2016: Makiko Ogino

Ms. Makiko Ogino
Hometown in Japan: Yamanashi
Home University in Japan: University of Tokyo
Major & School Year: Applied Physics, B3
Research Host at Rice: Prof. Emilia Morosan, Physics & Astronomy
Research Project Title: Magnetoresistance in intercalated transition metals (PDF)

Why TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University?
I would like to conduct research in the U.S. because the U.S. has larger international community of scientists than Japan. TOMODACHI STEM experience will allow me to engage with this community so that I can understand my specific areas of interest in condensed matter physics and what is required for scientists from global point of view. Also I can confirm and brush up my English skill, and hope to be a cultural ambassador for Japan.

Goals

  • Make friends with all who I meet during my stay at Rice and Washington D.C.
  • Increase my English skill so that I can smoothly communicate with everyone in the world
  • Consider the results of experiments on the basis of my knowledge I learned at my home university

Questions I have About Research or Life in the U.S. – Prior to Departure

  1. Is there any difficulty when Japanese are looking for some job after getting Ph.D. in the U.S.?

Excerpts from Makiko’s Weekly Reports

Week 01: Arrival in the U.S.

Rice has many archways like this. When I walk there, I feel that I’m going into the cave of knowledge.

Rice has many archways like this. When I walk there, I feel that I’m going into the cave of knowledge.

This is the second time to visit the U.S. The last time, I visited Boston. I felt that it is not so different from Tokyo. However, Houston is totally different from Tokyo because it is a car society. I was surprised that there were no pedestrians at all even though there were so many buildings.

My first reaction to Rice was awesome. I think Rice is the most beautiful university I have visited. The appearances of all buildings are standardized. Rice is not only beautiful but also convenient. There are so many useful facilities like the gym and coffee shop, and students have the useful access to each of them, via the Rice Shuttle. I found the common things between Rice and my home university, the University of Tokyo. It is that both of them have the large park and museum district nearby. I explored there on holiday, and it was a brilliant experience for me.

There are both similar and different points about my experience during the first week. I knew that I have to understand most things they explained me, but it was sometimes difficult because of my lack of English skill. I had trouble communicating with those I met for the first time.

Prof. Kono’s talk about graduate school in the U.S. was the most helpful event for me. One of the reasons why I participated in TOMODACHI-STEM was that I was interested in graduate schools abroad. He provided us the real picture of his experience and feeling in the U.S. His explanation was logical and convincing. I haven’t decided whether I will apply a graduate school in the foreign country yet, but I think his lecture will play an important role to help decide.

I met almost all the Japanese students at Rice during this stay. All of them were helpful for me. They kindly taught me about the real school life at Rice.

This is a professor of my host laboratory, Emilia. She always gives nice advice to all in her lab.

This is a professor of my host laboratory, Emilia. She always gives nice advice to all in her lab.

Research Project Overview
Research Host at Rice: Prof. Emilia Morosan, Physics & Astronomy
Project Title: Magnetoresistance in intercalated transition-metals

There are two motivations to doing research about magnetoresistance. One is that magnetoresistance makes higher information storage by increasing the areal density of HDD.

The other is to elucidate the whole mechanism of magnetoresistance. Magnetoresistance has many different mechanisms (e.g. GMR, TMR, CMR, AMR), and some of them have not been clear.

In the previous research (Hardy et. al. 2015), they found that within the FexTaS2 series, for x=0.28 single crystals the magnetoresistance is 100 times higher than that found in the commensurate compound of x=0.25. So, we expect that we might be able to get even higher magnetoresistance in other x values.

In this experiment, we prepare samples which have different iron concentration.

Figure 1 (Paglione Nat. Phys. 2010)

Figure 1 (Paglione Nat. Phys. 2010)

Superconductivity in MgCuAs and NiRhAs

Iron-based superconductor (FeSC) is the new family of superconductors, and was found in Japan. It is one of high temperature superconductors, which have no well-established theory yet. All FeSCs share a common layered structure like Figure 1.

It is widely thought that this layer structure play an important role in high critical temperature. So, we thought that compounds which have the same structure and similar composition as FeSC show high temperature superconductivity. In this research, we prepare MgCuAs and NiRhAs. We are going to confirm whether the samples are superconductor by measuring physical property and magnetic property.

