Nakatani RIES Fellowship for U.S. Students – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How competitive is the Nakatani RIES Fellowship Program?

In 2016, we received 114 applications and selected 14 students for a selection rate of 14%.

For the 2017 program year we anticipate receiving between 100 – 125 applications for the up to 14 participant slots that are available this year.

I have no prior research experience. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes! The Nakatani RIES Fellowship is geared towards the needs of young undergraduates who are new to scientific research and study of Japanese language and culture. Prior research experience or study of Japanese language or culture are not program requirements, but if you have prior experience please share this in your application essays. Students who have prior research experience will be expected to have their former research advisor submit one of the two required recommendation letters.

I have no prior Japanese language experience and/or have never taken a course on Japanese society and culture before. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes! The Nakatani RIES Fellowship is geared towards the needs of young undergraduates who are new to scientific research and study of Japanese language and culture. Prior research experience or study of Japanese language or culture are not program requirements, but if you have prior experience please share this in your application essays.

I am a student at a community (two-year) college. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes! Community college students, if you are planning on transferring to a four-year university, are encouraged to apply.  If you plan on transferring to a four-year school or have already been accepted into a four-year school via an articulation agreement be sure to make note of this in your essays.

I am technically a junior by credits but this is only my second year in college. Am I still eligible to apply?

Nakatani RIES bases your status on the number of years you have been enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate student. If this is your first or second year in college you are eligible to apply (provided you meet all other stated eligibility criteria), regardless of whether you are technically a junior by credits. Students with freshman or sophomore credit status at their university, regardless of how many years they have been taking classes, are also eligible to apply.

I am in my third year or above of undergraduate study (junior or senior status). Can I apply? What about graduate students?

No, the Nakatani REIS Fellowship for U.S. Students is only open to freshman and sophomore students. Juniors and above are encouraged to review the Other Related Programs for U.S. Students page for information on other programs they may be eligible to apply to. Graduate students are encouraged to investigate the National Science Foundation: East Asia Pacific Summer Institute Program.

I am a high school student. Can I apply?

No. High school students and graduating high-school seniors are not eligible to apply for the Nakatani RIES program. To be eligible to apply you must be a currently-enrolled, degree seeking student at a U.S. university or college in your first or second year of study. We encourage you to check-back to our website and apply once you are a college student!

I am not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, am I eligible to apply?

No. Per sponsor regulations this program is only open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

What is a U.S. Citizen Permanent Resident?

You are a U.S. citizen if you have or are eligible to obtain a U.S. passport.

A person who has permanent residence status in the United States has the right to live and work in the US without restriction. This right may last for a lifetime, or it can be ended in some circumstances by an uninterrupted absence from the United States of more than a year or two. Permanent residents are said to have immigrant status in the U.S. In contrast to foreign nationals who are here temporarily in non-immigrant status, such as F-1 students, J-1 scholars or H-1 temporary workers. In popular parlance, a permanent resident is said to have a “green card,” an outdated reference to the permanent residence identification card, which used to be green but is now a pale red, white and blue. Permanent residents are also often said to have “PR.”

If you currently have a “green card”/permanent residency card you are a U.S. permanent resident and are eligible to apply for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship.

Do U.S. citizens need a passport or visa to enter Japan?

U.S. citizens do not require a visa to enter Japan for a stay of up to 90 days through a visa exemption agreement.

In order to legally enter Japan all travelers must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of entry. This means you must have a passport valid through November 30. Students who do not have a U.S. passport or whose passports will expire prior to November 30 should review the U.S. Department of State Passport website for information on the application and renewal process.

I am a U.S. Permanent Resident. Do I need a visa to enter Japan?

Permanent Residents may need a visa to enter Japan if your country of citizenship does not also have a visa exemption agreement with Japan. To check to see if your country of citizenship has a visa exemption agreement in place click here.

If you are accepted into the Nakatani RIES Fellowship and do need a visa to enter Japan, we will provide you with documentation confirming your acceptance into this program and assist you in working with your research host professor to obtain any necessary guarantor information. You will be fully responsible for submission of your visa application and all required documentation to the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate and payment of any visa application or processing fees.

If you have questions, please email nakatani-ries@rice.edu.

Are the dates of the Nakatani RIES Fellowship firm? My school doesn’t get out until June. Can I still participate?

The program schedule for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship is firm and selected students must participate in all aspects of the program including the online and in-person pre-departure orientation at Rice, the three-week orientation program in Tokyo, the full research internship, the Mid-Program Meeting, and the re-entry program at Rice University.

