over a vast range of topics from nanomaterial synthesis to his personal experiences in parts of Japan we should avoid. He taught us about how mistakes can sometimes be good, as his current and most successful method in synthesizing carbon nanotube, called water-assisted CVD, came from a mistake. He also went over his first weekend in Japan, providing us with a funny and memorable story that should best be left off of this entry. Leaning about carbon nanotubes was interesting, and his hilarious comments and jokes made this particular lecture all the more entertaining.
Friday provided us with our last lectures of the 2017 Nakatani three-week orientation. These last lectures were engineering and science-free, something I wasn’t too enthusiastic about heading in. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how interesting and enjoyable these last talks turned out to be. The first presenter was a women’s rights professor named Junko Saeki. Learning about Japanese gender stereotypes and seeing how they are starting to be overcome was refreshing and settling. It was especially cool because this presentation was full of clips from female directed movies and anime, demonstrating the creative prowess and originality these activists possess. This presentation gave us reason to believe that with more working female involvement, negative gender stereotypes can soon be faded.
The last and final lecture was by far the most interactive one, and was given by Ozaki-sensei from Rice University. Expecting reciprocation for every language question/offering, Ozaki-Sensei gave the class no opportunity to be bored or silent. Learning several jokes to use with our labmates and gaining a better grasp for navigating through Japan’s seemingly complex society were just a few takeaways that I got from a very enjoyable final lecture. I would not hesitate for a single second if I was given the opportunity to take a semester-long Japanese class with Ozaki-Sensei, as I would be fully prepared for laughter-filled and thought-provoking classes each and every day.
Question of the Week
My question of week addresses the unwritten, but apparently understood, no-eating/drinking-in-public policy that lies within the Japanese culture. Why do people hold off from eating and drinking in public? Is it just to be considerate of other peoples’ hungers and appetites? Or is the act of eating or drinking just an unpleasant experience for other people given the sight, sound, and smell food/drink consumption can give off? Combination of both and/or other things?
- This would be a great question to ask some of the Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows. They may have some insights on why this is and they may also be surprised to learn how common it is to eat/drink and walk in public in the U.S.
- Things to Remember When Eating Outdoors in Japan
- Why Japanese People Can’t Walk and Talk at the Same Time (Tofugu)
- Why is it Considered Rude to Walk & Eat in Japan (Quora)
- On Not Walking While Drinking Soda in Japan (This Japanese Life)
- Always Remember these 10 Big No-Nos in Japan
Research Project Update
With my third week being spent in Tokyo, and not yet at my lab, I have only been able to continue my article reading and self-learning. One significant step forward I made this week involves gaining a better understanding of what a “2-D van der waals heterostructure” is. With my material being exactly that, it was almost silly to disregard it just because I didn’t know what it was all this time. This week, I decided to ask peers and read up a little bit more on the details behind this classification. From what I’ve come to understand a material is given the van der waals heterostructure label if it contains strong in-plane bonds with very weak out-of-plane bonds. This seems unapparent since these materials can layer with other 2-D materials so well, appearing to form strong out-of-plane bonds. The significance of this characteristic is that a combination of these materials can be layered together to “engineer” a desired bandgap, enabling control over semiconducting and metallic properties. I find this very interesting, and I am excited to learn even more when I get to my lab.
Professor Stanton’s lectures this past week provided me with many useful and relevant pieces of material I can study to understand my project better. I can now answer several questions related to semiconductors and optics that I would have never thought about touching prior to my third week in Japan.
Final Research Questions
I understood that it was going to be nearly impossible to understand everything about my project, given my lack of research experience and quantum physics basic knowledge. I do, however, feel that I should know a lot more about the graphs and figures showing up in the articles that I have been reading. With that being said, I do not understand, and I would like to learn more about a particular graph that frequently appears, displaying Intensity vs. Raman Shift. At first glance, this figure didn’t appear to be that complicated. After a closer look, I realized I had no clue what a Raman Shift was, and I would like to learn more about this relationship before entering my lab.