In my host laboratory, there are many graffiti. It makes me laugh and comfortable.

In my host laboratory, there are many graffiti. It makes me laugh and comfortable.

First day in the lab
Because my mentor was absent in the first week, another graduate student led me to my professor. Her English was too fast for me, and she said I can ask them to speak more slowly if someone speaks too fast. I thought I want to overcome this difficulty during this stay.

The professor and a graduate student showed me the lab. I thought the appearance of lab in the U.S. university is not so different from that in the Japanese university.

In the first day, there was a meeting in the lab. Because their English was too fast (scientists tend to speak fast when they talk about science.) and there were so many unfamiliar words, I seldom kept up with.

Mentors/supervisors
My mentor is Chi-Wei, a graduate student. Because my mentor was absent in the first week, I had many interactions with other people in the lab. For example, a graduate student told me how to use instruments in the lab and he and I provided helium 3 with an instrument. Another students taught me the points I couldn’t understand in the paper.

Question of the Week
Houston has a very large population, but there are no pedestrians on the sidewalk. Instead, there are so many cars on the road. It is a perfect car-based society. What does the U.S. people think about its car-based society?

  • Yes, Houston is a very car-based city and there is limited public transportation for rail though there are many buses. However, even in a city like Houston, this is slowly changing.  For example, Houston recently expanded its Metrorail service and now has three lines – the original Red line plus the new Green and Purple lines. The next line to be built will be the Gold line which will go to the Galleria Mall and Uptown area of Houston.  Once this is complete there will be many more convenient transportation options.  Another good example of a city that a couple of decades ago lacked good public transportation is Los Angeles, the original car city.  Los Angeles, California now boasts a very robust metrorail and bus system.  So, things are slowly changing in many big cities in the U.S. but overall Americans love their cars and due to the size of the country it will probably never have as extensive a train/subway network as you find in Japan.

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Week 02: Critical Incident Analysis

My cross-cultural experience is the group lunch in the lab. My host lab has many kinds of people from different countries like the U.S., Nepal, China, and so on. In the group lunch, all members are assigned a theme: for example, the theme of the lunch I joined for the first time was idioms. At that time, I presented some idioms in Japanese and heard about idioms of other countries. I was surprised because it seemed that all members other than me were familiar with American idioms though not all of them are from the U.S. Since I don’t know any American idioms, I couldn’t catch up with the conversation.

From this experience, I found that one of the attractions studying in the U.S. is to having cultural communications with people from everywhere in the world. Furthermore, I think becoming a global scientist also requires becoming a cultural ambassador because discussing about the cultural difference is the best way to make friends with foreign scientists. The knowledge of both Japanese culture and foreign culture is necessary for cultural communication, but I haven’t been familiar with so much. So, I think that I should learn more about cultural things all over the world. Especially Japan has quite independent history and culture compared to other countries and it will be of interest to foreign people. So, I believe great cultural communication will help me to be a global scientist.

Research Project Update
We performed the procedure to grow polycrystalline solids of each sample with solid state reaction method. First, we prepared the appropriate amount of compositions for each compounds, for example, the appropriate amount of simples of Mg, Cu, and As if we want to grow MgCuAs. Second, we put all compositions in a mortar, and ground them with a pestle. When we made homogeneous powder, we put it in a cruicible, and put the in an ampoule. Then, we evacuated the ampoules. Finally, we put the ampoules in the furnace, and adjust temperature by referring the recipe in the previous research. The reaction in the furnace takes several days.

As for magnetoresistance, we prepared samples of FexTaS2, which have the different iron concentrations. As for superconductivity, we prepared MgCuAs and NiRhAs. Next week, we are going to measure the spectrum with x-ray diffraction. We can confirm whether we successfully grew the polycrystalline solids.

Because almost all reaction occurred in the furnace, I spent most time to wait for it with reading papers and other materials. There were many unclear points for me. I regret not asking other members in the lab about them.

The most rewarding experience in the second week was to join the group lunch and the group coffee break. All the lab members including the professor eat lunch or drink coffee together. There were both scientific (not related to the daily research) and nonscientific topics in the conversation. All the topics were interesting for me, but it was difficult to make some remarks in the conversation. I think these events are helpful to make a good relationship with other lab members, especially the professor.

