Last November 2nd, we, once again, had a full Halloween costume party in NAIST!
The GSK and Darts Club united this year to provide a stage where students could show off their abilities in costume play and darts. A photo booth for posing, snacks, drinks, a theme-based music playlist, and free Darts lessons! A full-fledged relaxing and fun night to (for many of us) re-use our Halloween costumes from the previous weekend 😅.
After a few opening remarks from the organizers, we enjoyed a Dart Contest with a special electronic target that would show the scores and progress on a big screen! This was a great introduction for many of us to the “301 darts game.” In this team tournament, the points awarded by every dart would be summed up until… you reach zero! Yes, for this game, you would start with a certain amount of points, and your goal would be to reach zero before the other team. Quite the particular modality that requires some strategy and communication with your partner. A close fight that resulted in a double first prize!
After the Dart Contest, the stage was reserved for a cosplay catwalk! Here, cosplayers would get up to the stage, strike a pose, and appeal with their best to the audience to gain the votes of the public. Because what is a better motivator than a well-deserved prize delivered on a stage?
With this event, once more we see these activities back after a couple of years of restrain. A nice break from our daily school activities to enjoy performing as our favorite characters and learn more about formal Darts competitions. Let’s see what brings next year!
The Nara Prefecture International Exchange Salon organized a bus tour to the Tenkawa village, which was attended by several students from various universities in Nara, including those from NAIST.
Tenkawa village is located in the Yoshino district in the south-central part of Nara Prefecture. Tenkawa village is known for its ryokan and onsen and is also home to the Omine Moutain, also known as the “Roof of the Kinki region.”
For the most curious among you, ryokan are traditional and typical inns of Japan, it is even said that they are the oldest type of hotel in the world. Onsen are Japanese thermal baths whose water comes from volcanic springs.
The first step of our journey was a visit to Ryusenji Temple. Ryusenji is a temple from the Shingon Sect of Buddhism and is one of the five temples that protect Mt. Omine taking turns holding opening and closing ceremonies for the temple at the top of Mt. Omine. At this temple, we were taught the importance of entering through the torii gates while avoiding passing through the center of the gate, as the center is considered the path of entry for the deities themselves. After entering, a purification rite called “chouzu/temizu” was performed, and we were able to visit the temple and explore its beauty, as well as observe the prayer practices of the worshippers.
Once the temple visit was completed, we made our way to the village of Tenkawa. From there, we were able to access the Karigane Suspension Bridge, which connects Mount Ohara to the fir forest that stretches behind Ryusen-ji Temple. The name “Karigane” was chosen to express the desire to protect nature in this area. After crossing the bridge, we reached Ohara viewpoint, from which we could admire the Dorogawa River and its surroundings.
It was a beautiful experience to delve into Japanese history and traditions through this immersive journey. We hope to be able to participate in other immersive events like this one.
Kundjanasith Thonglek or “Tem”, as he is fondly known, is not your average doctoral student. With a passion for robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), he carves his path toward making significant strides in technology and education. Let’s delve into Tem’s remarkable journey.
The NAIST Opportunity: A Turning Point
Tem’s fascination with robotics began in his high school years. This profound interest would lead him down a remarkable path in the world of technology. During his undergraduate studies at Kasetsart University, Tem was introduced to a pivotal opportunity through his previous supervisor. He attended the Pragma workshop at Kasetsart University that unveiled the enticing prospect of an internship at the prestigious Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST). This experience was pivotal as it exposed him to the academic environment, introduced him to inspiring mentors (or ‘sensei’ in Japanese), and immersed him in the rich tapestry of Japanese culture.
Pragma workshop in 2016Tem’s NAIST internship in 2017
A Scholar’s Odyssey: From Bachelor’s to Doctorate
His academic voyage continued as he embarked on his master’s degree, financially supported by the esteemed MEXT Scholarship, which he received by the recommendation of his university. Specializing in Information Science at NAIST, he aimed to understand the dynamics of resource utilization, primarily for high performance computing, and fostered an unshakable belief in the potential of AI technology and data privacy.
Tem’s academic career reached new heights during his doctorate studies. Initially, he was granted the MEXT Scholarship during his first year, a testament to his dedication and academic prowess. In the second year, his journey took an exciting turn as he secured the prestigious JSPS scholarship.