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Week 04: First Week at Research Lab
Heading into my first day of work in Professor Aoki’s laboratory, I was nervous and unsure, but extremely excited. “What is the work schedule like?” or “How do I communicate with my lab mates given my limited Japanese?”, were just some of the questions that rattled in my head upon entering the laboratory. I didn’t know if there were any special rituals or rules to understand, and I was scared of any potential embarrassment from being unaware. Even the research material gave me a sense of stress, as I didn’t know how much I was expected to understand prior to my first day. Despite these somewhat negative emotions, I still felt a strong sense of eagerness to learn. Whether I walked out of the lab having a newfound appreciation for Japanese laboratory culture or a better understanding of how MoTe2 works, I was confident that my first day would be productive and beneficial to my overall personal growth.
On Monday, my first official day of the research internship, I arrived to Professor Aoki’s laboratory 20 minutes early. The door to the lab was closed, so I wasn’t sure if I needed to open it, knock, or wait until 10:30 (the time I was told to get there). I decided to wait, after going back and forth about how much patience, an aspect of politeness in Japanese culture, would influence my first impression. Fortunately for me, Professor Aoki came strolling out of the restroom shortly after my arrival, and came toward me to enter his lab. I immediately recognized him, and went to introduce myself – something I am so glad I was able to do. Professor Aoki turned out to be an extremely welcoming and nice guy, giving me a great sense of relief and erasing most, if not all, of the worries I had prior to our initial meeting. He asked about how my stay in Tokyo went and how Japan compares with Hawaii, all in great English. This allowed me to relax and feel welcomed, lifting the potential professor-student language barrier worry off my chest. After exchanging a pleasant conversation things got a little more interesting and serious, as he went on to explain an overview of what he wanted in regards to research. He gave me a direction with some goals to pursue, and provided me with a ton of mind-boggling explanations for how MoTe2 works. The patience he showed me during this brief overview also reassured me, and gave me reason to feel excited for this summer’s research instead of apprehensive. After ending his brief but informative presentation and giving me the usual paperwork to fill out, he went into his office, and left me at my new desk. Being the first student there, I sat in this room, where I observed many interesting things. From book shelves full of nanotechnology literature, to posters of anime characters adjacent to periodic tables, I made observations that provided me with even more relief as I reasoned that a lighter and less serious side would also exist within the lab. It didn’t take me long to realize truth behind this prediction as everyone in the laboratory turned out to be super nice and friendly. Making themselves available to answer my questions, and constantly making fun of each another, made me feel like I was at home hanging out with a bunch of friends. They even took me a Yakitori restaurant during lunch break, where I tired beef heart for the first time! This experience reminded me of one of my biggest reasons for participating in this program. Being reluctant to try new things with an open mind has always been a part of me that I wanted to change. When I heard of this program, I not only thought about the academic benefits I could gain, but also the potential it had to grow me as a person, giving me new perspectives on culture and even lifestyle. With beef heart under my belt, and many other experiences alike, I can confidently say that I have learned more than I could have ever imagined in the span of four weeks since starting this program.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the friendliness and acceptance the Aoki laboratory has showed me this past week. From learning the Japanese pronunciation for scientific words to playing Japan’s number one card game called “Nimuto” for the first time; I enjoyed many memorable experiences with my lab mates. However, besides myself and one other person from China, all the students in the lab are Japanese and have limited exposure to English. With that being said, it has been a language tug-of-war all week long, filled with many of the hand gestures and drawings we were informed and warned about during the Nakatani Pre-program orientation. I am blown away by just how much I was able to learn about my research, given the restriction of complex scientific terminology use. It just goes to show how creative and clever my mentor, Kouta Kamiya, was in his efforts to teach me all that I learned this past week. With plenty of help from my lab mates, I’ve been able to put up with this language barrier as far as research goes – but there is still a hurdle that I feel exists due to language struggles. As open as the lab has been towards me, I feel like more of a “colleague” than a “friend” due to cultural and language differences. I understand that earning a friendship takes time, but with an existing language barrier it’s hard to say whether or not a true friendship bond could ever form. I admit this is one of the worries I’ve been dealing with as of late, and I can only hope that something develops as time goes on. Becoming more proficient in Japanese and being as friendly as I can will only help my cause in building stronger relationships, and any other aspect of life for that matter. With this in mind, I will take this challenge as an opportunity to work on these qualities in order to make lasting friendships and to become a more well-versed person.