If your academic schedule does not allow you to participate in NanoJapan we would encourage you to review the Other Related Programs for U.S. Students page of our website.

My spring semester doesn’t end until mid-May and there is an overlap between the start of the Nakatani RIES Fellowshiop and my final exams. What can I do?

If there is only a slight overlap between the start of the program and the end of your term you can speak with your professors and academic advisor/s to see if it would be possible for you to take your final exams early. If this is not possible, the Nakatani RIES Fellowship may be able to arrange a proctor if your university will allow you to take your exams either during the Pre-Departure Orientation at Rice University or the three-week Orientation Program in Tokyo.

However, this is not highly recommended as due to the time difference taking exams in Tokyo often means you would be taking the exam in the middle of the night and you will also be suffering the effects of jet-lag during your first week abroad.  Furthermore, the schedule during the time you are in Tokyo is very intense and this leaves very little time for you to take your exam.  If at all possible, we strongly, strongly encourage participants to complete all final exams prior to departure for Japan.

If you do need to have the Nakatani RIES Fellowship arrange proctoring for an exam taken while at Rice University or in Japan, you will be individually responsible for paying all proctoring fees along with express mail delivery fees to return your complete exams to your home university. If you have questions please email nakatani-ries@rice.edu.

Do you require any prerequisite coursework?

No, since the Nakatani RIES Fellowship has been developed specifically for freshman and sophomore students no prerequisite coursework is required. However, depending on your host lab, it may be beneficial to have already taken some physics coursework prior to departure for Japan. If your transcript does not accurately reflect all physics, math, or engineering coursework you have taken, for example if it only lists the total AP credit you received not the actual classes you took, be sure to make a note of this in your essays or resume.

While prior language or culture study is not required any courses taken prior to departure will provide a solid foundation that you can then build upon during your summer abroad in Japan. If you have a strong interest in Japanese culture and language we would also encourage you to consider enrolling in related classes offered by your university in Japanese Language, Asian Studies, History, Economics, or Political Science.

What is an unofficial transcript? How do I obtain this and how should I submit it?

An unofficial transcript is one that has been issued directly to you, the student. This may be issued to you electronically via your campus online system or may be issued to you as a hard copy document. Contact your registrar to determine how you obtain a copy of your unofficial transcript.

Once you have obtained your unofficial transcript you will need to convert this into a PDF document to upload in the online application form. If you have an electronic copy of your transcript simply select the ‘Print to PDF’ option, using a campus lab or library computer that has the full version of Acrobat installed, or using a free online PDF converter (search Google).

Why don’t you require an official transcript?

Universities typically charge a fee for each official transcript a student requests and it can sometimes take up to two weeks to be sent. However, most students typically have access to an unofficial transcript or grade record for free through university online systems. To prevent application processing and review delays and to ensure that applying to the Nakatani RIES Fellowship does not present an undue financial hardship we only require unofficial transcripts at the time of initial application.

If you are selected as a Nakatani RIES Fellow, you will be required to submit a copy of your official transcript to the program at that time.

I am a first-semester freshman and my transcript does not list any grades yet. Will this be a problem?

We recommend applicants wait to submit their application until January when, in most cases, your fall term grades will have posted to your unofficial transcript. This way the transcript will accurately reflect the classes you have already completed and the classes you are currently enrolled in for the spring term.

What format should my resume be in?

Nakatani RIES Fellowship applicants should submit a one-to-two page resume in reverse chronological order. If you have previously done academic research at either the high-school or university level be sure this is reflected in your resume. It is also helpful to include a section for relevant or related coursework on your resume.

If you have not prepared a resume before you should schedule a meeting with an advisor at your university Career Services Center or attend one of their resume writing workshops. Your career center can provide recommendations, sample templates, and feedback on your resume to ensure it best reflects your academic, research, and professional experiences and achievements.

Do you have any tips on writing my Nakatani RIES application essays?

The following tips have been adapted from criteria for the NSEP scholarship. It would be wise to use this as a checklist for writing your Nakatani RIES Fellowship essays and preparing for the interview if selected as a program finalist.

Did you do your Homework?: Are you knowledgeable about the Nakatani RIES Fellowship? Can you explain to someone else what the program covers, where it is located, what you will do while abroad, and the type of research available through this program?

Educational Qualifications as a Demonstration of Potential for Success: While there are no prerequisite courses required, it is a good idea to highlight your relevant academic background and coursework that could provide a foundation upon which you can build while you are abroad in Japan.