A Passion for Robotics from High School to PhD
From an early age, Tem harbored a fascination with robotics, particularly in the domain of underwater robotics. His pioneering work involved the development of robots designed for energy and industrial applications, such as inspecting pipelines beneath the ocean, eliminating the need for human intervention. His pursuit of making robots smarter with AI led him to recognize the importance of data and high-performance computing.
During his master’s program, Tem focused on resource utilization for high computing and developed a profound faith in the capabilities of AI while remaining committed to the principles of data privacy.
Tem’s Masters graduation at the Nara Institute of Science and TechnologyTem’s Masters graduation at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology
The crux of Tem’s doctoral research lies in creating an infrastructure to surmount the data privacy challenges that act as barriers to AI development. He delved into machine learning models, dataset security, and model architecture. His innovative approach involved using GitHub and DockerHub as a means to eliminate the need for sharing data storage and training. Tem’s work takes on an added significance as it aligns with the global trend of federated learning, a machine learning technique aimed at training models without the necessity of sharing datasets.
LiberatAI: A Vision of Global Significance
While working on his doctorate, Tem was involved in a groundbreaking project – ‘LiberatAI.’ The core of this initiative is to make AI technology more accessible to people worldwide. The driving idea of this project is to transfer models rather than the traditional method of sharing data. The main challenge is shifting the training process from the server side to the client side while addressing the limitations of each client.
A Visionary with Goals
In addition to his academic pursuits, Tem’s role as the President of the Thai Students Association in Kansai underscores his leadership skills and commitment to promoting cultural exchange.
Tem with the NAIST Thai communityTem leading the Thai Students Association (Kansai Chapter)
Tem’s goals are not limited to personal achievements. His immediate aim is to gain experience and build networks in Japan that he can bring back to Thailand, where he hopes to address the challenges of education. His dream is to ‘liberate education,’ and his vision is nothing short of revolutionary.
Tem’s journey so far has been remarkable, and his dedication to robotics, AI, and global education is a testament to the potential of young scholars and their capacity to make a lasting impact. With his dreams firmly rooted in academia, Tem aspires to become a professor, bridging the gap between advanced technology and accessible education.
And now, as a specially appointed assistant professor at the Applied Information Systems Research Division, Cybermedia Center, Osaka University, Tem’s journey continues to evolve and inspire. In a world where innovation and education are paramount, Tem’s story serves as an inspiration for the young and a reminder that passion, dedication, and the pursuit of knowledge can lead to groundbreaking achievements.
Last 27 July 2023, students from Shijonawate High School (SHS) had the opportunity to present their research to NAIST students and staff. This opportunity provided them with insight and experience on what it’s like to present in an academic setting. It is a peek at what the future might have in store for them should they continue the academic research path. The students also had the opportunity of visiting some of the labs here at NAIST where they can get a close look at the daily activities of the students as well as the professors.
Prior to the presentation, student volunteers from NAIST offered to help the SHS students rehearse their presentations. NAIST students gave feedback on how the presentations could be improved and tips on how to make presenting easier. The NAIST volunteers also gave possible questions that may come up during the actual presentation. This was the first time for the SHS students to present to an academic audience, and it was a great experience in developing their communication skills.
On the day of the presentation, the NAIST student volunteers as well as other students and staff went to Kenshu Hall to hear the SHS students’ presentations. It was treated as an academic presentation and members of the audience were free to ask questions and give feedback. There was a wide variety of research topics tackled by the students aiming to explore new technology and address existing problems here in Japan. Some groups focused on the practical application of technology, such as demonstrating the utilization of quantum computers for workshift scheduling or analyzing classroom CO2 levels to study their correlation with classroom drowsiness. Other groups delved into the realm of chemistry, exploring biodegradable alternatives to plastics by strengthening casein plastic with additives and creating safe and natural pesticides from plant emulsions for agricultural use.
This event was a mutual exchange between people years deep into the life of academic research and budding scientists and researchers – each inspiring the other and showing promising possibilities and exciting potential. This event was a remarkable outreach to the future generations of world-changing researchers.