As much as I’ve learned inside the lab this past week, I’ve learned just as much outside as well. From becoming more comfortable with the train system through which I commute to and from school every day, to figuring out my unique dormitory bathroom/shower configuration, just about everything has given me a different outlook and new perspectives with respect to daily life. However, while it has been illuminating and thrilling, my first week of living on my own in Japan has been extremely difficult. Things I’ve never once thought about, immediately made their presences known upon my dormitory arrival. Where are the towels I can use to dry myself after showering? You know, the ones conveniently placed on our neatly made beds – ones we got so accustomed to seeing upon daily Sanuki Club returns for the past three weeks. Nope, no towel; you need to go find one at a supermarket, Trevor. Ok, where’s the Supermarket? You need to find that too. Why is there a mini fridge but no microwave? I was looking forward to eating the oatmeal I would usually have at home for breakfast every day. Not happening, find something else to eat every morning. Why is the toilet hidden underneath a swiveling sink? More importantly, why are these rather unsanitary pieces of bathroom equipment located in the shower?!?! Perhaps the biggest problem I currently face involves the means by which I can wash my clothes. With 2 floors of the INTERNATIONAL STUDENT dorm containing laundry rooms, not a single machine gives English instructions on how to use them. It has been an absolute struggle to with the aid of frustratingly slow phone data wifi. It has been an absolute struggle to with the aid of frustratingly slow phone data wifi. Also, the dryers are ridiculously terrible, taking four hours to dry one load of clothes! These are the types of issues that continuously appear as I adjust to a totally different lifestyle in a new place.
Reflections on Three Week Orientation Program in Tokyo
The Nakatani orientation in Tokyo provided me with the best three weeks I have ever spent in my life. With so many eye-opening experiences and learning opportunities, nothing could better describe this time than the word “enriching”. Not only did I gain a newfound appreciation for cultural aspects such as social interaction and self-awareness, but I also met and made meaningful friendships with people from all over the world. From the Nakatani fellows coming from various parts of the US and Japan, to a guest speaker from the Netherlands, I was able to interact with so many different types of people. It was fascinating to see all of these cultural differences present themselves at the same time, and it allowed me to become more aware and sensitive to different ways of thinking. For example, reading subway maps and navigating through the big city were unfamiliar tasks for me, given that I have always lived in Hawaii. Fortunately, some of the Nakatani fellows are from New York, where they have practiced and used this type of transportation system all their lives. With these skills coming second nature to them, they were able to share with me many useful tips that have greatly helped during my trips within Tokyo, and even Chiba. The networking aspect of participating in an internship abroad is truly invaluable, and it has made my time here in Japan all the more fulfilling.
Learning the Japanese language and culture is another part of the orientation I was absolutely amazed by. With only a few memorized phrases from high school, along with the pre-program required knowledge of kana, I was doubtful I would be able to get around, even with daily Japanese classes scheduled for the first three weeks. To my surprise, this doubt quickly faded as the days progressed and as my Japanese competence started soaring higher and higher. Japanese class was extremely enjoyable and rewarding, and culture-related lectures were nothing short of illuminating. The biggest contributing factor to my cultural growth however, came from being immersed in the culture itself. Having played sports all my life, along with being a student in school, I can easily attest that the most effective way to learn something is to actually do it. I remember my baseball coach telling me numerous times to “round the baseball as I attacked the grounder in order to gain momentum on the throw, and to gain a clear sight of the baseball’s speed and bounce.” I never understood what he truly meant until I put my glove on, laced up my shoes, and practiced it on the field. This same concept appeared in my thermodynamics class last semester. With the first and second laws stating that energy must be conserved with processes occurring in a certain “direction,” a six-year-old would have probably dealt with the same confusion I endured as I tried to figure out how they would apply mathematically to problems. Nothing clicked and made sense until I pulled out my calculator, pencil, AND eraser, made some mistakes, and slowly learned by doing problems. The point I’m trying to make is that textbooks and lectures can only get you so far. The rest is built by practice, mistakes, and experience – things I have been so fortunate to receive, endure, and learn from all trip long. I am positive I will continue to make mistakes for the remainder of the trip, but I am happy knowing that I will learn from each and every one.
Question of the Week
Japan is, by far, cleanest place I’ve ever been to. As one of the Nakatani alumni students put it, “the sidewalks are cleaner that the most dining tables in America.” After spending four weeks here, I can see where she was coming from. What puzzles me is that there are about 10 times more vending machines (which are capable of producing trash) than there are trash/recycling bins in public sight. Does the scarcity of trash cans play a psychological role in the minds of people in Japanese society making them less likely to litter?
