Southeastern science students headed to Japan for research
Contact: Rene Abadie
Date: June 11, 2012
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HAMMOND – Four Southeastern Louisiana University students are looking forward to the trip of a lifetime this summer when they leave Louisiana to spend seven weeks performing materials science research in Japan.
The students – all from Covington – are participating in a summer research program at Tokyo Denki University (TDU) funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. They will depart for Japan on June 20.
Southeastern has a reciprocal relationship with TDU scientists dating back several years, said Physics Professor Sanichiro Yoshida, who obtained the NSF grant to provide international research opportunities for Louisiana students.
Participating in the experience this year are chemistry majors David Strickland, Lauryn Winstead, Brittany Williamson and computer science major Justin Wright. The students are currently preparing for the trip by reading scientific papers related to the research they will be performing and studying the basics of Japanese language and culture.
Strickland and Winstead will be working collaboratively with Japanese scientists and students to evaluate the strength and adhesive qualities of materials used in prosthetics and medical implants. The research will use laser optical interferometry, a technique that Yoshida has worked with most of his professional life and in which he holds two patents.
Wright and Williamson will also be using laser interferometry to evaluate stress states of different materials. Laser interferometry can make minute measurements and can help detect structural weaknesses in various materials.
Yoshida said the students were selected based upon their motivation, a written application, letters of recommendation, academic performance and an interview by a Southeastern search committee.
Undergraduate students at most Japanese universities are required to perform research and prepare a thesis, Yoshida explained. The Southeastern students, he said, will be exposed to an intense research environment at TDU.
"The exposure these students receive will likely have a considerable impact on them and their future careers," said Yoshida, a native of Japan and an engineering graduate of Keio University in Tokyo. "TDU's Department of Mechanical Engineering has world class facilities and equipment, and the opportunity to interact with the Japanese scientists and students will be invaluable."
The students said they are excited about the trip and realize the opportunities it presents.
"This will not only allow me to learn in a completely new environment, but will also expose me to cultural differences," said Winstead, who is planning on entering the field of medicine. "I think it is very important to understand how to work productively with others, specifically those with different backgrounds. The fact that we are going to be learning so many new things at once, including language, Japanese city life, as well as a completely novel research opportunity is extremely exciting."
"This is a chance for me to learn something new, expand my knowledge and open doors for a career path," said Williamson, a senior studying forensic science.
Strickland said he definitely wants to experience the Japanese culture. "Most importantly, though, is the opportunity to go to another country and work with other scientists," he said.
"For me, as a sophomore, an internship like this will help me immensely on my career path," said Wright. "My goals also lean toward politics, so this will help me see the world in a different light. My preparation has involved studying the landmarks of Japan, learning some of the language, as well as the 'do's and don'ts' of Japanese culture, and assuring my parents I will make it back in one piece."
PREPARING FOR JAPAN -- Four Southeastern science students will travel this summer to Japan for seven weeks of research with scientists at Tokyo Denki University. The students will be conducting materials science research, in some cases working on ongoing research performed by other Southeastern students last year. Pictured from left, are: Professor of Physics Sanichiro Yoshida, students David Strickland Jr., Justin Wright, Brittany Williamson, Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry William Parkinson, and student Lauryn Winstead.