In a fusion of tradition and innovation, the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) hosted a captivating Nagashi Somen festival on July 13, 2023. Organized by the NAIST Center for International Students and Scholars (CISS), this unique event brought together the NAIST community for a day of joyful indulgence and cultural celebration.
Nagashi Somen, a traditional Japanese summer activity, took center stage as participants engaged in the art of catching flowing somen noodles along a bamboo pipe. Against the backdrop of NAIST’s lush campus, a long bamboo flume was set up, resembling a whimsical waterslide. The bamboo was cut from one of the NAIST staff’s garden, Mr. Robert King, and students helped assemble the bamboo slide.
The heart of the festival lay in the flowing water, which serenaded the bamboo flume, mimicking a stream. Those thin, delightful strands of somen noodles danced along this waterway, creating an edible adventure. Laughter and cheers filled the air as attendees harnessed their chopstick skills to capture the swift-flowing noodles.
Fresh tomatoes and sweet jelly were also run through the stream alongside the noodles. Participants held bowls of delectable dipping sauce to add an extra depth of flavor to their captured noodle treasures. A symphony of food, music, and flavors wove together to create an unforgettable experience on campus.
Organizers noted that the event was not only about savoring noodles but also about fostering a sense of camaraderie and a friendly campus environment. Participants, which included students, staff, and faculty members, vied to catch the most somen noodles, adding an element of lighthearted rivalry.
The Nagashi Somen festival provided more than just a culinary experience. It showcased the power of community, tradition, and cross-cultural connections. As attendees celebrated this age-old tradition, they forged new bonds and shared smiles, regardless of their cultural backgrounds.
“While Nagashi Somen is a traditional Japanese event, even Japanese aren’t accustomed to cutting and splitting bamboo to make the flume, so both Japanese and international students were able to have a unique experience as they worked together,” remarked Mr. King. “Students were able to meet new people and developed ties as they discussed how to proceed, assigned tasks, and interacted to fine-tune their set-up, similar to a hands-on project-based learning class. We hope to see even more students next year!”
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the Nagashi Somen festival at NAIST concluded with hearts full of delight and stomachs full of noodles. With chopsticks in hand and laughter in the air, the NAIST community showed once again that innovation and tradition can beautifully intertwine, creating moments of bliss.
The Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) is renowned for its cutting-edge research and innovation in the field of science and technology. Situated in the historic city of Nara, NAIST offers a unique blend of academic excellence and a vibrant cultural environment. The Nagashi Somen festival was a testament to NAIST’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community.
NAIST Center for International Students and Scholars
Visit NAIST’s official website for more information on upcoming events and activities: https://www.naist.jp/en/
On the bright 9th of June, the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) campus came alive with excitement as students gathered for the much-awaited Sports Day. This event marked a significant milestone, being the first student-led campus-wide sports activity since the COVID-19 pandemic. But of course, this event would not be possible without the support and guidance of the Center for International Students and Scholars and the members of the NAIST Global Students Network (GSK).
NAIST GSK and representatives from the CISS
With the belief that physical and mental health are interconnected, the event aimed to promote the well-being of its researchers through a series of engaging team-building activities. Sports Day emphasized the importance of maintaining a sound body and mind for the overall growth and success of its students. With the demanding nature of research work, it was an opportunity for students to relax and enjoy while engaging in activities that would exercise both their bodies and brains.
The NAIST Soccer Field served as the vibrant backdrop for Sports Day, radiating a sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie. The events featured three engaging team-building activities, each catering to a specific aspect of personal development. The first activity, “Capture the Flag,” focused on speed and agility. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rush as they raced across the arena, strategizing and dodging water splatters to reach the enemy’s base.
Teamwork makes the dream work. Move fast and help your team.
The second activity, “Tug of War,” not only tested participants’ strength and perseverance but also highlighted the importance of teamwork and synchronization. Students gathered in teams, gripping tightly onto the rope, as they pulled with all their might, fostering a spirit of unity and cooperation.
1, 2, PULL!!!
The final activity, “Scavenger Hunt,” stimulated participants’ mental abilities and problem-solving skills. The entire NAIST campus became a playground as students embarked on a thrilling hunt for hidden stickers. Puzzling pictures were posted on the NAIST GSK Twitter account, and participants raced against time to decipher the clues and locate the stickers’ whereabouts.
