Student Profiles: Learn More About the 2019 TOMODACHI STEM Student Experience

Click on the student names below to learn more about our participants in the 2019 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program! When approved by the host lab, a link to the PDF copy of the student’s final research poster is also posted below.

Yukina Chiba
Hometown in Japan: Tokyo
University in Japan: Nagoya University
Major & School Year: Biological Sciences, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Bryan Denny, Dept. of Psychological Sciences
Host Lab: Translational Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab
Research Poster (PDF): “Neural Mechanisms of Emotion Regulation Training in Bereaved Spouses”
2nd Place: “Best Poster Presentation Award”
“Before participating in the program, I did not know how open-minded and enthusiastic the other participants would be. I could not have imagined how much I would enjoy my time with the other participants. Therefore, the TOMODACHI STEM means to create new ties with the tomodachi – not only in the US but also within Japan. I realized the importance of fostering personal connections from your own country in order to further strengthen connections of our future generation with the U.S. In other words, this program gave me an opportunity to greet and form strong bonds with my fellow participants, the tomodachi in Japan, that I would not have been able to meet if I did not participate in this program.” ~ Yukina Chiba
Mei Fukuda
Hometown in Japan: Saitama
University in Japan: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Major & School Year: Mathematical & Computing Science, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Akane Sano, Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Host Lab: Computational Wellbeing Group
Research Poster (PDF): “Predicting Medical Professionals’ Wellbeing Using Wearable and Survey Data”
“Through this wonderful five week program in U.S., this experience has made me completely grow up. Before coming to U.S., I set my personal goals for this program to learn about the research methods and ideas. Now I am confident about what I have learnt and done at Rice, and really looking forward to my future research experiences. My fellow participants became my best friends and it was so exciting to share our thoughts, dreams, and motivations with each other. I strongly recognized that it is not special to make the world our stage, not stay only in our local area, and it would benefit the world if we choose to live without abandoning our possibilities. This program surely made me realize that there are no limitations.” ~ Mei Fukuda
Kyoko Ikeda
Hometown in Japan: Kagoshima
University in Japan: Kyushu University
Major & School Year: Earth & Planetary Science, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Helge Gonnermann, Dept. of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences
Host Lab: Gonnermann Lab: Volcanoes, Magmatic Processes, and Fluid Flow
Research Project: “The Viscosity of Bubbly Magma”
“Internships like the TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University program are important for students because they help them make better and more informed choices for their future. When we visited Dow Chemical in the U.S., I asked the employees I met there why she or he got this job. Many people shared that when they were a university student they did an internship at a company or in a field where they wanted to work. Having finished their internship, they recognized that this job was not what they want to become. After that internship, they applies for another internship and they finally found the job/field that they wanted to work in. Like this story, there is sometimes a big gap between our dreams and reality. In order to know that gap, taking up the challenge of doing an internship (like TOMODACHI STEM) will enable students to rethink about their future career goals… Through this program, I had the opportunity to meet many people and it enabled me to broaden my perspective. Someday I want to be a bridge between Japan and foreign countries through what I have learned in this program. ~ Kyoko Ikeda
Ayaka Kasamatsu
Hometown in Japan: Tokyo
University in Japan: The University of Tokyo
Major & School Year: Biology, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Peter Lwigale, Dept. of BioSciences
Host Lab: Lwigale Lab: Adventures in Cornea Development
Research Project: “Nephronectin Influences the Localization of Corneal ECM Proteins”
“In Japan, there are not so many opportunities to meet female students in different fields. Through this program, I met nine Japanese students studying STEM and we spent five weeks together. I was impressed that everyone really loved their own fields and was passionate about their studies. At the same time, they were very respectful for other’s research. I was inspired by all of the other participants to study more, not only about my own field but about other academic fields. I really appreciated the nine best friends who joined together, my host professor and lab members, the program sponsors, and everyone providing me such an wonderful chance to study abroad.” ~ Ayaka Kasamatsu
Mana Kawashima
Hometown in Japan: Tokyo
University in Japan: Waseda University
Major & School Year: Organic Chemistry, B4: Senior
Host Advisor: Prof. James Tour, Dept. of Chemistry
Host Lab: Tour Research Group
Research Project: “Synthesis of Third Generation of Dipolar Nanocars”
“I highly recommend every undergrad STEM student to try everything that you are interested in. When you apply for some programs, you might have worries including about your language ability, knowledge, and networking skills but these programs will be a great chance to strengthen your weak points. Through this program, I learned that when I do nothing, nothing will happen. It might be easy to do nothing but trying something will give you a wonderful future. ” ~ Mana Kawashima