I found that there are so many opportunities for undergraduates to participating in the short-term research programs outside the university. It is a different situation from Japan.

I found that there are so many opportunities for undergraduates to participating in the short-term research programs outside the university. It is a different situation from Japan.

Question of the Week
I was surprised that there are somehow many students to study abroad from Rice because the purpose of studying abroad for me is to receive higher education and the U.S. is the best country in education. Why do American students study abroad in another country away from their university in the U.S.?

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Week 03: Research in the U.S. vs. Research in Japan

In weekend, I went to Houston Zoo. I really enjoyed it because there were so many animals I have never seen.

In weekend, I went to Houston Zoo. I really enjoyed it because there were so many animals I have never seen.

My experience in the lab was basically the same as I had expected in the sense that the routine is conducting experiment and reading papers. Actually, there was a lot of time when I had nothing to do. The reason is that the experiment is basically going in the furnace, which means that the time we performed something is much less than the whole time of the experiment. So, I read many articles and spoke to graduate students many times, but I was sorry for speaking to them because they looked busy. I wished that I had more interactions with students in the lab.

Actually, the members in the lab appears quite late in my sense every morning. I arrived at the lab early, about 9:00am, because the hotel shuttle didn’t allow me to go later. So, I waited for the first one to open the key of the office every morning. All members gather around noon eventually. Once I asked a graduate student what time they go home. They answered that it is about 7:00pm, and I thought that it was earlier than I had expected. In contrast, labs in the Japanese universities start from around 9:00am and they work at least 7 or 8 hours per day.

I went to the Rodeo show in the third week. Honestly, the most impressive thing was the exhibition of the hatching of chicks. I wonder why this exhibition isn’t held in Japan.

I went to the Rodeo show in the third week. Honestly, the most impressive thing was the exhibition of the hatching of chicks. I wonder why this exhibition isn’t held in Japan.

Once I took the class of the professor of my host laboratory. I was surprised because the style and content are quite different from that in my home university though the theme was the same as I have taken in my university. As of the style, there were only 10 students, and there were so many interactions between the students and the lecturer. In contrast, there are many students, more than 50, in Japan. The lecturer only spoke to the blackboard and there are interactions only when the lecturer made a mistake. As of the component, the teacher at Rice required only intuitive comprehension basically, and the derivation was posed as private study. The component of the class in my university is much more difficult. The intuitive comprehension and all derivations are performed in the class, and the homework is more difficult. So, the class at my university is more difficult to keep up with than at Rice. Actually, I sometimes get lost in the class in Japan. I think both of these education styles have good aspects. I have received education in Japan, so I would like to make most of it.

I think that equality is valued in my research lab. It means that both undergraduates and graduates can equally make a remark in the meeting. They are not forced to, but spontaneously. I couldn’t speak in the meeting because I was afraid to make a mistake. I think this is somehow tendency of Japanese people.

To grow a nice single crystal, I need to grind compound persistently.

To grow a nice single crystal, I need to grind compound persistently.

Research Project Update
Superconductivity: The crystal growth of specimen, MgCuAs and NiRhAs, was finished last weekend. So, we ground the crystal to the powder, and measured the crystal structure with x-ray diffraction. However, we couldn’t get the expected phase correctly. There were so many impurities. We can’t measure physical properties with such an amount of impurities. Therefore, the experiment of superconductivity resulted in failure. Actually, the recipes I prepared these crystals were original because there were no recipes someone succeeded in preparing them in the database. I think that’s why we failed to grow them.

Magnetoresistance: Actually, we won’t finish the growing procedure of FexTaS2 because it takes more than 3 weeks according to the recipe in the database. This week was spent to grow polycrystalline solid. This step will end on Sunday. Therefore, I learned how to grow single crystal from polycrystalline solid from chemical vapor transport method and how to measure physical properties of single crystal, especially resistivity.

Question of the Week
In Japan, most graduate students feel anxiety about their future because it is difficult to earn a permanent academic position after getting Ph.D. and Japanese companies somehow don’t incline to employ people having Ph.D. I think the U.S. students are in nearly the same situation. Moreover, they are not sure whether they will get Ph.D. even though they spend many years in the lab. So, do graduate students in the U.S. feel anxiety about their future?