Look carefully, the stickers might be closer than you think.
This event brought the student community together, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Participants displayed remarkable enthusiasm and sportsmanship, cheering on their fellow teammates and opponents alike. The event provided a platform for students to take a break from their academic pursuits and engage in healthy competition, recharging their minds and bodies.
The NAIST Sports Day 2023 successfully exemplified the institution’s commitment to outgrowing limits. By emphasizing the relationship between physical and mental health, NAIST provided its students with a platform to exercise their bodies, stimulate their minds, and strengthen their social bonds. This remarkable event showcased the resilience and unity of the NAIST community.
As the sun set on the NAIST Sports Day 2023, participants carried with them memories of teamwork, friendship, and the shared joy of being part of the NAIST community.
Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Christianity, and it has also been adopted by other cultures worldwide — including Japan. Historically, over 2000 years ago, a new star appeared in the sky and lightened the way of people to Vifleem/Bethlehem to come and meet their Saver and Missiya/Messiah. Among one of the first visitors of a newborn baby were three wise men. They traveled a long way from the Far East as they expected this event. They brought to Jesus three presents – gold, frankincense, and Mirra. Since then, giving presents on Christmas has had a very special meaning.
Even though Christianity is not popular religion in Japan, people still like to enjoy Christmas and have fun. The GSK Association of NAIST students decided to celebrate Christmas with our precious staff members from various departments. Christmas presents were given to the staff across campus as a sign of appreciation for their service and hard work for the students.
Gift wrapping the Christmas presents
The journey began by visiting the offices of three academic divisions of NAIST: Biological Science, Information Science, and Material Science. These divisions play a crucial role in supporting student and faculty members in their research endeavors, producing significant academic breakthroughs. Additionally, they provide invaluable assistance to students, guiding them through their studies and offering support on various matters. After spreading joy in these divisions, the students continued to share presents with other NAIST offices and facilities.
The students went to the office of Biological Sciences and thanked them for their hard work.Merry Christmas to the Information Science Office!Season’s greetings to the Materials Science office
These offices include the International Affairs Office, which serves as an essential cornerstone for foreign students studying in Japan. Their tireless efforts contribute to creating a welcoming environment and helping students integrate seamlessly into the NAIST community. The Career Services office also deserves special mention, as they guide and support students in their pursuit of future job opportunities in prestigious companies and universities after their time at NAIST. The Student Affairs section plays a vital role in enhancing the overall campus experience, providing valuable resources and support for students’ daily lives. Moreover, the Planning and General Affairs division assists students with research administration, ensuring the smooth progress of their academic pursuits. Even the Health Care Center, always ready to provide medical care and support during times of illness or injury, deserves our gratitude. Finally, the students also thanked the cafeteria (shokudo) and convenience store (konbini), who cook and sell food and essential daily items that are readily available to sustain us.
Wishing the International Students Affairs Section a Merry ChristmasBringing the Christmas spirit to the Career Services OfficeGiving thanks to the Planning and General Affairs DivisionGiving gratitude to the Health Care Center for caring for us when sick/injured.Sending thanks to the NAIST shokudo (cafeteria) and konbini (convenience store)Thanking the Student Affairs office
As students of NAIST, represented by the NAIST GSK Committee, we are immensely thankful for the outstanding services and unwavering support provided by the NAIST faculty, staff, and administration. Through this Christmas gift-giving mission, we aimed to express our deep gratitude and spread joy throughout the campus. The spirit of Christmas embodies the values of love, appreciation, and togetherness, and we are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful season with our NAIST community. May the warmth and happiness of this festive season continue to brighten our lives throughout the year.
Taking a break from research and being surrounded by computers and lab equipment, international students were able to spend one morning around Takayama Chikurin-en (https://www.tikurinen.jp/) to experience planting rice and preparing matcha. This event was organized by NAIST and Ikoma City. We were able to talk with the citizens of Ikoma and even had the opportunity to meet the mayor!
