Nakatani RIES Fellowship for U.S. Students – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How competitive is the Nakatani RIES Fellowship Program?
- In 2018, we received 176 applications and selected 12 students; a selection rate of 6.8%.
- In 2017, we received 141 applications and selected 12 students; a selection rate of 8.5%.
- In 2016, we received 114 applications and selected 14 students; a selection rate of 14%.
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 is not required, 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/current research advisor submit one of the two required letters of reference.
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 Japanese language or culture study are not required, 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 planning to or in the process of 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 first or 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.
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 RIES Fellowship for U.S. Students is only open to freshman and sophomore students.
Juniors, seniors, and graduate students 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.
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 an enrolled, degree-seeking 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 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. Students who do not have a U.S. passport or whose passports will expire prior to November 1 of the program year 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?
Maybe. Permanent Residents may need a visa to enter Japan if your country of citizenship does not also have a visa exemption agreement with Japan that allows you to stay for up to 90 days without a visa. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 a slight overlap between the start of the Nakatani RIES Fellowship and my final exams. What can I do?
If you are selected as a participant in the Nakatani RIES Fellowship, you will be notified of your final status by mid-March. 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 at all possible, it is strongly recommended that students complete all final exams prior to the start date of the program or, at very least, prior to departure for Japan.
If it is not possible to take your exams early, 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. Taking exams by proctor may or may not be allowed depending on your university and/or academic departmental policy but we have had students from institutions such as Harvard University, Columbia University, the University or Rochester and a number of other schools take 1 – 2 exams via proctor in the past.
If your university asks you to take an exam via proctor, the professor would need to send the final exam and any instructions/forms to the Nakatani RIES program and then one of the program staff would administer the exam to you in a private room or office. Once complete, the finished exam would be either scanned and emailed back to the instructor by the Nakatani RIES program or sent via express mail (e.g. FedEx) to the instructor (or both if required). Students would be individually responsible for reimbursing the Nakatani RIES program for all proctoring costs including any shipping fees.
However, the program schedule is very full and it is not recommended that students taken more than 1 or 2 exams via proctor. Additionally, if you are taking exams while in Tokyo you must be aware of the significant time difference between Tokyo and the U.S. For example, if an exam is supposed to be taken at 3:00 PM Eastern time that would be 4:00 AM on the following day in Tokyo. Furthermore, during the first week in Japan you will be dealing with significant jet lag and our program schedule is very full with classes and seminars from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM most days. There are also 1 – 2 evening activities each week.
For reference, refer to the PDFs of the archived program guidebooks/schedules at the bottom of the Program Schedule page.
If you have questions please email email@example.com.
Is any prerequisite coursework required?
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 coursework in that academic field prior to departure for Japan. If your transcript does not accurately reflect all science 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’s office to determine how you obtain a copy of your unofficial transcript.
Once you have obtained your unofficial transcript you will need to scan/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 later in the spring prior to final confirmation of participation.
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 your 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 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.
For more on preparing a resume, see the ‘Freshman Resume Guide’ which you can download from the Rice University Center for Career Development website.
What can I do to strengthen my application overall?
Remember Your Audience & Customize Your Essays: Your essays should be well thought-out, concise, and speak directly to the questions asked or topic given. When writing application essays, think of who your ‘audience’ might be. If you are applying to a research program or graduate school, your application essays will likely be read by science or engineering professors. They tend to appreciate a more direct/clear writing style and are looking for specific details on your research interests. Also, be sure you customize your essays for each program you apply to. Sometimes, students try to re-use/recycle essays from other programs they have applied to. Prior essays may be a good starting point, but be sure you are specifically addressing the questions asked by the program you are applying to. It is often very apparent 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 Nakatani 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 led you to apply.
Research Interests: Beyond the broad/general topic of research conducted in your preferred lab/s, do you have specific interests in learning about certain projects, research techniques, instrumentation, or other skills in this lab? How does the research you can do in this program directly relate to your future research interests either at your home university or potentially in graduate school. In addition to reviewing the lab website/s it can also be helpful to review the abstracts of a few recent papers so you can get more insight in the specific research skills you might be able to obtain through an internship at that lab.
