Summer at UTokyo

By Suwen Nicole Lee

This summer, I was lucky to be working in Prof. Ejima’s lab on Bio-inspired underwater adhesives. Human-made adhesives like bandaids and super glue do not work well underwater. However, some animals like mussels and tunicates produce organic compounds that let them stick to rocks underwater. This lab figures out what these animals produce to be able to stick underwater then add them to biomaterials to be used as glues. These glues can then be used as sutures, dental glues, and many other surgical glues.

In this lab, my mentor Hino-San works with Gallol-functionalized chitin glue. I characterized the adhesion strength of Cyano super glue, Gorilla Glue, a mix glue, Dermabond, this Gallol glue, and chitin without added Gallol. I tested how strong the glues’ adhesive properties are using three tests: burst pressure, tensile test, and lap shear test. I varied curing – drying- times at 1 hour, 2 hours, 6 hours, 18 hours, and 24 hours; and I varied the temperature the glue is cured, from 4 degrees to 23 degrees to 37 degrees. Because of all these different variations and because I repeated the experiments for accuracy, by then end of my time here I had done well over 300 of these tests!

Besides learning basic materials science lab skills, I learned how to multitask very well, as I would have over a dozen experiments happening at once, with specific times for me to test them after curing. I learned how to work for hours non-stop, unlike when I have breaks between classes. I also vastly improved my excel skills, and was able to quickly make dozens of graphs. With this, I feel like I am more prepared for what graduate school will throw at me. I hopefully will be less surprised for some of the changes and challenges. After my final presentation, I asked graduate students for feedback and learned how to make a better powerpoint presentation.

My program provided for a few outings, including a day trip to Hakone and a Wadaiko workshop. It was very cool to eat a traditional meal with my friends. I also had a good time with my lab mates. It was really cool to be able to go to Japanese restaurants with Japanese-only menus and servers and try the cheap, more authentic Japanese food. My lab also threw us a welcome party and a farewell BBQ. I was able to learn about the lives and hobbies of a typical Japanese college student. Some people in my lab even took other international students and me to an arcade and taught us how to play the games (since the instructions were all in Japanese). I really enjoyed it and went back many times after to play the rhythm games.

I also took time to explore Tokyo on my own time! After I got out of lab around 5pm, I tried to visit a new place every week. I visited Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Ueno, Asakusa, Asagaya, Akihabara, Yokohama, and other places. It is very convenient that the train system here is so good, and that I can visit these places for less than 5 dollars. I have enjoyed the Cup Noodle and Ramen museums, visited the Ghibli museum, played rhythm games at the arcades, celebrated Tanabata in Asakusa, and eaten lots and lots of good food. Thank you so much to FUTI for helping me have the best summer experience of my life at the University of Tokyo!