NAIST provided us with gloves, socks, and a towel for the event (thank you!), and we got down in the mud to start planting. Farmers showed us the proper way to grab the seedlings and put them in the ground. It was a relaxing experience for some, but others were a bit more competitive and wanted to finish; I didn’t finish, though.
Photos from NAIST Staff
Our time was up, and most of us were not able to finish our lanes. Fortunately, they had tractors that could finish much faster than us (glad to see how modernized the agricultural sector had become). We washed up and headed towards Takayama Chikurin-en for a brief tour and to learn about preparing matcha. The staff showed us the proper way to prepare matcha using 茶筌 (chasen). I didn’t know it would be so tiring to whisk tea, but it was the proper way to do it.
We ended the event by talking with Ikoma citizens, fellow students, and NAIST staff and taking photos together in on the open yard. It was nice to spend time in the rice fields and take a break from research and the big cities like Osaka. It was also a great opportunity to meet locals and new friends; they were also very eager to meet international students living in the city!
Amidst the peaceful quiet of NAIST, there are times you can hear the sounds of joyous cheers and balls bouncing on concrete. On these nights, you can trace the sound to the multipurpose outdoor court of NAIST. Upon looking, you may see several people from different countries and continents come together to enjoy a game of volleyball (and other sports). This is volleyball night and everyone is welcome here to come and join.
Welcome to the NAIST Sports Club
Volleyball in action
Established in the spring of 2022, the NAIST Sports Club has evolved into a regular weekly session of destress, rest, and relaxation. Though some would argue that playing volleyball for over 3 hours is not rest; it is definitely a much sought-after break from research and work.
What started off as a purely casual game for beginners, volleyball night has transformed into a fun competitive match between friends with moments straight out of the manga Haikyuu. At first, people didn’t even know how to receive the ball properly. A mixture of different hand gestures and positions were used to play volleyball; sometimes even feet were preferred. “It didn’t look like volleyball at the start,” says Maria from Colombia, “but eventually people started learning.” True enough, rallies became longer and matches became more intense. Despite that, funny flops and hilarious moments are still a natural occurrence. “Though we’re improving a lot, beginners are still welcome and we still make a lot of mistakes that we just laugh about.”
Not even storms and rain can stop people from playing. On several occasions, the players would continue forth and enjoy the game under the rain. “It’s a perfect way to cool off during the summer,” says Aimé from France.
Storms can’t stop us!
Since only one volleyball court is available and only a limited number of people can play at once, others also play various sports while waiting. You can see people playing basketball or soccer on the sidelines while waiting for their turn. Thus, even though some aren’t too good at volleyball, they can still enjoy other sports or also talk to people on the side.
Playing other sports on the sidelines
“It really brings people together,” says Kostja from Russia. At NAIST where often it becomes too quiet and isolating, volleyball night allows students to get together and have some fun. “I met my friends at NAIST because of volleyball. Despite it not being an official club, it’s the biggest and most popular one in NAIST.”
“As an internship student, volleyball club was the perfect opportunity to make friends at NAIST,” shared Berat from Turkey. “The club welcomes players regardless of their experience and everyone is always happy to share their knowledge.”
The NAIST Sports Club (est. 2022)
“The best decision in my entire time in Japan!” exclaimed Daniel from Germany. “Everyone here is the same, no matter where you are from, no matter what gender, no matter how good at volleyball. Having fun together is what counts.”
Indeed, no matter the season, weather, or temperature, students from all over NAIST come together to enjoy a game of volleyball and play some sports. It’s definitely one of the things people look forward to during the week.
(All NAIST members are free to join volleyball every Tuesday and Thursday from 7pm)
Truly understanding the brain remains to be one of the biggest problems in modern science. It is so interesting because solving this is not only technically challenging but also deeply personal. We humans are innately curious as to how things work and continuously learn and update our models about the world, yet the organ that gives us these amazing abilities is itself poorly understood. This is what pulled me to study the brain and behavior and to become an aspiring neuroscientist and neuroengineer.
