Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer Check-Ins: How Gemstone Students are Spending their Summers (Part II)

This article is a continuation in the Stone's article series featuring Gemstone students and their summer plans.  Today, we check in with Julia Downing and Carolyn Lane with updates on their summer experiences.

Julia Downing

Year: Junior, 2017 | Major: Materials Science and Engineering | Team: NATURE

I have been spending my summer in Japan as part of the NanoJapan International Research Experience for Undergraduates (IREU) sponsored by Rice University. I am living in Kyoto and working in the Solid State Spectroscopy Group of the Department of Physics at Kyoto University under the co-advisement of a Japanese and an American professor. My project investigates the nonlinear electromagnetic responses of single-wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) films in the terahertz range using absorption spectroscopy. Essentially, we are drawing on recent theory and experimentation concerning graphene, the ‘parent’ material of SWCNT, to identify phenomena that would give rise to a new generation of optoelectronics. I am very excited about our findings, and I look forward to presenting my work at the Smalley-Curl Institute’s Summer Research Colloquium back at Rice when I have finished my work here in Japan.

I have also enjoyed working in my Japanese host lab, learning about Japanese language and culture, bonding with my lab-mates, and exploring Japan with my new friends. Although I work long hours during the week, I travel on the weekends and have had truly unforgettable experiences such as climbing Mt. Fuji, visiting countless temples and shrines, attending festivals and trying delicious new foods. As for what I’ve taken away, I have challenged my limits and learned so much more about physics than I ever thought possible while developing new technical skills. I have also gained valuable insights about what it means to be independent as a researcher, how to be part of an international research team, and how to be a global citizen. Although there have been ups and downs (the typhoons and earthquakes took some getting used to J) this summer has made me a wiser researcher and a stronger person. I feel immensely grateful to be here, and I will cherish the memories from this experience forever.