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Rice wins innovation award for international program

HOUSTON, Jan. 28, 2008 -- NanoJapan, a unique, Rice University-based program that combines a traditional study abroad experience in Japan with a targeted undergraduate research internship in nanotechnology, has been awarded the Institute of International Education's (IIE) prestigious Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education.

The award, created seven years ago to promote and honor the most outstanding initiatives in international higher education, will be presented at a ceremony at the United Nations on March 13 as part of the IIEs annual Best Practices Seminar. Rice and the University of Tulsa, which jointly administer NanoJapan, won the 2008 Heiskell Award in the highly competitive "study abroad" category.

"NanoJapan is a model program that successfully connects engineering and physics undergraduates with the best of international research and the study of Japanese culture and language," said Sallie Keller-McNulty, dean of engineering at Rice. "The program compliments our commitment to internationalize Rice University and the engineering school's aspiration to help lead Rice on its journey to become a truly global university."

NanoJapan was established with a Partnership for International Research and Education grant from the National Science Foundation in 2005. NanoJapan centers upon a 12-week summer session that involves 16 first- and second-year science and engineering students from U.S. universities. The students participate in a three-week language and culture orientation, followed by research internships with leading Japanese nanotechnology laboratories.

"In the past, engineering students were forced to choose between spending their summer in a traditional study-abroad program that was unrelated to their career or staying within the U.S. and completing a research internship," said NanoJapan Principal Investigator Junichiro Kono, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. "We combine the two, and we work closely with our partners in Japan to ensure our students have both a great laboratory experience and a life-changing cultural experience."

Rice junior Paul Thompson, a 2007 NanoJapan participant at Osaka University, said, "Not only have I made friends and connections abroad, but Ive also been able to continue research in a similar vein here at Rice under the supervision of a post-doc in Professor Naomi Halas' laboratory. I am also continuing to study Japanese, although classes dont really match the opportunity that living in Japan for 11 weeks provided."

NanoJapan also had a significant impact on other participants. For example, three past Rice participants, Jennifer Gillenwater, Tyler Barth and Alec Walker, have gone on to complete semester exchange programs at the National University of Singapore and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Barth was also awarded the IIE Freeman-Asia Scholarship to study Mandarin language in Taiwan during the summer of 2007. Other program participants have also returned to Japan. For example, Yu-Heng (Jaret) Lee participated in the last year of the JETRO Japan International Internship program in the summer of 2007, and Tianhe Yang returned in the summer of 2007 to give a research poster presentation at an optics workshop. In addition, three NanoJapan alumni will participate later this year in the INNOVATE 2008 globalization and technology conference in Vietnam and Singapore.

"Programs like NanoJapan fill a critical void in international education offerings available to U.S. technical students," said Roger Blais, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Tulsa.


Contact: Jade Boyd
Rice University

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