Proofread: It is important that you have your essays proofread by a trusted professor/advisor/mentor. For example, if you are applying for a research program or graduate school, ask a science or engineering professor or graduate student/post-doc you know if they can proofread your essay. That way the people proofreading your essays are similar to the ‘audience’/selection committee who may be reviewing your application. 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.
Recommendation Letters: Recommendation letter/s can be very influential in a committee’s review process. Carefully consider who you ask to write your letters. If you are applying for a research internship or graduate school, at least one letter should be from a science or engineering professor who knows you well. For example, a professor that you have taken one or more courses from and that you frequently meet with during office hours to discuss questions/future goals. The better your letter writers know you and your motivation for applying, the stronger the recommendation letter they will be able to write. Take the time to get to know your professors, visit them during office hours, and ask them if they know of any research programs or other opportunities you could apply to. If your professors know you are eager to get research experience they will keep you mind when opportunities cross their desk.
Resume: Take advantage of your university career center as they likely offer resume review/editing or workshops. They likely have guides, such as these at Rice, on preparing your resume. They may also offer resume workshops or one-on-one review and proofreading. Your resume should be customized to each program/opportunity you apply to and your Career Services office is a great place to start to ask for assistance. If you are applying for a research internship or graduate school, also ask a trusted professor/graduate student/post-doc in a science or engineering field to review your resume and give you feedback/suggestions. That way, the people reviewing your resume will be similar to the likely audience/selection committee members who will review your application.
Formatting & Final Editing Tips for Essays
- Back up your data! Compose your essays in Microsoft Word so you can save a copy to your computer. Computer and internet glitches happen and you don’t want to lose all your work right before submission.
- The online form does not allow for rich content editing. Do not include special characters, formulas, hyperlinks, or images in your essays. The online form only allows for plain text essay and short-answer responses.
- Spelling or grammar errors will detract from your essay. Proofread your essays prior to submission.
- Don’t rely on the default spelling and grammar check in your word editing software. Print out and carefully read through your essays. It is often easier to catch errors in a printed version than just by reviewing on your computer.
- After proofreading, copy and paste your final essay responses into the online application form.
Do I have to stay within the recommended length limits?
Yes. The online application will not allow you to submit an essay that is over the maximum character limit allowed. Be aware that the maximum character limits includes spaces. You can check this in Microsoft Word by highlighting the essay text and then selecting Tools –> Word Count in Microsoft Word and looking at the ‘Characters (with spaces)’ line.
After copying and pasting your essays into the online form, double check to make sure that your essays are not cut off. Sometimes, the character count in Microsoft Word may calculate slightly differently than the character count in the online form. You may need to edit your essays to fit within the maximum character limit in the online form.
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. Recommendation letters should not be submitted by family or friends or those you have a primarily personal relationship with.
If you have previously done academic research one of your recommendation letters must be from your prior 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.
Take the time to get to know your professors. Visit them during office hours and ask them if they know of any research programs or other opportunities you could apply to. If your professors know you are eager to get research experience they will keep you mind when opportunities cross their desk.
But I’m a first-semester freshman and I don’t have a professor or mentor at my current university who knows me well yet. What should I do?
Even if you are a first semester freshman, take the time to visit with one or two of your engineering or science professors outside of class during office hours so that they can learn more about you and your research interests. This way, they will be better able to write a more informed letter on your behalf for applications to summer research opportunities like Nakatani RIES.
Building good relationships with your professors, even as a first-semester freshman, will be very helpful to you throughout your undergraduate career. If they know you are interested in research and international opportunities, they may also keep you mind if information on other programs you are interested in come across their desk.
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. The online application and your two required letters of reference are both due on the same day!
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 stated 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.
Share this link with them: Reference Letter Submission – U.S. Fellows
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.