- Why are There So Few Public Trash Cans in Japan (Japan Info)
- 5 Reasons that Make Japan a Clean and Green Country (Japan Info)
- Japan’s Garbage Disposal System Explained (Tofugu)
- The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery (Metropolis)
- Japan’s Secret Garbage Problem (Rocket News)
- Heritage Listing a Wake-up Call for Taking Charge of Mt. Fuji Clean-Up (Japan Times)
- Wasteland: Tokyo Grows on Its Own Trash (Japan Times)
- Kamikatsu: Japan’s Zero Waste Village (Guardian)
- Plastic Fantastic: How Does Tokyo Recycle Its Waste (Japan Times)
Research Project Update
My first week in the lab has provided with a lot more assurance regarding direction and goals for my research this summer. After a brief and clear overview from Professor Aoki on Monday, it was understood that I have two main goals to reach for. First, I must find the optimal laser strength to produce a desired threshold voltage within my material. With complicating effects such as contact resistance (extra resistance due to electron concentration difference), I am sure this will be no simple task. Next, I must measure the electronic properties of my material to confirm whether a certain laser-induced structure is truly metallic. With these two assignments in mind, it is hard for me not to be excited about all that there is to learn.
This past week was thrilling from the start as I immediately got to learn about my material’s fabrication in the clean room on my first day. Starting off with the substrate, Kamiya-san taught me how to clean and prepare it for its desired use. Then I learned about the mechanical exfoliation process of my material. I found it hilarious when I watched the actual mechanical exfoliation process for the first time because I was expecting big complicated machines and long waiting-times to be involved given its intimidating name. Turns out, the big bad mechanical exfoliation is just a process involving scotch tape to spread thin layers of MoTe2 onto the substrate, taking roughly five minutes. Go figure. After the mechanical exfoliation process of MoTe2, I learned how to use the microscope from one of my lab mates, Ouchi-san. I imagined that microscopes would play a pretty important role in a NANOmaterial lab, and I was not wrong. Later in the week, I learned about the fabrication of the platform on which we needed to transfer the MoTe2 from the substrate onto. This platform consists of a slide-glass, cover-glass, polymer, and PMMA. Using the microscope, wired to a monitor screen, we were able to line up the polymer area to the 5mm by 5mm substrate, and transfer MoTe2. Tedious and time-consuming, MoTe2 fabrication proved to be not as simple as it initially seemed. Nevertheless, I am excited to learn more about it next week. After fabrication, the next step is to use the laser, which I am extremely excited about. With every piece of equipment and procedure being fairly new to me, I have been in awe for just about every second I spent in the lab this past week. I am just so grateful for this opportunity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this feeling to stays with me for the rest of the summer.
Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan
My fifth week in Japan flew by, and it contained not nearly as much adversity as when I first arrived in Chiba. It seemed as though the problems I dealt with last week were resolved, as I was able to relax and enjoy the week, rather than stress and worry. Yes! Even after one week, I feel that I have grown and learned enough to thrive while living in a totally new and different environment. For example, after only one week I was able to find the grocery market with the least expensive fruits and veggies. I was able to figure out which train to take so I wouldn’t miss the stop closest to my lab (there are two lines, with one bypassing the station I need to get off at). I even figured out how to avoid spending four hours to dry one load of laundry! It turns out the kanji for “minutes” on my dormitory’s dryer adjusts the strength of the heater, and has nothing to do with the how long the load takes to dry. Although I am still puzzled by this, I now know which specific buttons to press, and I’m satisfied as long as my clothes are cleaned and dried! After comparing my first two weeks and realizing the problems I initially encountered, I admit that preparation would have probably prevented many of these issues from even surfacing. If I did research beforehand on my dormitory’s location, I would have probably taken only a few hours to find cheap and fresh produce instead of three days. Looking up how to commute to school from my dorm on google maps prior to my Chiba arrival would have relieved a lot of stress and uncertainty from my first day. Inquiring about my dormitory’s laundry system before having to stay up until 1 am drying my clothes would have saved me from much frustration and sleep deprivation. Although I know I should have been more proactive in preparing for my host lab arrival, I have no regrets. As every week has been all trip long, week five was just another stepping stone for me. “Learning by doing” was a theme especially evident this past week through many realizations of things I could have and should have done.
