NanoJapan: Summer Nanotechnology Research Program for Undergraduates

2008 Heiskell Award Winners: Study Abroad

Nomination submitted by: Sarah Phillips, Engineering International Programs Administrator at Rice University and Cheryl Matherly, Associate Dean for Global Education at University of Tulsa

Program Overview

As international partnerships become increasingly indispensable in solving major science and engineering problems, U.S. researchers and educators must be able to operate effectively in teams comprised of partners from different nations and cultural backgrounds. The NanoJapan program, administered through the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of Rice University and the Center for Global Education at The University of Tulsa, provides future scientists and engineers with these skills by combining a traditional study abroad experience in Japan with a targeted research internship in the field of nanotechnology.

NanoJapan was established with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF-PIRE) in 2005. The program is a twelve week, summer program that involves sixteen first and second year science and engineering students from U.S. universities in research internships with Japanese nanotechnology laboratories. The program has already had a large impact on the students who have participated. Six of the sixteen students who traveled to Japan in 2007 have taken immediate steps to continue their studies in Asia. President David W. Leebron of Rice University notes that NanoJapan also encourages international research collaboration among Rice faculty and staff.

Targeting science and engineering students, this program serves as a model for increasing study abroad participation for students in these fields. In the past, most engineering students were forced to choose between spending their summer in a traditional study abroad program unrelated to their future academic or professional career or staying within the U.S. and completing a traditional research internship in academia or industry. “Programs like NanoJapan fill a critical void in international education offerings available to U.S. technical students,” says Roger Blais, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Tulsa.