By David Burke
This summer, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a UTRIP internship at the University of Tokyo, thanks to the generous support of the Friends of UTokyo, Inc. I spent six weeks working in the bioinorganic chemistry laboratory of Professor Mitsuhiko Shionoya, where my research was focused on the preparation and characterization of new self-assembled metal-macrocycle frameworks.
I gained a great deal of knowledge through my participation in the Shionoya Group’s research program. At my home institution (Indiana University Bloomington), I conduct research in anion supramolecular chemistry, and most of my efforts are directed towards the synthesis and purification of organic anion receptor molecules. My work on the metal-macrocycle frameworks at UTokyo allowed me to develop new laboratory skills in crystallization and X-ray diffraction analysis, and broadened the scope of my research experiences, which will help to guide my research in graduate school and beyond. I was also able to meet and interact with many UTokyo students, and now have a much better understanding of graduate programs in Japan.
In addition to introducing me to the world-class research taking place in the Graduate School of Science, UTRIP allowed me to experience Japanese culture firsthand. On the weekends, I had time to explore Tokyo and go sightseeing in surrounding regions, including Yokohama, Fujikawaguchiko, Nikko, and Osaka. The UTRIP staff also organized a Japanese culture workshop, where I had the opportunity to prepare origami, participate in a traditional tea ceremony, and wear a kimono for the first time. More importantly, I made some amazing new friends within UTRIP, who I’ve continued to stay in touch with since the program concluded. I hope to visit them in their home countries sometime soon.
This trip also provided me with an excellent opportunity to practice speaking Japanese. Having studied the language during high school and college, I was eager to develop these skills over the course of the internship. While most of my interactions in the laboratory were held in English, I had many chances to practice off campus, performing tasks such as purchasing Shinkansen tickets, asking for directions, and speaking with waiters in restaurants.
I would like to thank Professor Mitsuhiko Shionoya, Dr. Shohei Tashiro, Mr. Shinya Mitsui, and all of the other members of the Shionoya Group for their guidance, kindness, and hospitality during my stay in Japan. I would also like to thank the Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for their generous financial support of my summer research experience at the University of Tokyo. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and left me with a deep appreciation for Japan, its culture, and people. I hope to return to Japan in the near future.