Along with these personal living experiences, I have learned much more about deeper cultural aspects from these past five weeks as well. One particular aspect that presents itself every day is cross-cultural communication, and it has woken me up to a whole new dimension of thinking.
A prime example of how cross-cultural communication influenced a situation occurred during a period from Thursday of last week to this past Tuesday. As is seems to be the tradition for all the lab members to eat lunch together every day, we went to a restaurant called “Negimaya” on Thursday, where I enjoyed a set of yakitori chicken. With them learning some English from me and me learning even more Japanese from them, we were all able to enjoy each other’s companies while having an entertaining conversation. The atmosphere was relaxed with everyone seemingly in a light mood until we all stood up to leave the restaurant. At this very moment, I felt a sense of being uncomfortably judged as everyone’s attention focused on my plate still full of rice. (I’m not a huge fan of rice as it gives me a sluggish and sleepy feeling after eating it for some reason – something I do not want to experience during the remainder of the work day). No one said anything to me inquiring about my distaste for rice until we walked a distance of about five minutes from the restaurant. “Toreba-kun, rice taberu?” (In an attempt to say, “Trevor, do you eat rice?” in English) was the first thing one of my lab mates asked as we headed back to the lab. Everyone’s head swiveled to hear my response, as I felt the spot light of being judged once again. After panicking for a split second, “Uun, rice ski ja nai” slipped out of my mouth, upon which I immediately started to regret. After appearing to have been shocked out of his mind, with almost a ghost white face and purple lips, “So desu ka,” was what the initiating lab mate responded with. The remainder of the walk back to the lab was quiet and extremely uncomfortable as everyone seemed to have been nauseated due to my attitude towards one of Japan’s staple foods.
On Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, I noticed that instead of going to restaurants for lunch, everyone went to the University’s Konbini opting to eat instant noodles and bentos. Bringing these Konbini foods back to the lab and having silent lunch breaks was in complete contrast to the first few lunches I experienced prior to the post-Negimaya conversation. After initially and naively believing that this type of lunch break was actually “normal” with restaurant outings reserved for special occasions like my arrival, I started to wonder if these lunch breaks were caused by my annoying and picky eating habits. These lunches were clearly not as enjoyable for them (unless they enjoy eating silently), and I arrived to the conclusion that they were just trying accommodate my appetite by allowing me to choose whatever I wanted from the Konbini. With no one expressing an obvious frustration toward these Konbini lunches, I could still sense the desire to eat freshly prepared and cooked foods from everyone. I could hear it in the way they sighed after finishing their meals. I could see it in their faces as they looked down at their phones while unenthusiastically chewing their food. I knew they were not happy, and I hated seeing this type situation take place knowing that it started because of me. After Tuesday’s lunch, I decided to speak up and ask why we weren’t going to restaurants anymore. Following some hesitation and after turning to one another, one of the lab members said, “Toreba-kun does not like rice.” These were the words I anticipated to hear, and were not the most thrilling. However, it cleared up much of the haze shrouding the lunch break situation, and it allowed me to be clear about one thing. I was not going to let them give up their restaurant lunch breaks just because I did not like rice. After explaining with a ton of hand gestures, due to my still-growing Japanese skills, I was able to get my point across that I would go anywhere in the world to have a good time with them, and that I would find something to eat and enjoy at any restaurant. Immediately seeing their faces light up as soon as they understood my view relieved a lot of tension. I know everything was well again when we went to Cafe the very next day and enjoyed lunch together just like how we did so many times during my first week. By using my American “directness” in bluntly asking why we weren’t going to restaurants anymore, I was able to confirm the Japanese “indirectness” we were advised about prior to our Japan departure during a Rice presentation in Houston.
Question of the Week
After experiencing an uncomfortable situation during which I was judged for not eating rice by Japanese people, I would like to know just how much this distaste concerns them. Is is just a surprise to most Japanese people or would some people take it personally, to the extent of even being offended? This may seem to be a silly question, but after seeing some Japanese peoples’ reactions, I am starting to feel that rice may be more than just a food to them contacting some sort of symbolic value. Does it have some kind of contribution to Japan’s history, affecting how much it’s valued by Japanese people? Or is it really just a food enjoyed throughout Japan?
