Category Archives: International

Internship in Slovenian Summer

As NAIST stands by its mantra of “Outgrow Your Limits”, it continues to branch out and reach different parts of the world with research collaborations with many universities. With a new connection to Slovenia, I am very grateful to experience a three-month internship there.

Imagine walking along the promenade 5 minutes away from where you conduct research!

At the tip of Slovenian coastal border along the Adriatic Sea, lies the old city of Koper. At its heart is the University of Primorska, comprised of re-purposed structures like the city post office building and a government office built from the time when the area was still part of the Venetian empire. While the exterior is a testament to Koper’s rich history, the interior is keeping up with the technological state-of-the-art.

At the basement floor of the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Information Technologies, are makerspace and experiment rooms of the HICUP Lab (Humans Interacting with Computers at University of Primorska Laboratory, for long). Lucky to be in a lab with the latest and coolest in tech, I got to try out among many: wood laser engraving machines (fun fact: Slovenia is 60% forest!), eye trackers, head mounted displays, optical tracking systems.

This HTC Vive headset is very cool because it has Tobii Eye Tracking inside it.
The red thing behind me is the laser engraving machine.

The lab is co-directed by Assistant Lecturers Matjaž Kljun and Klen Čopič Pucihar, who were visiting researchers at the Interactive Media Design (IMD) Laboratory in NAIST from two years earlier. Throughout our internship, they discussed research ideas with me and Title, who is also a PhD student in IMD Lab.

I worked on two projects during my stay. One was about comparing a printed blueprint versus a desktop application versus a virtual reality experience for architectural plans. The other one is a project-in-progress about gauging audience emotions based on on-screen cues for theater plays or movies.

“Blueprint”-outs of a project I worked on in HICUP Lab

I’m very happy to have been given this opportunity to reflect on my current research direction and receive advice and feedback from experts in the area. In both IMD Lab and HICUP Lab, augmented reality and English are the main languages spoken–so it was an easy transition. The HICUP lab is also a diverse group, having members from Mexico, Sri Lanka, and France!

HICUP Lab, April 2019. I used to joke that us students belong to the “Association of Beach Nations”.

I had my worries before going for this internship, but it was actually just very pleasant. A Slovenian summer next to the Adriatic Sea offered some windy days and less humid atmosphere than what I usually have. Students had access to discount cards for nearby restaurants. The usual meals that cost €8 (¥940 as of this writing) were reduced to €3 (¥352)–a whopping 60% discount! The campus and our accommodations were by the coastline, so the walks and commute were leisurely, while the sunset sky were something to watch out for daily.

… or if not sunsets, how about the glacial waters of Lake Bohinj, going from turquoise to teal?

At the end of the internship, I came back to NAIST with many great memories of summer, plus a cool collaborative project that I will continue working on with people from thousands of kilometers away.

A Trip Back to Ancient Japan: Tamba Sasayama International Students Excursion

Old and new NAIST international students were in for a treat as the International Student Affairs brought them to Tamba-Sasayama, an old castle town located in the heart of Hyogo, on May 12, 2019. A group of 41 eager students, from all three divisions of NAIST, joins us today! The event opens with soba-making lessons, followed by a refreshing afternoon walk around the garden, all conveniently located at Eitakuji.

We tried our hand at soba-making at Eitakuji Soba Dojo, under the guidance of a master soba maker. We were taught that traditional soba-making follows a rigorous procedure, which can be categorized into three major steps: (1) dough-making (水回し, mizumawashi), (2) flattening (丸出し, marudashi), and (3) cutting (切り, kiri).

Step 1: mizumawashi — thoroughly mixing buckwheat flour and water to make a dough.
Step 2: marudashi — rolling out the dough to make a large thin sheet.
Step 3: kiri – cutting the sheet evenly into thin soba noodles.

As a reward for our hard work, for making fresh soba from scratch–a hearty soba and tempura lunch!

Students enjoying the soba that they have just made themselves, along with some tempura and rice.

After lunch time, the group then went to the Sasayama Castle Great Lecture Hall (篠山城大書院), which is said to be comparable to Kyoto’s Nijo castle in terms of architecture. It was built on the orders of the 16th century shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Inside the structure are replicas of samurai armor, which are said to weigh around ten kilos each. Although this already sounds heavy, the original ones used in the ancient times are believed to be twice or thrice this weight.

Samurai armor replicas displayed in the Sasayama Castle Oshoin.

Following this is a stroll around the Aoyama Historical Village. Housed in this area is the Tamba Sasayama Dekansho Museum, where students got to enjoy a VR experience featuring a dance to the “Tamba Sasayama Dekansho Song – The Memory of One’s Home Sung with Folk Song,” which became a heritage of Japan in April 2015.

An attendee tests out the VR experience at the museum.

The last stop was the Samurai Residence Anma Family Historical Archive Hall, where the participants took a glimpse of a samurai’s humble abode. Descendants of the samurai are said to still reside in some of the houses within the vicinity.

An old samurai head gear displayed at the Samurai Residence Anma Family Historical Archive Hall.

To cap off the informative and enjoyable excursion, the students enjoyed some ice cream made from the popular Tamba Sasayama black soybeans.

Tamba Sasayama black soybean ice cream being enjoyed by the students.

This excursion is one of the many activities organized by the International Student Affairs for the NAIST international students. Such activities are aimed towards promoting camaraderie among international students while deepening their knowledge of the Japanese culture. Come join us next time!

NAIST Materials Science Study Abroad Program for Doctoral Students

The Division of Materials Science (DMS) of NAIST provides its students with excellent opportunities to experience research culture and practices outside Japan through the Study Abroad Program, more commonly referred to as a lab stay.