  • Yes, it is true that in the U.S. it is very competitive to find a faculty/academic research position after completing the PhD.  Many students will do 2 – 3 years of a post-doctoral research associate position while they keep applying for faculty positions.  Increasingly, universities are providing more advising to students on non-academic career paths for PhDs too including this very good resource offered on Columbia University’s Career Center website.  If you search Google for “Non-Academic Jobs PhD STEM” you will find many other articles and resources too.

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Week 04: Research Project Presentation

On Friday, March 18 all TOMODACHI STEM students gave a research project presentation at Rice University. Click on the project title to download a PDF of the student’s presentation.

Research Host at Rice
Prof. Emilia Morosan, Physics & Astronomy

Research Project Title
Magnetoresistance in intercalated transition metals (PDF)

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Week 05: Final Week at Rice University

I communicated with all members in my host lab. They were all kind and helpful.

I communicated with all members in my host lab. They were all kind and helpful.

Actually, my mentor and professor were absent in the final week. I improved my presentation basically. On Monday, there was a one-on-one presentation practice. It was so helpful because the presentation coach pointed out many things, even grammatical mistakes. I corrected the mistakes and brushed up my presentation following the practice. After that, I had so much free time. I performed my presentation to the graduate students in my research group and asked them advice. I was glad that every student admired my presentation. I asked them what they think about different graduate schools in the U.S. It was a nice experience to hear about graduate schools from students in the U.S. Their comments relieved me because I found that they somehow feel anxious about graduate school too like we do in Japan.

Actually, I prepared for my presentation by learning the whole script by heart though I learned in the presentation seminar at Rice that we should not remember it but should only remember the outline. I think I held somehow a good presentation in the sense that everyone enjoyed my presentation. I hope I can mention the physically meaningful. This opportunity about research and presentation might be one of the most important experiences in my life.

What changed the most about my attitude toward education in the U.S. was my experience to take a class of my host lab professor because its style and content are completely different from classes in Japanese universities.

My experience at Rice more or less has impact on my career goal because it strengthened my feeling that I should spend some years abroad to be a great scientist.

Japanese professors and students at Rice were really helpful to me because they gave me real pictures of school life in the U.S. universities.

March 14 is pie day in the U.S. I ate large amount of pie in many places at Rice.

March 14 is pie day in the U.S. I ate large amount of pie in many places at Rice.

Question of the Week
Do U.S. universities prefer events held in dormitories like Beer Bike at Rice University?

  • Each U.S. university is different and have different campus cultures, traditions and activities.  At Rice University, most all undergraduates live on campus in Year 1 and Year 2 so many activities revolve around the residential colleges (dormitories).  At other universities, most students live off-campus and so maybe there are fraternities or sororities or other clubs/activities that are most popular.  It really depends on the school but also depends a great deal on who you are too and what you are interested in as there are many clubs and activities you could join at all schools but it is up to you to decide how active you wish to be. For example, at Rice University there are over 200 student clubs and new clubs are formed each year.

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Week 06: Science & Technology Policy Study Tour in Washington, DC

Cherry blossom in Washington D.C.

Cherry blossom in Washington D.C.

In the final week, there were four events other than sightseeing. The first was visiting JSPS office. We heard about the role of JSPS, research collaboration between Japan and the U.S., and graduate school in the U.S. Because the speaker gave us the precise values of the number of foreign researcher in Japan, Japanese researcher overseas, and so on, I was able to understand the real picture about studying or doing research abroad. I was surprised because the speaker wants brilliant Japanese students to study abroad, which means that there is a possibility that the level of research in Japanese universities would decline. I want to study abroad someday, so his story was helpful for me.

The second was visiting George Washington University’s Center for International Science & Technology Policy, which plays an important role as a translator of science & technology to policy. The speakers explained their thoughts about science and technology policy, but it was hard to understand for me because I was unable to relate their story to my experience. I have never considered international phase like the international competition about space development and the impact of international research collaboration on the relationship between countries. So, I think that I should have some opinions about them when I collaborate with foreign countries as a scientist.

The third was visiting Howard University. My impression was that the campus is very urban compared to Rice. I enjoyed talking with students in department of physics and the lecture about density function theory and visiting material science laboratories. Like Rice, the distance between students and professors seemed so close. I found this attributable to the fact that the number of students is small in both Rice and Howard.