Natsuki Minakawa
Hometown in Japan: Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture
University in Japan: Osaka University
Major & School Year: Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, B2: Sophomore
Host Advisor: Prof. Ashutosh Sabharwal, Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering (for research overview website click here)
Host Lab: Scalable Health Labs: Mobile Bio-Behavioral Sensing
Research Project: “Graphical User Interface for Non-Invasive Micro-Vasculature and Blood Perfusion Imaging”
“I applied for this program because I want to make myself grow in America. I have heard that Houston is famous as a place where cutting-edge medical technology is gathered. Researchers at Rice University also frequently conduct cooperative research with institutions in the nearby Texas Medical Center. Moreover, I have also heard that at Rice University I can obtain the most valuable education in America. That’s why when I heard about this program, I was really sure that if I was accepted, I will be able to improve my knowledge and experience related to my major. It is also a precious chance for me to study and work with excellent students from all over the world. After I come back to Japan, I want to continue to keep good relations with them and I believe that their presence will motivate me to study even harder than before.” ~ Natsuki Minakawa
Mariko Mizogami
Hometown in Japan: Tokyo
University in Japan: Waseda University
Major & School Year: Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Devika Subramanian, Dept. of Computer Science
Host Lab: Subramanian Group
Research Poster (PDF): “Delineating Pediatric Type 1 Diabetes Cohorts with Machine Learning”
1st Place: “Best Poster Presentation Award”
“Before I joined this program, I knew that I was interested in Data Science, yet, I was not 100 percent sure if I had enough interests and competence to conduct data science research on the international stage. However, having had hands-on research experience at Rice University, now I can say with confidence that I am eager to study Data Science and use these skills to solve real word problems. Although there were some hard times when I got stuck or could not get the results I expected, I truly enjoyed learning new data analysis techniques and discussing the results I got with my mentor and host professor. I still need to learn more to be a Data Scientist in the future; however, I am so glad that I was able to confirm my interests in Data Science through this program. In that sense, I think this program is a perfect opportunity for undergraduate students to figure out their interests and what they want to do in the future.” ~ Mariko Mizogami
Yurina Nakazato
Hometown in Japan: Okinawa
University in Japan: The University of Tokyo
Major & School Year: Physics, B2: Sophomore
Host Advisor: Prof. Frank Geurts, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy
Host Lab: Ultrarelavistic Heavy-Ion Physics Lab
Research Poster (PDF): “Identifying the Particles Produced by Au+Au Collisions”
“The meaning of the TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University program to me is the great opportunity to interact with a lot of female STEM researchers and to learn about the differences in education and jobs between Japan and the U.S. It is said that the rate of female researchers in Japan is the smallest in the all developed countries. In particular, the rate of female researchers in physics is much smaller than other fields such as biology, chemistry and data science. Through this program, I could meet a lot of female researchers and female STEM students. I could interview them and learn about their attitudes and ways of thinking as a woman in STEM. I would not be able to have such a wonderful opportunity in Japan.” ~ Yurina Nakazato
Haruka Sumi
Hometown in Japan: Osaka
University in Japan: Osaka Prefecture University
Major & School Year: Biology, B2: Sophomore
Host Advisor: Prof. Yizhi Jane Tao, Dept. of BioSciences
Host Lab: Tao Lab: Crystallography, Electron Microscopy, and Molecular Virology
Research Poster (PDF): “Express and Purify the Capsid Protein (CP) of Human Astrovirus (HAstV) VP90⁷¹⁻⁷⁸² to uncover the structure of CP”
Winner: 3d Place Award “Best Poster Presentation”
“Thanks to TOMODACHI STEM program, my motivation was improved. After going back to Japan, I started to join laboratory tours in some universities to know more about their research topics and discover which topic I am most interested in. I am surprised to find myself more active and positive than before joining this program… I may not find have found this significant key for my future goals if I had not participated in this program. I really appreciate this program and people who supported us. I believe future participants will also find something which helps them reach their future goals through this program.” ~ Haruka Sumi
Masami Tsukagoshi
Hometown in Japan: Takayama
University in Japan: Shinshu University
Major & School Year: Animal Science, B3: Junior
Host Advisor: Prof. Natasha Kirienko, Dept. of BioSciences
Host Lab: Kirienko Lab: Caenorhabditis elegans
Research Poster (PDF): “Role of Kinases in Caenorhabditiselegans Immunity Against Pseudomonasaeruginosa PA14″
“This program provided me with an excellent chance to have true communication beyond both academic and non-academic fields. It was really fun to talk with people from other fields and learn about their area of interests which were completely different from mine. I am now interested not only in biology but also volcanos, dinosaurs, plants, robotics, space, American history, places where others come from and many other things, and trying to keep my eyes open for various information every day.” ~ Masami Tsukagoshi

