This summer, I studied at the University of Tokyo in the IARU (International Alliance of Research Universities) Global Summer Program. I participated in both the Sustainable Urban Management program and the Nanoscience program. Both programs were taught by distinguished professors and researchers in their respective fields, and was extremely well designed and comprehensive for the students taking the courses.
In the Sustainable Urban Management program, I was introduced to pressing environmental, societal, and structural issues in Japan’s modern economy. It was extremely eye-opening because the problems that Japan currently faces is specific to their geographical location (high seismic activies, frequent flooding), population, and demographic structure – some of these problems are very different from the ones that America faces in modern society. We covered the technical (architecture, landscape design, engineering infrastructure) and economic (political incentives, governmental policies and regulation) aspects of disaster management. Additionally, we were able to go on field visit(s) to chosen locations for a more in-depth understanding of the topics that were being covered in class. I especially enjoyed this course because I was able to understand how modern technology is changing the process of urban development (and redevelopment), and the increasing awareness of the fact that conventional technologies may not be able to meet the ever-increasing social demands in developed countries around the world. It was evident that further societal progress would require incorporation of renewable energy and sustainable technologies as well as changes in lifestyle and consumption habits.
The second program, Nanoscience, was subdivided into three sections: biotechnology, nanotechnology, and nanabiotechnology. I felt very privileged that for each section, professors doing very interesting research in the field were lecturing us. One of the research topics that I enjoyed the most was that of quantum dots and its applications. Still in the early stages of research, quantum dots are a fascinating area of technology. It is a semiconductor and able to reduce few electrons with discrete energy states on the nanometer scale. Modern computing may be able to benefit from this field through the manipulation of electron spin (“spintronics”), where the spin would be manipulated rather than the charge of electrons. There are many other fascinating modern applications that are currently making use of this nanotechnology, such as quantum computing, optical networks, and medical imaging. We were able to observe the application in solar/photovoltaic cells in a research lab (using the molecular beam epitaxy machine) on the Tokyo campus.
The lectures in this part of the course were a lot more technical. Since the academic backgrounds of the students were so diverse (students were study materials science, biochemistry, computer science, physics, electrical engineering, etc.), some lectures introduced us to ideas and material that was completely new to us. Other days, the lectures were directly related to what we were studying. I thoroughly enjoyed each lecture, even ones outside my discipline. After each lecture, there were laboratory tours on campus where we were able to visit the labs of researchers on campus.
This opportunity was an unforgettable and eye-opening one for me; I was able to witness a lifestyle completely different than the one I was used to in America, study with amazing scholars from countries all over the world, and learn about the exciting research going on in a technologically advanced country like Japan. The Japanese culture both shocked and touched me; before this experience, I had never left the United States before. I am grateful for this opportunity that allowed me to meet such amazing people I now call friends, and grow and learn so much in just one very eventful month.