The fourth was the joint day with the Tomodachi Met Life Women’s Leadership Program. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I sat along the table at first because there are only female students except us and they have quite different atmosphere from us. To be honest, the feeling didn’t change until I left there. The presentations held on the joint Tomodachi day were unfortunately not related to my future directly. And most of the participants in women’s leadership program majored in business or international affair, quite different from us. This experience was helpful in the sense that I understood the world different from my own perspective.

My birthday party last night of this program.

A photo of the final day in the U.S. It was my birthday. So, every participant celebrated me.

As for sightseeing, I visited the Smithsonian Museums, National Mall, and Georgetown. The most favorite spot was the National Museum of the American Indian. American history was more interesting than I had expected. I was really inspired by artistic imagination and philosophy of native American people. I found that every region in America had unique culture and language but they accepted an unequal treaty with Westerns. I didn’t know that there are people who live as posterity of Native Americans. So, the exhibitions in Indian museum were a motivation for understanding American history.

Question of the Week
I wonder how hierarchical is the American business field comparing to Japan?

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Final Report

I told my experiences to my parents, and they said that I learned most about how to cope with difficult problems in an environment where people don’t understand my mother tongue. They were always anxious about whether I was in danger abroad. They were relieved when I came back to Japan safely and happy because I bought many gifts for them.

Actually, I started a job translating English web pages about mechanical and electrical components to Japanese. When I talked to my employer that I joined a research intern in the U.S., she said it was a challenging experience. I think my experience of the TOMODACHI STEM program at Rice University was somehow appraised when she decided to employ me as a translator.

When I spoke to friends in my university about my experiences in the TOMODACHI STEM program, some of them were envious of me. The reasons vary. Some are interested in studying abroad and doing research in the U.S. too. Another student wants to travel around the U.S. However, unlike the U.S. universities, most students are not so interested in going out from their university to study abroad. I feel they prefer reading difficult scientific books and doing kind of experiments in their home. I think it is both a strong point and weak point of Japanese. I mean, they are so hardworking and have such a large range of knowledge but they don’t prefer going outside of their world or comfort zone. Although we have to improve this weak point, I felt during my stay at Rice that the strong point is very important in knowledge of physics research and theory. But my knowledge and insight are still not enough comparing to other students in my university. So, I’m studying hard before starting experiments about my bachelor thesis.

The main reason I decided to apply this program was thinking about studying in graduate school in the U.S. And I got a lot of information and things to think about. I heard most of information from Japanese researchers at Rice, like Prof. Kono and Kato-san, a Japanese graduate student in Material Science & NanoEngineering who helped with our program. The most beneficial one is that it is effective to apply graduate schools in the U.S. after getting a master degree in Japanese graduate school. Prof. Kono also stressed the strict competition in the U.S. I felt the actual competition about getting Ph.D. in my host lab during this stay. Before starting this program, I blindly believed that there is much more a great world for scientists on North America continent. However, both Japan and the U.S. have superior points for me. From this experience, I learned the importance of having a broad sight. I think I have to consider again what the best choice for me is.

I want to go back to Rice someday in a sense that there are so many people who taught me a lot of things during the program. I would like to meet them when I became a nice scientist. But I think it is more important to know many research laboratories. I have been to only a few laboratories even in Japan. Actually, I visited many laboratories to decide the research group for my bachelor thesis after coming back to Japan. Then I exploited my experience in the U.S. to compare research laboratories between Japan and the U.S.

Before this program, I thought that Japan is such a small country in the world of science. However, I met so many people who are interested in doing research in Japan, like an undergraduate aspiring to get Ph.D. in Japan, and a graduate who wants to work as a post doc in Japan. There are also many people who are interested in Japanese culture. I communicated with such people, hearing about the U.S. situation and telling about Japanese situation within my knowledge. I could somehow understand the importance of Japan in the scientific field and be an ambassador of my own country as an advisor at the Rice Office of International Studetns and Scholars said.

As of the final question, I am so curious about residence of the U.S. college students. I started to live with my younger sister from this April, but I feel much more uncomfortable than when I lived alone though the relationship between us is not so bad. The U.S. student lives with a roommate on campus. If I do so, I guess I become really frustrated. So, my final question is how they think about living with their roommate?

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