Have you taken or are you currently enrolled in engineering, math, or physics-related courses that relate to the potential research host labs you are most interested in? Have you taken any Japanese language, Asian studies, or social sciences/humanities/business courses that relate to your interest in Japan?

You should also highlight any special circumstances regarding your grades, enrollment status/history, or curriculum choices that you want the review committee to be aware of. For example, do you plan to enroll in a five-year B.A./B.S. program or a B.S./Master’s program? Is there a specialization within your major that you plan to declare?

Past Research or Professional Experiences as a Demonstration for Success: If you have previous research experience, even if this is not directly related to the type of research you hope to do in Japan, be sure that you highlight this in your essays. What did this experience teach you about working in a research lab or professional environment? What relevant skills did you obtain through this experience that could be beneficial to your participation in the Nakatani RIES Fellowship? Think not just in terms of research or academic skills but also inter-personal, communication, leadership, time-management and team-work skills.

Interest in Japan and Japanese Language Study: Describe, through specific examples, your interest in Japan. Have you made use of opportunities for prior language training? Have you demonstrated a serious commitment to learning about the culture of Japan through relevant coursework, student organizations, community or cultural events, or personal relationships to Japan? If this will be your first experience in Japan clearly explain why you wish to spend your summer in Japan and what you hope this experience will provide for you.

Broad generalizations about the culture may be a good starting point but be sure to bring these back to your personal interest in Japan. For example, you may have initially become interested in Japan through anime as a young child but today you should be able to define your interest in Japan in more specific terms given what you know about the country and how spending a summer in Japan will benefit you in the long-term.

Motivation, Maturity, and Personal Commitment to International Education and Research as a Means to Fulfilling Academic and Career Goals: Do you have strong motivation for undertaking this international research and education program? Have you thought about how the Nakatani RIES Fellowship fits into your academic and career plans? What are your long and short term goals for integrating your Nakatani RIES experience into your academic and career goals?

Maturity: Do you demonstrate sufficient maturity, flexibility, and common sense to cope with the challenges of living and studying in an unfamiliar environment? Think about previous experiences and activities that prove that you are capable of handling a summer program abroad that combines intensive language study, cultural programming, and an intensive research experience where you may be the only Nakatani RIES Fellow placed at that university and/or research lab.

Sharing Your Experiences: All Nakatani RIES Fellows will be required to conduct an Alumni Follow-on Project during the semester following completion of the program that seeks to broadly promote the program and encourage the next generation of students to pursue academic study and research in science & engineering and international research collaborations. These projects are typically done at your home university or in your home-town through outreach to middle or high schools.

While you do not need to submit an Alumni Follow-on Project proposal at the time of application, it may be helpful to start thinking about how you will give back or share your Nakatani RIES Fellowship experience.  What do you hope to take away from the Nakatani RIES experience and why is this program unique and special, and something that you would want to share with others?

Do you have any general essay writing tips? What do you look for in a Nakatani RIES essay?

Your essay should be well thought-out, concise, and speak directly to the questions asked or topic given. Essays should be drafted specifically for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship as it is apparent to reviewers when you are re-using the same generic essay or statement of purpose you have submitted to other programs.

Spelling or grammar errors will detract from your essay and will indicate to reviewers that you did not take the time to thoroughly proofread them prior to submission. Have a trusted advisor read your essays prior to submission to provide feedback on grammar, spelling, and content. Your university Study Abroad Office, Office of Undergraduate Research, Writing Center, or Career Services Center may also be able to provide you with helpful feedback on your essays.

Finally, essays should be written in your own personal voice. If you read your essay aloud to a friend or advisor it should flow well and sound as if it is coming from you. You should avoid using flowery or exceptionally technical language that is not truly necessary to convey your meaning. It is often very apparent when students are speaking directly from the heart and when students are just trying to ‘say the right things’ and/or are more interested in participating in any program in Japan, not necessarily the Nakatai RIES Fellowship. There are many options for international experiences, the selection committee will want to know and understand that is it about this program that leads you to want to apply.

Do I have to stay within the recommended length limits?

Yes, you should stay within the recommended limits. The online application will not allow you to submit an essay that is over the maximum character limit allowed.

Who should I ask to submit  recommendation letters in support of my application?

All applicants for the Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellowship must submit two letters of recommendation along with their online application, resume, and unofficial university transcript for their application to be considered complete.

The first letter must be from a professor, research advisor, academic advisor, or other mentor at your current college or university.

Your second letter of recommendation should be from a professor, teacher, advisor, counselor, or other mentor who knows you well. This could be an individual at your current university, high school, employer, or from another organization that you belong to.