2019 TOMODACHI STEM Students Gain Research, Networking, Professional, & Intercultural Skills

The 2019 TOMODACHI students at the end of our final poster presentations ~ Masami Tsukagoshi

From February 16 – March 24, 2019 ten female STEM undergraduates from Japan had the opportunity to come to Rice University in Houston, Texas to conduct a hands-on science and engineering research internship as part of the 2019 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program.  The program provides students the opportunity to gain real world experience with science & engineering research, provides an introduction to U.S. higher education, and provides opportunities for cultural engagement with U.S. students and US-Japan Council members and events.  Long-term, we hope the program will encourage and inspire female Japanese students to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields, either in Japan or abroad. The ten participants in the 2019 program represented a wide range of fields of study including biosciences, chemistry, computer science and robotics, earth sciences, and physics.   This year’s participants represent eight different universities in Japan including  Kyushu University, Nagoya University, Osaka Prefecture University, Osaka University, Shinshu University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo (2), and Waseda University (2).

Haruka Sumi with her mentor, Matt, in the Tao Lab.

STEM Research Experience at Rice University: Over the course of four weeks, students conducted individual research projects in a Rice University laboratory and gave a final poster presentation on their research, in English.  While in Houston, students also attended a range of seminars on higher education and graduate study in the U.S., intercultural communication and presentation skills, and other STEM-related events including an evening panel on U.S.-Japan-Israel Advancements in Artificial Intelligence for Aging and Healthcare that was co-sponsored by the U.S.-Japan Council and held at the Texas Asia Society Center.   The 2019 students also had the opportunity visit Dow Chemical in Lake Jackson, Texas and learn more about career opportunities in industry for STEM students.  And no visit to Houston would be complete without a trip to NASA Space Center Houston and Rodeo Houston!

Visiting Dow Chemical in Freeport, TX ~ Masami Tsukagoshi

At the Asia Society Texas Center Event on Artificial Intelligence ~ Yukina Chiba

Final Week on the East Coast: During their final week in the U.S., the students traveled to the East Coast for a one-week science, technology, and global leadership seminar.  The week began with a two-day Global Leadership Seminar for Women in STEM at hosted by Lehigh University’s Office of International Affairs. Students had the opportunity to network with female STEM faculty members and students at Lehigh and participate in sessions on professional development and entrepreneurship.

Visiting the U.S.-Japan Council in Washington, DC.