University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu campus, on a beautiful sunny winter day!

Doctoral students from the DMS are required to earn credits under the set of courses called Internationalization Subjects. Two of the most commonly taken subjects are the Practical English for Materials Science (UC Davis English Program) and the International Internship. Students who participate in the lab stay program earn two credits under the International Internship subject. Many students, however, opt to do both, first participating in the UC Davis English Program then proceeding with the lab stay. The latter functions as a training ground for new English communication skills acquired in the previous program.

Magical landscape created by the sun, the leafless trees, and thick sheets of snow that definitely makes you feel like you’re in Finland!

In preparation for the lab stay program, a student can either choose to go to NAIST Academic Partners or look for another university, depending on the compatibility of one’s research topic with the hosting institute. NAIST has more than a hundred academic exchange agreements with foreign universities and research institutes spread over multiple countries.

Communication with a potential supervisor can be established by the laboratory supervisor (at NAIST) or the student himself. Through this, a potential research topic can be discussed and necessary arrangements such as invitation letter, hosting agreement, student housing, etc can be made. Visa application may be necessary depending on the student’s nationality and the country of destination. Moreover, scholars would be delighted to know that NAIST covers most of the major expenses, such as the airfare, visa-related fees, and an accommodation subsidy. A comprehensive overseas travel insurance is also provided by NAIST to ensure the safety of the students during the entire lab stay program.

Joensuu City Theater, located in the city center, was built in the National Romantic style of architecture that flourished in the Nordic countries in the late 19th century.

I spent my two-month lab stay at the Institute of Photonics, Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in Joensuu, Finland. My host supervisor was Assoc. Prof. Matthieu Roussey, the team leader of the Integrated Optics Group. Under his guidance, I worked on an interesting topic: slot waveguide integration of Bloch surface wave platforms. It was a productive and enjoyable two-month stay within Prof. Roussey’s group.

The snow-covered path that I take to get to the UEF campus everyday!

Last year, two other students from my laboratory joined the lab stay program. Christian Mark Pelicano spent two months at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany while Keisuke Yano worked under the Department of Physics, University of Cagliari in Italy.

It snowed almost everyday in my two-month stay in Joensuu.
The temperature ranged from 0°C to -24°C.

Indeed, more and more students each year are opting to go on a lab stay because of the tremendous opportunities it opens. It can definitely further one’s research and allows one to build a network for collaborative research work. I was blessed to have an open-minded and optimistic host supervisor who saw my research visit in his group as a starting point for further collaboration between NAIST and UEF.

Helsinki Cathedral. Probably the most iconic landmark in Finland.

Apart from the research aspect, the lab stay program is also an amazing opportunity to explore another country. During my stay in Finland, I was able to visit Helsinki and other major cities and learn more about Finnish culture and history. Immersing in a new culture, meeting people with different beliefs and customs, and interacting with a totally different society is a rewarding and humanizing experience. As student-researchers, this allows us to see better the world that we are trying to improve with our individual research, whether it be in physics, chemistry, or engineering.

Clock tower of the Helsinki Central Station, the main transportation hub in Finland.

Learning English at UC Davis

From January 7 to February 2, 2019, some doctoral course students from the Division of Materials Science of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology went to University of California Davis (UC Davis) to participate in the “NAIST Materials Science English and Science Program.” The main goal of this program is to hone the English communication skills of the NAIST students, specifically for oral scientific presentations.

NAIST Materials Science students who participated in the UC Davis-NAIST English and Science Program.

Under the Division of Continuing and Professional Education of UC Davis, the four-week program includes four classes taught by UC Davis faculty – Professional Presentation Workshop (Destiny Davis), Public Speaking Skills (Ellen Lange), Listening and Pronunciation (Angela Foin) and Hot Topics in Science and Technology (Suzanne Bardasz). In some of these classes, UC Davis students were also invited to join as student conversation partners, to allow the NAIST students to mingle with native-speaking students. At the end of the program, a mini-symposium showcasing the research of the students was held, where they were given an opportunity to apply what they have learned for the month-long training, through oral presentations.

Xudongfang Wang from Information Device Science Laboratory gives an oral presentation as a final requirement for the course.
Yasumichi Takase from Complex Molecular Science Laboratory is happy to receive his certificate of completion.

The students also had a great immersion experience even outside of class. Throughout their stay, all of the students lived with host families, so they were given a lot of opportunities to speak in English— not only for scientific purposes, but also in casual settings. During weekends, the students did not forget to have fun by touring around California. They visited famous tourist attractions such as Yosemite, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Lake Tahoe.

The NAIST group at Yosemite, one of the most popular tourist attraction sites in Northern California.
The NAIST students take a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

This NAIST-UC Davis partnership program is held annually as part of the doctoral course curriculum of the Division of Materials Science. Year after year, it helps the NAIST students not only to improve their oral presentation skills in English, but also their ability to engage in scientific and casual discussions.

Nanomagnetism and Beyond: The 405th Photonic Nanoscience Special Lecture

Materials Science is inherently an interdisciplinary field. It combines theories, principles, and techniques in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Engineering to design and fabricate new and novel materials, structures, and systems and to study the behavior and dynamics of devices made up of these various material components. Continue reading Nanomagnetism and Beyond: The 405th Photonic Nanoscience Special Lecture

Not Your Ordinary Afternoon Break: NAIST Tea Time #15

At NAIST, the Victorian tradition of afternoon tea time has taken on a different meaning and purpose.  Unlike the conventional scones, biscuits, or cakes, this Tea Time includes some light snacks from different parts of the world.

Continue reading Not Your Ordinary Afternoon Break: NAIST Tea Time #15