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.