We then traveled to Washington, DC where our students had the opportunity to meet with US-Japan Council Executive VP and COO, Laura Winthrop Abbot and discuss the role of women in STEM in Japanese society. Mya Fisher also shared details on the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship Program for students interested in further study abroad opportunities in the U.S.  Our students also had the opportunity to have dinner with eleven participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership program who are also STEM majors.  Our stay in DC also included visits to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, JAXA DC, and a guided tour of the Library of Congress. And no visit to Washington, DC would be complete without sight-seeing along the National Mall and a visit to Albert Einstein!

No STEM student should visit DC without a stop by the Einstein Memorial!

Student Impact: The true impact of the program is best conveyed through the words of our participants themselves.

Research Skills: “Before I joined this program, I knew that I was interested in Data Science, yet, I was not 100 percent sure if I had enough interests and competence to conduct data science research on the international stage. However, having had hands-on research experience at Rice University, now I can say with confidence that I am eager to study Data Science and use these skills to solve real word problems. Although there were some hard times when I got stuck or could not get the results I expected, I truly enjoyed learning new data analysis techniques and discussing the results I got with my mentor and host professor. I still need to learn more to be a Data Scientist in the future; however, I am so glad that I was able to confirm my interests in Data Science through this program. In that sense, I think this program is a perfect opportunity for undergraduate students to figure out their interests and what they want to do in the future.” ~ Mariko Mizogami, Waseda University

Networking: “In Japan, there are not so many opportunities to meet female students in different fields. Through this program, I met nine Japanese students studying STEM and we spent five weeks together. I was impressed that everyone really loved their own fields and was passionate about their studies. At the same time, they were very respectful for other’s research. I was inspired by all of the other participants to study more, not only about my own field but about other academic fields. I really appreciated the nine best friends who joined together, my host professor and lab members, the program sponsors, and everyone providing me such an wonderful chance to study abroad.” ~ Ayaka Kasamatsu, The University of Tokyo

Professional Development: “Internships like the TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University program are important for students because they help them make better and more informed choices for their future. When we visited Dow Chemical in the U.S., I asked the employees I met there why she or he got this job. Many people shared that when they were a university student they did an internship at a company or in a field where they wanted to work. Having finished their internship, they recognized that this job was not what they want to become. After that internship, they applies for another internship and they finally found the job/field that they wanted to work in. Like this story, there is sometimes a big gap between our dreams and reality. In order to know that gap, taking up the challenge of doing an internship (like TOMODACHI STEM) will enable students to rethink about their future career goals… Through this program, I had the opportunity to meet many people and it enabled me to broaden my perspective. Someday I want to be a bridge between Japan and foreign countries through what I have learned in this program. ~ Kyoko Ikeda, Kyushu University

Intercultural Skills: When speaking to a future employer, I would say that I learned the importance of discussions with other people and understanding the differences in our sense of value, culture and so on. Through the program, I faced cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. Those differences gave me the opportunity to think about our customs and ways of thinking…Thus, I got to accept various sense of values and I think this sense of acceptance is essential to communicate with each other when working. ~ Yurina Nakazato, The University of Tokyo

Conclusion: After a very productive five weeks in the U.S., our 2019 TOMODACHI STEM students returned to Japan.  We look forward to seeing what the future will hold for these students and hope they will be an inspiration to future generations of women in STEM Japan.  To learn more about these student’s research projects see http://tomodachistem.rice.edu/participants/2019-participants/ or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TomodachiSTEMRice.

Our final photo at the airport before returning to Japan ~ Masami Tsukagoshi

 The 2016 – 2019 TOMODACHI STEM Program is directed by Prof. Junichiro Kono and Sarah Phillips in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Rice University. Funding for this program is generously provided by a grant from the U.S.-Japan Council’s TOMODACHI Initiative with support from Dow Japan.  For more information on international STEM programs managed by the Kono Group at see http://kono.rice.edu/intl-pgms/.