- Rice, It’s More than Food in Japan (Stanford Pgm. on Int’l & Cross Cultural Ed.)
- The Importance of Rice in Japan (Wasabi)
- Japanese Rice (JapanGuide.com)
- Japanese Rice as a National Treasure
- Rice in Japan: You are What you Eat (Economist)
- Rice Production in Japan (Wikipedia)
- The Future of Rice Farming in Japan (Japan Times)
- Life as a Rice Farmer in Japan (Japan Info)
- Japan: End of the Rice Age (Financial Times)
- Farmstay in Japan
- The Good Life in Japan: A Traditional Farm Stay (Guardian)
Research Project Update
I made an important realization this past week, propelling me a giant step forward in terms of my attitude towards my research. From being worried and doubtful at the beginning of the week, I find myself filled with excitement as I write this report and while the week comes to a close. After two weeks in my laboratory, I now realize how erratic a researcher’s emotions can be, as I have already experienced multiple sets of emotional highs and lows. Frustration, excitement, hope, and disappointment were all felt during these past two weeks, with some immediately following another in the matter of seconds. In the remainder of my week five report, I will explain one of my emotional lows and how one particular realization completely reversed it, changing my viewpoint on my research project.
As intriguing as it was to learn about MoTe2 fabrication last week, I still felt a sense of emptiness as I headed into my second week in the Aoki laboratory. I found myself asking, “When am I going to start ‘actual’ research?,” on Monday morning. I understood that the fabrication was necessary for new discoveries to be made, but I felt anxious and worried that I would never make any sort of valuable finding. It was incredibly helpful to be taught each and every step of the fabrication process, but it also gave me the feeling that I was just going to be taught by others all summer long, instead of making any sort of contribution. Learning about the research process was one of my goals for the summer, but I had also envisioned myself making new discoveries as well.
Monday and Tuesday only added to my anxiousness as they were filled with all-day lectures. The whole lab was encouraged to attend, as Professor Machida from the University of Tokyo, who is an expert in Graphene, came to give the lectures. As interesting as his talks were, they occupied any time I would have spent in the clean room making more research progress. Also, while his presentations were visually engaging, I still found myself walking out on both days with no significantly better understanding for my research material. I believe this was partially because his lectures were presented in Japanese. Then again, given that these presentations were about nanotechnology and quantum physics, I don’t know how much I would have understood even if his lectures were in English. Hopefully I subconsciously gained something from his lectures, as I can only imagine how rich and valuable his insights were to everyone else who understood it.
With the feeling of having two full work days thrown down the drain, I had no reason to believe in my potential to produce valuable findings any time soon. This doubtfulness persisted until Wednesday when my mentor and I were trying to place MoTe2 onto metal electrodes during a transfer process. As I observed his facial expressions and watched his attempts, I noticed that something was wrong. Continuously adjusting the microscope’s plane height and Piezo device voltage (a device to control the material’s temperature), with a concerned and frustrated face, my mentor continued to work until I decided to ask what the problem was. After explaining that the MoTe2 wouldn’t stick to the electrodes like previous materials such as MoS2, I asked why it wouldn’t stick and what we could do to solve the problem. He replied, “I don’t know. This material is new to all of us, so this is something we’ll need to figure out.” Upon hearing this response, my outlook on this summer’s research immediately took a turn, skyrocketing through the roof with excitement. For the first time in my life, I realized the edge of discovery and the fact that no one knows why this problem exists is absolutely thrilling. After only imagining what Kamiya-san was thinking upon sight of my excitement for this unforeseen predicament, I asked what we should do next. He told me he would consult with Professor Aoki and one of the assistant researchers, and that we continue work the next day, ending about two hours earlier than when we normally finish. On Friday, Professor Aoki addressed this issue in front of the whole lab and assigned me the task to fabricate more MoTe2 samples to experiment with an alternative transfer method. The assignment of this new task and “plan B” proposal was an extremely exciting experience for me, as it reinforced the magnitude of importance my research project holds.