The University of Bordeaux, France
Thus, amidst the global pandemic, I was determined to learn more about neuroscience. I searched online for hands-on neuroscience training courses, and found that the CAJAL Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme was an excellent opportunity. A year before the course started, I applied to the program, but I still had to find additional funding to support my travel. Fortuitously, I received an email from the Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) in partnership with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) about a travel grant to which I immediately applied. Thankfully I was accepted to both the CAJAL course and the JNS-FENS grant, but the coronavirus would end up delaying the course. Despite this, I was glad that the training would still be pushing through live, because I knew learning hands-on would be much better.
The Bordeaux Neurocampus
And I was proven right. Against all odds of travel restrictions and visa requirements, attending the CAJAL Course on Optogenetics, Chemogenetics, and Biosensors for Cellular and Circuit Neuroscience (OCBCCN) in-person was an unforgettable experience that helped me learn both broad and deep knowledge in the latest techniques for studying neurons and the brain. Furthermore, being in the Bordeaux School of Neuroscience, surrounded by facilities and people dedicated to neuroscience, was a refreshing atmosphere for me. The course directors, lecturers, and instructors were very welcoming. They facilitated interesting discussions and organized challenging projects. The students and participants were all very friendly and eager to learn. Overall, the environment was that of open-discussion and freedom to ask any questions.
At first, we introduced ourselves and our research in an oral presentation. Then we had a poster session over beers and pizza. The casual atmosphere helped break the ice and encouraged lively conversations about science. We were 20 students from around the world, and I was the only one from East and Southeast Asia. Throughout the course we would receive excellent lectures from the leading experts in the field – most of whom also attended live to have opportunities for in-depth discussions. We were taught the latest developments in optogenetics, biosensors, and optical technology applied to calcium or voltage imaging, optical neuromodulation, behavioral analysis, and many other interesting topics. I met the people whom I read from in journals, which was quite astounding. It was incredible that I could participate in scientific discussions and casual conversations with world-class neuroscientists and neuroengineers.
Research presentation at the CAJAL OCBCCN 2021
I also participated in 2 different hands-on projects. The first was on multi-color fiber photometry in freely-behaving animals, and the second was on ultrafast two-photon voltage imaging in vivo. These two projects were some of the most cutting-edge techniques being used in neuroscience today. It was such a great learning experience because I was able to see the entire workflow of doing such experiments. They also taught us some additional tips and tricks, and I learned even more from performing the experiments hands-on. Since the experts were right beside me, it was very easy to get feedback and learn in the process of working. First-hand experience with the techniques allowed me to see the minute details and challenges from setting-up the experiments up until analyzing the data. We also presented our projects and results to get helpful advice and further insight from the audience.
CAJAL Research projects: (Left) Brain slicing after dual-color fiber photometry. (Right) Voltage imaging of the L1 visual cortex.
Every day – from 9 am to 9 pm – we would spend time in the university for lectures and experiments, and so projects that would take several months were accomplished in less than a month. It was a very productive 3 weeks indeed, but we made sure to balance this with some fun as well. We only had 3 days of free time, so we used this to see the beautiful city of Bordeaux and its nearby towns. I was able to visit some historical monuments, city markets, and a light show museum. The food and drinks were wonderful, and even better was the camaraderie we formed.
Scenic spots in the city: Bordeaux Cathedral, Place de la Bourse, Porte Cailhau (Left to right)
Given more time, I’m sure there was a lot more to learn and experience, but even so, the duration of the course was very well-utilized and already jampacked with great learnings and fun experiences. Near the end of the course, I remember feeling very accomplished because I was able to learn so many new things and meet new people. The course made me more eager to continue my PhD research once I got back to NAIST, and it allowed me to gain connections that may help in the future, especially when facing difficulties with my own project.
CAJAL Course directors, instructors, and students
I am very thankful to the CAJAL course organizers, directors, lecturers, instructors, and fellow students for the magnificent experience. I would also like to thank the JNS-FENS committee for helping me fund this once in a lifetime opportunity, and more importantly, for promoting international exchange. I would definitely recommend fellow neuroscientists to take this opportunity.
This experience would not have been possible without NAIST’s mission to train global researchers. I extend my deepest gratitude to NAIST, my laboratory, my sensei and staff for all the support and care they gave during this experience. I am sure my experience in CAJAL would help me, not only in my PhD, but also in my overarching goal of truly understanding the brain. This was a great opportunity for me to “Outgrow my limits”.