Now Accepting Applications: 2019 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program for Female Undergraduates

2019 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University Program for Female Undergraduates
Website: http://tomodachistem.rice.edu/
Apply by: November 19, 2018 (11:59 PM, Japan time)
Program Dates: February 16 – March 24, 2019
Download Program Flyer (PDF)

The 2019 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University for Female Students is a five-week research internship program for up to 10 female undergraduates from Japan who are majoring in science & engineering (S&E). Held at Rice University in Houston, TX, the program will enable students to gain real world experience with S&E research, provide an introduction to U.S. higher education and provide opportunities for cultural engagement and collaboration with U.S. students. The program will serve as a catalyst for female Japanese students interested in S&E study and research and engagement with the U.S. through international research collaborations. The program dates will be February 16 – March 24, 2019.

2019 TOMODACHI STEM Program @ Rice University は、日本の大学で理系学部を専攻する女性の大学生10名を対象とした5週間の研究インターンシッププログラムです。同プログラムは、テキサス州ヒュースト ンにあるライス大学にて行われ、大学の研究室に属して最先端の研究活動に触れると同時に、アメリカの高等教育システムを体験し、米国人学生との交流活動を 通して言語や文化を学ぶ機会を提供します。このプログラムは、国際共同研究を通じて、理工学研究に興味を持つ日本人女子学生に、アメリカとの連携のきっか けを提供することを目的としています。プログラムの開催日は2019年2月16日~3月24日です。

To be eligible to apply students must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be a Japanese citizen or permanent resident;
  • Be a female, currently-enrolled, degree-seeking undergraduate student in good academic standing at a Japanese institution of higher education;
  • Be majoring in a science or engineering field and interested in conducting research in an academic department within Rice’s School of Engineering or a related Research Center or Group  or within an academic department within the School of Natural Sciences or a related Research Center or Group
  • At the time of application, be a B1, B2, B3, or B4 student*
  • Be able to express a demonstrated interest in international science & engineering research & future graduate study in your field;
  • Have the conversational English-language ability to successfully conduct research in a U.S. university lab.

Funding: The program provides funding for international airfare, lodging in the Houston (double-occupancy), all seminar and internship related costs, some cultural outings, travel/lodging for final week Science Technology & Leadership study tour on the East Coast, and international health insurance. Students must pay individually for all passport and visa application fees, SEVIS fees, required immunizations, meals in the U.S., and personal spending.

Applications are due by Monday, November 19 at 11:59 PM (Japan time).  In addition to the online application form, students will be required to submit:

Interested applicants may also want to review the website profiles of past TOMODACHI STEM participants and from our related programs that enable Japanese undergraduate students to conduct research at Rice University.

For more information see the Application Overview page on our program website or email tomodachistem@rice.edu. We look forward to receiving your application!

This program is sponsored by a grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The program is administered by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Rice University.  

Article on TOMODACHI STEM Experience by 2017 Participant Kana Yoshida (in JP)

Kana Yoshida Shares Her 2017 TOMODACHI STEM Experience in Happy Technology Magazine

Kana Yoshida’s article on her 2017 TOMODACHI STEM experience.

2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University participant Kana Yoshida from Tottori University recently shared her experience conducting research in the U.S. in an article published in Happy Technology magazine.  The article, available in Japanese, highlights her experience conducting research in Prof. Tayfun Tezduyar’s lab at Rice University from February – March 2017 as a senior undergraduate student.  In the article, she highlights her research interests and how the TOMODACHI experience led her to pursue further international opportunities.

“中学時代には数学、高校時代には物理に興味を持ち、大学進学でも理工系を選択しました。私が機械工学科を選んだ理由は、幼いころから自動車が好きだったことと、高校時代に物理を好きになるきっかけになった「力学」を重点的に学べるからです。将来の夢は、世界で活躍する機械・航空宇宙工学系の研究者になることです。そのために、学部生のときから学内の留学プログラムや海外との共同プロジェクトに参加しています。学部4年次にはTOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University Programに参加。航空宇宙の本場アメリカの理系私立の名門校ライス大学で1か月間の研究インターンシップを経験しました。さらに、トビタテ!留学JAPANの奨学金を獲得し、今年の夏から同じ研究室へ1年間の留学に行く予定です.” >> Read More

Kana was also awarded a scholarship from the Tobitate Japan Scholarship Program to return to Rice University in September 2017 as a visiting graduate student researcher in Prof. Tezduyar’s lab for one year.  The research she is doing at Rice this year will directly relate to her master’s thesis and graduate study at Tottori University. Congratulations Kana!