After this Friday meeting, we all went to a restaurant near my dorm where the lab threw my welcoming party. The dinner was very enjoyable, and it was really nice to see everyone having a good time. After dinner, my lab mates took me out bowling, where it was extremely entertaining to see everyone drunk try to bowl. This experience was the first time I felt accepted in the lab as everyone bonded, laughed, and relaxed. With a new set sight on my research project and a closer bond with everyone else in the lab, week two has given me reason to only be excited for the many weeks to come.
Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting
Living on my own in Chiba for three weeks is the biggest “feat” I’ve accomplished thus far. With none of the Nakatani fellows nearby, I’ve been stuck trying to figure out everything on my own. I had no friends to devise weekend trip plans with, or consult to figure out the dorm’s laundry machines. I now realize how much I took for granted living with all the other fellows at the Sanuki club, as I was just a door knock’s away from solving almost any practical problem. Living on my own has opened my eyes to many situations I have always overlooked due my dependence on others.
On top of not being able to rely on anyone else, living in Chiba has been a challenge on its own. With a large majority of residents unfamiliar with English, and almost every sign containing at least one part in Kanji, my Japanese skills have definitely been put to the test. In a way, it is beneficial for me to live in such an area, as it can only help develop my Japanese. However, many situations during which I just want to get over with have become much more difficult and frustrating. For example, sending mail at the post office on Wednesday turned out to be 10-15 minute ordeal, instead of the quick two minute visit I had envisioned. This situation affected my schedule as I missed the train I originally set out to catch, and almost arrived late to my lab. On Saturday, purchasing my Shinkansen ticket for the mid program meeting in Kyoto was complicated by the presence of this same language barrier. As the line built up behind me while I struggled to understand the clerk’s instructions, I felt anxious and uncomfortable, and just wanted to get my ticket so I could leave. It seems as though Chiba only offers one thing to help non-Japanese speakers – the transaction machine. These machines are like ATMs and exist in multiple locations for various types of uses. At grocery markets, they have saved me on numerous occasions with its option for English transaction. When I don’t feel like doing my “ikura desuka” to practice Japanese, and just want to eat my onsen tamago, I would just head over these machines for a quick and easy pay-and-go. The same goes for this type of machine located at the train station. Whenever I need a Suica card (kind of like a universal Japanese debit card) recharge, I just head over to a machine, tap the English button, and take pleasure in listening to the sweet sound of English coming from the automated teller. My deep appreciation for what would be a meaningless feature back home, just goes to show how English-deprived Chiba is. I was eager to learn Japanese this summer by immersing myself in the language, but I had no clue it would be this exhausting.
I realize the only way to overcome these obstacles is to keep an open mind and learn more each and every day – something I’ve been consciously trying to do. With that said, I am pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to adapt and cope with the many issues I’ve dealt with thus far. Every bit of this experience has been new to me, so it gives me a great sense of accomplishment that I’ve been able to put up with and enjoy every moment this trip has offered. From the thrill of getting on a train hoping it goes to where I want it to go, to the satisfaction of eating something delicious without knowing what it is, Japan has allowed me to live freely. Not only has it opened my eyes to new ideas, but it has also given me a fresh attitude on how I should live my life every day.
I feel like I am making steady progress with regards to my research project. At this point, I am learning by actually working instead of being taught every step by my mentor. This has been exciting for me, as I can now work on my own and develop my own work “flow” abiding by the lab rules, of course. However, being a mechanical engineering student, I have never taken a class in solid state physics. This is frustrating for me because my project revolves around many of this subject’s principles, leaving me with many blanks for personal questions I have that are involved with specific processes I carry out in the lab. Furthermore, understanding these processes isn’t as simple as asking my mentor or lab mates either. Since some of the terms they learn in Japanese solid state physics don’t match up with what I was able to scrounge off the internet, the language barrier has also come into play in hindering my project’s understanding. The biggest problem I have is that I understand what I need to do, but I don’t understand why I need to do it. Hopefully, I can learn more about the theory as time goes on, but for now I will continue to focus on my immediate tasks and duties at hand.
Question of the Week
Why do so many people in Japan wear face masks? I’ve already gotten used to the sight of it, but I know I was extremely surprised when I first saw someone wearing one. Are these wearers sick or trying to protect themselves from getting sick? Does this have something to do with the Japanese cultural aspect of being considerate for others?
