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Reverse NanoJapan: Rice to host 25-30 Japanese students

In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and rolling blackouts that are severely affecting university research laboratories across Japan, the award-winning undergraduate internship program NanoJapan is scrambling to run its annual summer program in reverse; rather than having U.S. undergraduates travel to Japan for lab internships, NanoJapan is offering partner labs in Japan the opportunity to send 25-30 students to Rice University laboratories for three months.

"This was a tough decision since we believe the best way to support Japan right now is to continue to conduct business as normal," said NanoJapan director and founder Junichiro Kono, professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics and astronomy at Rice. "On the other hand, it was clear that some of our partner labs, especially those at Tohoku University, were severely affected by the earthquake and not ready to host any students. In the end, we decided that this reverse program is the best way to address the situation, both for our U.S. students and our Japanese collaborators."

Since 2005, the NanoJapan program has sent 16 students per year from U.S. universities to Japan for 12-week internships that simultaneously immerse students in Japanese culture and in cutting-edge nanotechnology research. Several of the program's partner labs in Japan are operating at partial capacity due to rolling blackouts and energy conservation efforts.

Kono and program administrator Sarah Phillips are making arrangements to host 25-30 undergraduate and graduate students from Japan along with the 14 U.S. students who have already committed to the program for this summer.

"We will make Rice's unique research facilities available to the Japanese students whose research has been suspended, while the U.S. students will be involved in an international research collaboration that is the hallmark of the NanoJapan program," Kono said.

Kono said a number of people have generously offered time, money or lab space for the project. For example, the Rice President's Office has generously agreed to help with housing expenses for the Japanese students. Corporate sponsors include Kuraray America Inc. Rice's Office of International Students and Scholars is working to integrate NanoJapan participants into its summer programming. Kono said a number of faculty members in Rice's departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Physics and Astronomy, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Chemistry, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have volunteered to make their laboratories available for NanoJapan students. And ECE's Martha Alexander, administrator of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics, has volunteered to teach her popular course on English idioms and conversation for the visiting students.

The students will live and work together and replicate as closely as possible the unique intercultural and research elements that helped the NanoJapan program earn top honors among study-abroad programs at a 2008 competition held at the United Nations. The students will live at Rice's Graduate Student Apartments and will be assigned in pairs to a number of laboratories across campus.


Contact: David Ruth
Rice University

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