Happy Technology article by 2017 Alumnus Kana Yoshida (PDF)

Now Accepting Applications for the 2018 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program

2018 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University Program for Female Students
Website: http://tomodachistem.rice.edu/
Apply by: November 2, 2017 (11:59 PM, Japan time)
Program Dates: February 24 – April 1, 2018
Download Program Flyer (PDF)

Shiho Nagai in the Ajayan Lab at Rice University.

The 2018 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University for Female Students is a five-week research internship program for up to 10 female undergraduates from Japan who are majoring in science & engineering (S&E). Held at Rice University in Houston, TX, the program will enable students to gain real world experience with S&E research, provide an introduction to U.S. higher education and provide opportunities for cultural engagement and collaboration with U.S. students. The program will serve as a catalyst for female Japanese students interested in S&E study and research and engagement with the U.S. through international research collaborations.

2018 TOMODACHI STEM Program @ Rice University は、日本の大学で理系学部を専攻する女性の大学生10名を対象とした5週間の研究インターンシッププログラムです。同プログラムは、テキサス州ヒュースト ンにあるライス大学にて行われ、大学の研究室に属して最先端の研究活動に触れると同時に、アメリカの高等教育システムを体験し、米国人学生との交流活動を 通して言語や文化を学ぶ機会を提供します。このプログラムは、国際共同研究を通じて、理工学研究に興味を持つ日本人女子学生に、アメリカとの連携のきっか けを提供することを目的としています。

To be eligible to apply students must:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of application;
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of Japan;
  • Be a female, degree seeking undergraduate student enrolled at a Japanese university (B1, B2, B3, or B4);
  • Be majoring in a science or engineering field;
  • English Language Ability: The language of research host labs at Rice University is English and all selected participants must have the English-language ability necessary to successfully complete a research experience in the U.S.
  • Preference will be given to students who express a demonstrated interest in graduate study in a S&E field, either in Japan or the U.S.

Group photo at the Department of Energy ~ Aya Kawamura

The program provides funding for international airfare, lodging in the Houston (double-occupancy), all seminar and internship related costs, some cultural outings, travel/lodging for final week study tour in Washington, DC, and international health insurance. Students must pay individually for all passport and visa application fees, SEVIS fees, required immunizations, meals in the U.S., and personal spending.

The application deadline will be November 2, at 11:59 PM Japan time, and the program dates will be February 24 – April 1, 2018. In addition to the online application form, students will be required to submit:

Interested applicants may also want to review the website profiles of past TOMODACHI STEM participants and from our related programs that enable Japanese undergraduate students to conduct research at Rice University.

For more information see the Application Overview page on our program website or email tomodachistem@rice.edu. We look forward to receiving your application!

This program is sponsored by a grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The program is administered by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Rice University.  

Visit to NASA & Rodeo Houston

While in Houston, our 2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University students had the opportunity to attend two special events the highlight key aspects of Houston and Texan culture.

The 2017 TOMODACHI STEM students visit NASA Space Center Houston! ~ Photo submitted by Keiko Kato, Graduate Student Assistant

First up was a visit to Space Center Houston – the home of NASA – on Saturday, March 11.  Led by our graduate student assistant Keiko Kato, the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM students got to tour the facilities including seeing the original Mission Control and the Saturn V rocket at Rocket Park.  It was a fun-filled day for all attendees and, since a number of our 2017 students are interested in aerospace research, tied in with their research interests as well.

