Grant awarded to Southeastern to encourage student research in Japan
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – A three-year, $111,208 grant from the National Science Foundation has been awarded to Southeastern Louisiana University to facilitate student experimental research in physics in Tokyo, Japan.
The grant will allow undergraduate and graduate students to spend seven weeks over the summer at Tokyo Denki University (TDU), where they will be involved in material science research projects, as well as meet with scientists at national laboratories and industries in Japan, said Sanichiro Yoshida, Southeastern Alumni Association endowed professor of physics and recipient of the grant.
The students initially will be recruited from Southeastern with the possibility of expanding offers to students from other southern state institutions.
Yoshida said students will be selected based upon their motivation, a written application, letters of recommendation, grade point average, and an interview by a Southeastern search committee. Students selected for the program will receive a weeklong training at Southeastern before leaving for Japan, where they will conduct research on a campus of TDU, participate in tours of research and industrial centers, and participate in the country’s cultural activities. Upon their return to the United States, they will be expected to make a presentation on their research and prepare a written report.
Southeastern already has an existing collaborative arrangement between the TDU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Southeastern’s Department of Chemistry and Physics.
The scientific objective of the collaboration is to further study and characterize the mechanical properties of materials at various forms of deformation and stress, explained Yoshida, who holds two patents for his work with laser optical interferometry used to identify weaknesses in materials.
“The exposure of undergraduate students to this kind of revolutionary research will have considerable impact on them,” he said. “In addition, learning the experimental techniques used in this research will be very beneficial. The application of optical interferometry to high speed deformation is challenging and requires deep understanding of optics.”
Yoshida, a graduate of Keio University in Tokyo, said the opportunity for U.S. students to interact with Japanese researchers and other students and to have access to world class facilities is valuable and could have significant impact on their future careers and endeavors.
“Japan is one of the leading countries in the world in material science research,” Yoshida said, “and TDU has a long history of working closely with industries, such as Hitachi, Nissan, Sony, and Toshiba.”
He said the students will learn not only technical matters, but also different ways of thinking and different approaches to the same problem. The students will be charged with conducting specific research in a timely manner and as part of a team with Japanese undergraduate and graduate students.
“At TDU, the undergraduate thesis is mandatory, as is the case at most Japanese universities,” he said. “Research is considered a major part of undergraduate study, and the students take this very seriously. If they fail their thesis, they cannot graduate. I want our students to be exposed to this kind of intense research environment.
“In general, students learn science much more efficiently through hands on experience than classroom lectures and more from peers than teachers,” Yoshida added. “This will be a tremendous learning opportunity for the selected students.”
The grant followed a pilot project in which two Southeastern physics students spent several weeks in Japan, one at TDU, sponsored by Southeastern, and the other at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo, under an international research experiences for undergraduates grant, sponsored by the NSF through the University of Florida.
“Both students reported tremendous benefits of their stay in Japan,” Yoshida said, “including the opportunity to interact with students from a different culture and perspective, the chance to work as undergraduates in well-equipped laboratories, and the personal attention they received from the Japanese scientists. The experience will make them better scientists.”