If you have previously done academic research one of your recommendation letters must be from your research advisor or research mentor. This letter should speak to your interest in academic research, and particularly the field of nanotechnology, the type of research you conducted, and provide a frank assessment of your research progress and performance.

Recommendation letters should not be submitted by family or friends or those you have a primarily personal relationship with.

Should I wait to contact my recommendation letter writers until after I have submitted my online application?

No! Please contact your recommendation letter writers as soon as possible and, ideally, BEFORE you submit your online application.  You will need to allow time to ask them if they are willing to write a recommendation letter on your behalf and ensure that you have their correct email address to include with the online application. Both the online application and your two required letters of reference are both due on the same day – January 12, 2017!

Schedule a time to meet with them in person or speak with them on the phone about the Nakatani RIES Fellowship and your specific interests in Japan and international research so they have a clear understanding of the program and your reasons for applying. Provide them with an updated copy of your resume and a copy of your Nakatani RIES application essays as these will provide helpful background information for them as they prepare your recommendation letter.

Recommendation letter writers will be asked to address the following in their letters to the best of their ability.

– How you know the applicant
– The applicant’s demonstrated interest in international research
– The applicant’s demonstrated interest in Japan
– The applicant’s maturity and suitability for an international research internship program in Japan

Be sure they are aware and able to submit a recommendation letter by the January 12 deadline.  If both letters of reference are not received by this deadline your application will be be considered incomplete and it will not be forwarded to the selection committee for review.

How will the people I list in my application be notified about submitting recommendation letters?

You will need to provide your recommendation letter writers with a link to the online submission form.  This link is contained in the online application. The Nakatani RIES Fellowship will not send letter requests or notifications on your behalf.

Once both letters have been received, you will receive email notification from the Nakatani RIES Fellowship that your application is considered complete.  You can also ask your recommendation letter writers to notify you when they have submitted their recommendation form and letters online.

How are students assigned to their Nakatani RIES research project and lab?

If you are selected as a participant for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship, our research director, Prof. Junichiro Kono, will work closely with you and our potential hosts in Japan to match you with an appropriate research project and host laboratory. These placements are made based on your academic background, any previous research experience you may have, and your future academic and research interests in your field. Research host and project matching will take place in April after participants have been selected.

Will I be working with other Nakatani RIES Fellows during the research internship or matched with a Japanese graduate student or mentor?

While there may be 1 or 2 other U.S. Nakatani RIES Fellows working in the same university or city, in most cases you will be the only U.S. Nakatani RIES Fellow assigned to your specific research laboratory and you will complete an individual research project. You will be matched with an English-speaking Japanese graduate or post-doctoral mentor who will assist you in the start-up and initial implementation of your project. By the end of the summer it is anticipated that you will be working on this research project independently with the close supervision and oversight of your mentor and your Japanese research host professor. When the summer concludes you will be expected to present a topical research project poster on your summer project at the SCI Summer Research Colloquium at Rice University.

What about the Japanese Nakatani RIES Fellows?  Will I get to meet or work with these Japanese undergraduates too?

You will also be matched with a Japanese Nakatani RIES Fellow who will be conducting a similar research & international experience at Rice University in August – September.  The Japanese Fellow/s you are matched with may be from your research host university in Japan or may be living in or near your host city.  There will be a joint U.S. – Japanese Fellow ceremony in Tokyo in early August and the Japanese fellows will travel to Houston during your final week to see your research project poster presentation at Rice University and for some joint workshops and cultural outings in Houston.

Can I contact past Nakatani RIES Fellows? 

Yes! We would be happy to put you in touch with a 2016 Nakatani RIES alumnus if you’d like to ask them specific questions.  Email nakatani-ries@rice.edu if you would like to request to speak to an alumnus.

We also encourage interested students to post questions on our Facebook Fan page. Most alumni are members of this page and if you post a question here you will likely get a speedy response from one of our past students.

Additionally, all selected participants will be paired with an Alumni Mentor.  This Alumni Mentor will be the student who was most recently assigned to your host lab in Japan and/or student/s who have lived in your host city or have a similar profile to you.  For example, if your Alumni Mentor is a male student but you would like to speak with a female student, just let us know and we can also connect you with a female alumnus.  The Nakatani Alumni Mentors will be assigned in late April or early May, once host lab assignments for 2016 have been confirmed.  Selected participants will be able to communicate with their Alumni Mentor via email, Facebook, Skype, etc. prior to departure.

Other Questions?
For other question, please email nakatani-ries@rice.edu.


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