 

Yee Haw! The 2017 TOMODACHI STEM students at Rodeo Houston! ~ Photo Submitted by Keiko Kato, Graduate Student Assistant

Then, on Monday, March 13 our students got to experience true Texan culture by attending Rice Night at the Rodeo! They got to take in the Houston Livestock Show Rodeo (opened by Rice University President David Leebron and Sammy the Owl) and including bull-riding, mutton bustin’, and barrel racing!  After the rodeo, they took in the rest of the festivities including trying out some yummy fair food, the carnival rides, and the animal exhibits. We hope y’all come back again and join us for another rodeo in the future!

It’s not the Rodeo without trying out some of the yummy food! ~ Photo submitted by Keiko Kato, Graduate Student Assistant

Dinner at Consulate General of Japan’s Home

Attendees at the dinner hosted by Consul General Amano on March 8, 2017.

On Wednesday, March 8 the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM students joined a number of US-Japan Council members and other guests for a special dinner at the home of Consul General Tetsuro Amano. The dinner was coordinated by the U.S-Japan Council and the purpose was to highlight the innovative TOMODACHI exchange programs in Houston that help connect young people between the United States and Japan, thank the donors and organizers that make student exchanges possible, and highlight the importance of people-to-people connections and exchanges in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.

Attendees included:

  • Japanese undergraduate female STEM students participating in a short-term exchange program at Rice University through the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice Program
  • American students participating in a KAKEHASHI exchange program between University of St. Thomas and Japan. This program is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented in partnership with the US-Japan Council.
  • U.S.-Japan Council members based in Houston
  • Various representatives of supporting companies including Dow, Chevron, Sumitomo, and Daiwa House.
  • and other Japanese business and community leaders.

Two of our students also had the opportunity to speak at this event and share about their experiences with U.S.-Japan educational exchanges.  Aya Kawamura from Nagoya University introduction the TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University program and highlighted the importance of international research opportunities for STEM students.  Natsumi Komatsu from Keio University spoke about her one-year exchange study program at Rice University last year as a Sumitomo Scholar and the impact this had on her inter-cultural development and future goals.  Natsumi has now returned to Rice this spring as a participant in the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University program and is planning to pursue a PhD in the U.S. starting from this fall.

The evening was a wonderful way for our female students to celebrate International Women’s Day and we would like to thank Consul-General Amano and all his staff, especially Ms. Sato and Ms. Kawase, for graciously hosting the evening and gave memorable experience to the students.

Networking Brunch and Talk by Glen Gondo

On Sunday, March 5 and Monday, March 6 our 2017 TOMODACHI STEM students were able to participate in two special opportunities hosted by US-Japan Council members in Houston.

On Sunday, Donna Cole (Cole Chemicals/USJC) warmly welcomed our 10 students into her home for a networking brunch with Japanese professional women living and working in the Houston area. Over brunch, the attendees shared information about their career paths, life in the U.S. as a professional woman, and how they have tried to find work-life balance.  Their stories proved truly inspiring for our students and helped them think more deeply about their own future career goals and objectives.  The students really enjoyed this special treat and felt truly welcomed not just by Rice but by the whole community in Houston.

Many of our students wrote about the impact of this networking brunch in their Week 1 reports which you can read in their 2017 Participant Profiles.

Photo of the Networking Brunch hosted by Donna Cole ~ Submitted by Deborah Grant, USJC

Then, on the evening of Monday, March 6 our students had the opportunity to hear US-Japan Council Board Member Glen Gondo (Gondo Company/USJC) speak about his experience as a Japanese-American in the U.S. and learn more about his successful career in business. A number of students from the University of St. Thomas attended as well and after the talk the student’s go to tour the sushi preparation area of HEB. They also had the opportunity to watch the documentary “Off the Menu: Asian American” featuring Glen in his role as the acclaimed “Sushi King of Houston”.

2017 TOMODACHI STEM Students Visit Dow Chemical

On Thursday, March 2 the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University students had the opportunity to visit Dow Chemical in Freeport, Texas. Dow employs people in the state of Texas in areas including research and development, engineering, human resources, technical service, operations and manufacturing. There are manufacturing sites located at Freeport, Deer Park, Texas City, Seadrift, and La Porte. The Freeport site is also a research and development center. Additionally, Dow has a business center located in Houston.

