NanoJapan: IREU

NanoJapan IREU: International Research Experience for Undergraduates (2006 – 2015)

The NanoJapan Program was a 12-week, summer research internship focusing on Terahertz (THz) Dynamics in Nanostructures that is open to freshman and sophomore engineering and physics students from universities nationwide. Generously supported by an NSF Partnerships for International Research & Education (NSF-PIRE) grant, this summer program seeks to cultivate interest in nanotechnology among young U.S. undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups, and encourages such students to pursue graduate study and academic research in the physical sciences. To be eligible students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents an each year up to 12 students will be selected to participate.

Our program design, combining the best aspects of a traditional study abroad experience with intensive nanotechnology research internships, has been nationally recognized as an innovative and effective model for international STEM programs. In 2012, NanoJapan was profiled in a National Academy of Engineering Report on “Infusing Real World Experience into Engineering Education” (see pg. 33) and in 2008 NanoJapan received the IIE Heiskell Award as a ‘Best Practice in Study Abroad’ for expanding opportunities for STEM students.

Program Design

Pre-departure Orientation at Rice University
1 day, mid-May

This workshop provided an overview of the summer program, including expectations for working in Japanese research labs and dealing with cultural differences. The pre-departure program will be held at Rice University the day immediately prior to departure for Japan.

Orientation Program in Tokyo
3 weeks, mid-May to early June

The NanoJapan Orientation Program was designed to introduce students to THz and nanoscale science research and the competencies required to work successfully in the global research community. The orientation program also provided students with a solid foundation in basic language and intercultural skills that they can then build upon during the research internship period.

The three-week orientation program consisted of three short courses including:

  • Introduction to THz Dynamics in Nanostructures Seminar: U.S. and Japanese TeraNano PIRE researchers presented introductory lectures on topics related to terahertz dynamics of nanostructures research.
  • Intensive Japanese Language Seminar: Students completed 45 hours of intensive Japanese language classes at both the beginning and intermediate/advanced level. Students also completed modules on Technical Japanese that stress basic vocabulary and Japanese characters associated with laboratory environments, especially as related to lab safety.
  • Introduction to Japanese Culture & Society Seminar: This seminar aimed to provide students with an introduction to Japanese culture, society, and history through guest lectures and company site visits.

International Research Experience
8 weeks, June-July

Participants were placed in Japanese labs and matched with an English-speaking Japanese research mentor as a member of an International Research Team (IRT). Projects were arranged by PI Kono and other TeraNano research leaders in consultation with the Japanese research hosts. NanoJapan IREU projects directly related to the study of terahertz (THz) dynamics in semiconductors, THz dynamics in carbon nanotubes, and THz dynamics in graphene.

The Japanese host labs were selected for their willingness to mentor a young undergraduate student, compatibility of research with TeraNano PIRE research projects, and a desire to increase the international diversity and intercultural competencies of Japanese group members by providing them with an opportunity to work with an American undergraduate.

The IRE:

  • Provided students with hands-on experience with THz-related research in the field of nanotechnology;
  • Enabled students to collaborate in an international research effort;
  • Enabled students to improve their language skills;
  • Raised the profile of collaborations between U.S. and Japanese TeraNano PIRE collaborating institutions.

Mid-Program Meeting
3 days, mid-July

Held in Okinawa at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, this meeting provided an opportunity for the NanoJapan program to address any research or cultural issues that may have arisen during the first half of the IRE. The group setting allowed NanoJapan students to reflect on their experiences in the lab and share tips with their fellow students on best practices for working in a Japanese research lab. Students also toured OIST’s cutting edge research facilitates and had opportunities to engage with OIST graduate students from around the world.

Immediately prior to or following the Mid-Program Meeting Prof. Kono and the Education Team conducted site visits to each research host lab to meet with the Japanese research professor and NanoJapan student/s to assess individual student research progress and integration into the research lab.

Re-entry Program & RQI Summer Research Colloquium
3 days, early August

The capstone experience of NanoJapan wasa poster presentation at the Rice Quantum Institute (RQI) Summer Research Colloquium, which highlights the best of undergraduate and graduate research in areas relating to quantum phenomena. This symposium also included a re-entry program for NanoJapan students that addressed professional development including communication and presentation skills workshops, resume and interview workshops, a seminar on integrating their international experience into future academic and career plans, and a seminar highlighting further opportunities for international study and research for STEM students

NanoJapan Alumni Follow-on Project

All participants in the NanoJapan IREU were required to carry out a follow-on project at their home university or in their local/home community that encouraged other students to pursue STEM study and research and/or international research and study opportunities at the undergraduate or graduate level. Students were strongly encouraged to develop projects to be implemented in local middle schools or high schools, encouraging young students to pursue higher education in STEM fields.