- Definitely ask some of the Japanese Fellows about this! They may be just as surprised that in the U.S. people don’t wear them and might think they have cancer or some sort of infectious disease if you walk around a U.S. city wearing a face mask.
- Why do Japanese Wear Surgical Masks? It’s not Always for Health (Japan Today)
- Let’s Talk About Japan and Sickness Masks (Kotaku)
- Face Masks (Japan Times)
- Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (Tofugu)
Research Project Update
Two weeks ago, I faced my first major setback in FET fabrication. During the transfer process, in an attempt to create a top contact sample, we observed sticking issues between MoTe2 and the metal electrodes. Everyone was surprised by this issue since this method works well with MoS2, a material similar to MoTe2. Last week, Professor Aoki proposed a new transfer method that could potentially resolve this contact problem. Instead of trying to fix the MoTe2 crystal to the electrodes from the top, he encouraged us to create a bottom contact sample using a wire and metal mask. With this new method, we would place a five micrometer diameter wire flush onto the MoTe2 crystal’s surface. This would be followed by the placement of a position fixing metal mask. With the wire occupying a middle section of the crystal, we would then deposit the metal electrode (gold) directly onto the crystal’s surface. With the electrodes separated by the wire, our FET would be fabricated. On the white board, Professor Aoki’s diagrams made this process seem simple and doable. When he demonstrated the procedure in the clean room, he made it look even easier. After listening to his instructions and watching his demonstration, I felt I was ready to start fabrication.
Heading into the week with an optimistic and confident attitude, I was extremely excited to try this new method out for myself. I soon learned it would be a lot more difficult than I had expected. First, I realized the challenge in finding an ideal crystal sample which we could work with. The desired sample size is 15 to 20 micrometers as it needs to be larger than the wire’s diameter, but still small enough to transition fully to its 1T’ phase upon laser irradiation. After finding an ideal-sized sample, the thickness of that sample would need to be considered. With the desired thickness being relatively thin, this aspect of the sample search has been, by far, the most frustrating. The reason is that whenever I find a sample in the desired size range, it often ends up being thicker than the ideal thickness. I have tried different ways of peeling the tape off during the exfoliation process, and I have experimented with various amounts of MoTe2 placed onto the tape. With every little experimentation effort, I have ended up facing this same issue many times. And wait, there’s more. The next factor that needs to be considered is the location of the crystal on the substrate. Since a metal mask needs to cover the sample without its edges falling off the sides of the substrate, the ideal sample location would be somewhere around the substrate’s center. If these three factors were satisfied, the sample search would be finished, but the overall fabrication would not nearly over.
Placement of the wire and metal mask would be the next step of the fabrication process if a workable sample was found. This has been an absolute nightmare for me due to my unsteady hands and extreme impatience. Having to work under a microscope, cutting and placing a 5 micrometer wire onto a 5 by 5 millimeter substrate, is hands down one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced. With any little jitter, the wire would be gone and out of the tweezers in no time, frustrating me to no end. On top of that, the microscope is fixed to focus on a certain plane of depth, so any twitch up or down would result in a loss of sight for the current microscopic matter at hand. After many failed attempts, I finally thought I had found success in what I would end my week on. On a last-ditch effort at 9:00 pm on Friday night, I was able to center the five micrometer wire onto the sample, and fix a mask over it. Hopefully, I can progress to deposit the electrodes onto this sample sometime next week. For now, I will enjoy my time believing that I was able to get past this nightmare of an experience. If my fear for blood wasn’t enough to convince me to not pursue a career in surgery, this process has definitely done that job.
This past week, I learned a little about just how difficult this field of work can be. I also realized the potential of feeling on top of world after succeeding. I don’t know if my sample is okay to progress with yet, but I do know that I felt better after completing this task than I would have after doing anything else on a Friday night. Hard work and dedication is definitely required for successful research, and I am willing to put in all that I can to achieve something special by the summer’s end. Whether I end with results or just a bunch of failures, I know I will walk away knowing so much more than I knew coming in. That alone is worth so much more than I could ever ask for.
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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!
Week 10: Interview with Japanese Researcher
Coming this summer!
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Week 11: Critical Incident Analysis – In the Lab
Coming this summer!
Week 12: Final Week at Research Lab
Coming this summer!
Week 13: Final Report
Coming this summer!
Coming this summer!
Tips for Future Participants
Coming this summer!