Dow facilities in Texas produce billions of pounds of products each year that enhance the quality of life for people around the globe. Dow products serve virtually every consumer market ranging from food to building and construction and from health and medicine to transportation. These products are used in a variety of end-use products – office supplies, mouthwash, pharmaceuticals, computers, furniture, paints, carpet, garbage bags, cosmetics, chewing gum, lozenges, cleaning products and food.

2017 TOMODACHI STEM student with Dow panelists. Front Row (L to R): Ting Jiang (Dow), Kaoru Aou (Dow), Marcela Buentello (Dow), Erika Vergara (Dow). Middle Row (L to R): Kana Yoshida (Tottori Univ.), Aya Kawamura (Nagoya Univ.), Mizuki Tabata (Tokyo Inst. of Technology), Akane Katayama (Meiji Univ.), Shiho Nagai (Toyota Technological Inst.) Back Row (L to R: Gabriella Cone (Dow), HeeYung Woo (Kyushu Univ.), Yumiko Kimura (Tokyo Univ. of Science), Mio Kamasaka (Tokyo Inst. of Technology), Natsumi Komatsu (Keio Univ.) Not Pictured: Sawa Shimokawa (Osaka Univ.)

During our full-day site visit at Dow, students received an introduction to the company from Public Affairs Director David Winder and also had the opportunity to learn more about life at Dow through a panel discussion with Dow employees.  The students received helpful advice from the panelists on choosing your career path, work-life balance, and opportunities in industry for STEM master’s and PhD graduates. Panelists included:

  • Kaoru Aou who is a Principal research Scientist, Polyurethanes R&D
  • Marcela Buentello who is the I-Park/Work Processes/Management Systems Leader for Texas Operations Reliability and Maintenance organization.   
  • Ting Jiang who is an Operations Leader for GMA (Glycidyl Methacrylate).
  • Erika Vergara who is currently the Business Quality Leader (BQL) for 2 different business units- Ethylene Oxide/Ethylene Glycol and Polyglycols, Surfactants & Fluids.

Our day at Dow concluded with a visit to Pack Studios were our students learned more about Dow’s testing facility for produce packaging and got a tour of the factory.  Special thanks to Gabriella Cone, Community Relations Manager, for her coordination of our visit.

 

 

Watching the Houston Ballet’s performance of Cinderella. ~ Yumiko Kimura, 2017 TOMODACHI STEM

But our day was not done yet! After leaving Dow we headed to Downtown Houston for a behind the scenes tour of the Houston Ballet led by Executive Director James Nelson and Development Associate, and former ballerina, Nao Kusuzaki. From watching some student classes and rehearsals to exploring the costume shop and learning more about the construction of tutus and pointe shoes this was a special opportunity for the students to learn about the amazing performance and art scene in Houston.  Some of our students were so inspired by our tour that they used their first free afternoon in Houston to buy tickets to attend the Houston Ballet’s production of Cinderella on Saturday, March 4. 

Dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse

After our tour of the Ballet, U.S-Japan Council Board Member Donna Cole generously hosted our students for a casual dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse.  We were treated to a family-style Italian feast and the students saw first-hand that everything truly is bigger in Texas including portion sizes! A few students from the University of St. Thomas’ Kakehashi Program who were preparing to travel to Japan during their spring break week also attended.

Heartfelt thanks to all who made this day possible for our students.  To learn more about the student’s first week in Houston see the 2017 Participant Profiles.

 

2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice Program For Female Students Now Accepting Applications

2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University for Female Students Now Accepting Applications – Apply by Nov. 2

The 2017 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University for Female Students is a five-week research internship program for 10 female undergraduates from Japan who are majoring in science & engineering (S&E). Held at Rice University in Houston, TX, the program will enable students to gain real world experience with S&E research, provide an introduction to U.S.