Do you have any other tips on preparing to apply for the Nakatani RIES Fellowship? What should I be ready to discuss if I’m invited for an interview?
The following tips have been adapted from criteria for the NSEP scholarship. These are all things you should carefully consider prior to applying and integrate, to the best of your ability, into your application essays and/or short-answer responses. The questions may also help you be better prepared if you are invited for a Skype interview.
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 research host labs that you are most interested in working with and why?
Motivation 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? Are you mentally and emotionally prepared to spend 13 weeks living and working abroad in a foreign country? You should be able to answer all of these questions prior to applying to the 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 or science 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?
Research Interest: Why would you like to do research abroad and, in particular, in Japan? Have you reviewed the websites of the potential research host labs you listed in your application? What are the key topics/areas of research conducted in this lab and why are they of interest to you? Have you reviewed the student profiles and poster/abstract of any past U.S. Fellows that have done research in these labs before? How will gaining hands-on research experience in this lab in Japan further your long-term goals?
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 to note this. 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. 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.
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: 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 not write out a long, prepared speech/remarks. Think of Skype as a phone call/conversation. Each side will ask questions and communicate back and forth. If you prepare a long, written speech/remarks and try to ‘deliver’ it via Skype you will miss out on the opportunity for discussion and engagement with the other speaker/s.
- Do prepare a list of 1 – 3 questions that you would like to ask or information you would like to know more about. In all interviews/meetings there will usually be a point where the other person/s will ask “Do you have any questions?” or “Is there anything else you would like to know more about?”. Having a list of your top/key questions prepared will help ensure you don’t forget to ask something important.
- Keep in mind how much time you have for the interview/meeting. If the Skype call is only 15 minutes long, but you give a 10 minute response to the first question you will have used up almost all of your allotted time. For example, a common first question is “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you applied to this program?”. Try to keep your answer to 1 – 3 minutes. Then, the person/s you are speaking with will ask further follow-up questions. Remember, the Skype interview/meeting is a conversation. If you give a 10-minute response in a 15-minute interview that will be a very one-sided conversation.
- Ask one question at a time. Students often try to ask multi-part questions (3 questions in one). These are difficult to fully respond to and take a long time to answer. Ask your most important question first and always ask one question at a time. If you don’t have time to ask one or two of your most important questions, you can always send a follow-up email.
- 7 Tips for Nailing a Skype Interview (Forbes)
- 7 Essential Skype Interview Tips (Top Universities)
- Ace Your Video Interview (Science)
- Video: Tips for Skype Interviewing (Curry College Center for Career Development)
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 more 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?
Yes! Each year we schedule joint U.S. and Japanese Fellows activities during the summer in Japan. Typically, there is one meet-up during the three-week orientation in Tokyo and the Japanese fellows are also invited to the Mid-Program Meeting halfway through the U.S. student’s summer program in Japan. In addition, you can meet and spend time with the Japanese Fellows who live in your host lab city or region. This is a great way to learn more about their experience as undergraduate students in Japan and also about your host city.
Rice University alumni will also have the opportunity to meet and engage with the Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows when they are at Rice from August – September. Non-Rice students can stay in contact with the Japanese Fellows while they are in the U.S. via LINE, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, etc.
However, while participants are abroad in Japan they will spend the majority of their day in their research host labs. In Japan, undergraduate students do not typically do research until their B4 (senior) year. This means that, while in the research host lab, most of your day will be spent working alongside graduate students. When you get to your host lab, you can ask your professor and mentor/s if there are any undergraduate members of the lab and if/when you can meet them.
Can I contact past Nakatani RIES Fellows?
Yes! We would be happy to put you in touch with one of our alumni. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to request to speak to an alumnus and indicate which student or what type of student (for example someone majoring in your same field) that you’d like to be connected with.
You can also review profiles of our past participants online to get a better sense of the type of research they did and their overall experience in Japan.
We also encourage interested students to post questions on our Facebook 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.
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