About Our Team

The TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice team has extensive prior experience in the development and management of international education and research experience programs for U.S. and Japanese science and engineering students. See our Related Programs page for more information.

Research Director
Prof. Junichiro Kono
Rice University, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, and Materials Science & Nanoengineering
Email: kono@rice.edu

Junichiro Kono received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in applied physics from the University of Tokyo in 1990 and 1992, respectively, and completed his Ph.D. in physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1995. He was a postdoctoral research associate in condensed matter physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995–1997 and the W. W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory Fellow in the Department of Physics at Stanford University in 1997–2000. He joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Rice University in 2000 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2005. Since 2009, he has been a Professor in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics & Astronomy at Rice University.

Prof. Kono has extensive international research collaborations and, from 2006 – 2015, served as the Principal Investigator for a National Science Foundation Partnership for International Research and Education (NSF-PIRE) grant, TeraNano PIRE, which focused on the expansion of a unique interdisciplinary U.S.-Japan research and education partnership focused on terahertz (THz) dynamics in nanostructures. The key educational initiative of this NSF-PIRE grant was the award-winning international research experience program for undergraduates called the NanoJapan: IREU Program.

Under Prof. Kono’s leadership, the TeraNano PIRE Center has also expanded opportunities for Japanese students to conduct research at Rice and strengthened Rice’s relationships with our Japanese partners abroad through the signing of university-level Memoranda of Understanding and Exchange Agreements with Osaka University, the University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Osaka Institute of Technology.  Dean’s level agreements have also been signed with Tohoku University, Tottori University, and Chiba University.

Education Program Director
Sarah Phillips
Rice University, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Email: sphillips@rice.edu or tomodachistem@rice.edu

Sarah Phillips serves as the Education Program Director for the TOMODACHI STEM at Rice University, the Nakatani RIES Fellowship, and other related education programs directed by Prof. Junichiro Kono. Sarah manages all program outreach & recruitment, education & curricular development, delivery of intercultural communication and career development workshops, oversight and coordination of student learning and program impact outcomes research, preparation and submission of annual sponsor reports, and alumni programing. She also facilitates the negotiation of Memorandum of Understanding and Exchange agreements with partner institutions in Japan in collaboration with Prof. Kono and Rice University Office of the President.

From 2006 – 2015 she served as the Education International Initiatives Manager for the NSF-PIRE “U.S.- Japan Cooperative Research and Education on Terahertz Dynamics in Nanostructures” grant at Rice University. In collaboration with Prof. Junichiro Kono and Dr. Cheryl Matherly, she created and managed all aspects of the NanoJapan: International Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. From 2006 – 2015, this program sent 144 young U.S. engineering and physics students to Japan for research, language, and cultural study and it has received national recognition and awards as a model program for the expansion of international opportunities for STEM students. She also co-developed and NanoREIS Internship Program for Graduate Students and the 2011 Reverse NanoJapan Program in response to the 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. For more information see our Related Programs page.

Prior to her position at Rice, she worked at the Institute of International Education (IIE) on the U.S. Department of State funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and completed a three-month assignment at the IIE office in Doha, Qatar.  She is currently pursing a Ph.D. in Educational Foundations at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa where her research focuses on international education for science & engineering (S&E) students. She has also received a Post-Graduate Certificate from the East-West Center Asia-Pacific Leadership Program, an M.L.A. in International Studies from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, and a B.A. in History, Political Science, and East Asian Studies from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Education Programs Administrator
Aki Shimada
Rice University, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

As the Education Programs Administrator, Aki assist with the financial and logistical management of all education programs directed by Prof. Junichiro Kono.  This includes processing of financial expenses and invoices, travel and logistical arrangements, preparation of visa application packets for incoming Japanese students, scheduling and coordination of classroom and meeting spaces, assisting the Education Program Director with the development and implementation of on-site workshops at Rice University and other related program matters.

Dr. Cheryl Matherly
Vice President & Vice Provost for International Affairs, Lehigh University

Dr. Cheryl Matherly provide strategics leadership for the Office of International Affairs at Lehigh University, which includes study abroad, International student services, ESL programs, international internships, partnership programs, Fulbright programs, UN programs, and the Iacocca Institute.

From 2006 – 2015, she co-directed the NSF-PIRE funded NanoJapan: IREU program in collaboration with Prof. Junichiro Kono and Sarah Phillips. She is the recipient of two Fulbright grants for international education administrators (Germany and Japan) and has an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Culture Studies from the University of Houston.

Within the TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program, she leads the student learning outcomes and program impact assessment and will collaboration with Sarah Phillips in the development and implementation of the final week study tour in Washington, DC and at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania focused on science & technology policy and STEM leadership for women.

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